A Personal and Profound ExperienceI can’t say that I have ever told someone that I am an atheist. I can say that there was a time in my life when I turned away from a belief in any kind of god, particularly the god of the Christian religion. This change had to do with feeling that the Catholic religion no longer spoke to me, didn’t make sense to me, and I could no longer, due to rational consideration of and my heartfelt understanding of how the world worked, believe in a religion, perhaps any religion.
What I could count on was the feeling of connection that I had with people in my life. They loved me and I loved them. We were and are there for one another. We support one another. We share the complexity of our lives with one another. I have, over the years, added to the group of people I consider intimate friends; people whose love and trust I can count on and turn to in difficult times. And people with whom I can share the many profound experiences that life offers me.
One experience, perhaps the most profound in my life, one that still stays with me at a deep place and is a foundation for meaning and purpose in my life, was the birth of my first son. I was twenty-nine years old. Martha and I had decided that we were finally ready to bring children into our lives. For many years we didn’t think we were ready because we had both been brought in homes that had some serious dysfunction, and we wondered what kind of parents we would be. But, finally we were felt we were ready. Martha got pregnant and we were very excited. We told everyone. We started looking for strollers and car seats and such. Then Martha had a miscarriage. The doctors told us this was normal. We were very sad and a little disoriented, not sure how to proceed or what to tell our family and friends. Then Martha got pregnant again. And again she had a miscarriage. We were devastated.
The doctors started talking about waiting, and recommended genetic testing, which we did. The doctors expressed some mild concern about our ability to have children. And we probably should have been more careful, hearing all this, but we weren’t. And Martha got pregnant again before the results of our genetic testing came back. This time we didn’t want to tell anyone; heck we were even hesitant to tell the doctor. When Martha did go see a doctor, a test was administered to check the baby’s genetics. We were scared to death when the result returned positive for possible genetic defects.
Our doctor reassured us that the tests had a high false-positive occurrence, and re-sent the sample for additional lab work. Martha and I experienced several anxious, stressful weeks before receiving the news that our baby was genetically okay. And yet we still waited until after the first trimester to tell anyone besides the doctor. When we told everyone, it was with joy in our hearts that we could barely hold in our chests.
I was in the surgical room when Martha had an emergency C-section. She was awake to see the birth of our first child. And she was very clear that I couldn’t take a video of the birth. There was blood as they cut into Martha abdomen, but there was also a big ten and a half pound baby. I took Aaron, our son, over for Martha to see. I watched as he made his first sound, as the doctor cut the cord, as the nurses washed him, I was there and I wouldn’t have been anywhere else in the world at that moment. Being there for the birth changed me in more ways than I can adequately verbalize. I felt I had everything to live for, perhaps for the first time in my life. And at that time of my life, I was, for all practical purposes, an atheist.