Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Opiate of the masses - an inspired book club post

Occasionally I am lucky enough to read a book that grabs me from the very beginning, and then stays with me. That haunts me for days after I read the final page. Sometimes it is because the story is so entertaining, and so well written, that I am captivated by it, drawn into it, entranced. Sometimes a book makes me think differently; it opens me up to new ideas. It makes me question myself, and pushes me to do better, be better. And sometimes it is because I can relate so deeply to the story, or the message, or the authors sense of humor, that I want to meet them and say "Wow, you really get it. Will you be my friend"

Last week I read a book like that, that has stayed with me. I couldn't put it down. I found myself marking page after page, because I knew I was going to want to go back to the page and reread it, so I could think more about it, or hopefully write about it here. This book grabbed me for almost all of the reasons I wrote above, especially the authors sense of humor, which I think is very close to mine.

That book is Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, by Martha Beck.
John and Martha Beck had two Harvard degrees apiece when they conceived their second child. Further graduate studies, budding careers, and a growing family meant major stress–not that they’d have admitted it to anyone (or themselves). As the pregnancy progressed, Martha battled constant nausea and dehydration. And when she learned her unborn son had Down syndrome, she battled nearly everyone over her decision to continue the pregnancy. She still cannot explain many of the things that happened to her while she was expecting Adam, but by the time he was born, Martha, as she puts it, “had to unlearn virtually everything Harvard taught [her] about what is precious and what is garbage.”

I already wrote one post that was inspired by Expecting Adam a few days ago, where I pondered the reason for my embarrassment when Noah was rude on Halloween.

There are some fairly controversial or provocative themes in Expecting Adam, and I could see myself writing about several of them because they do relate to me and my life, especially my life with Noah.

The obvious topic would be choosing to carry a baby to term, knowing s/he is "damaged." It sounds horrible to see it in print like that. I know. I could certainly write about how I felt when I was pregnant with Kiel, and how for several months we were monitoring an issue with his kidneys, that is often seen in children with Downs. Or that when we first found out we were finally pregnant, I told myself that no matter what we found out during the pregnancy, I was not giving up that child. And how my pregnancy altered my pro-choice beliefs in some ways.

I could write about my thoughts on raising Noah, and if I would have adopted him if I knew then all of the emotional and behavioral problems he would be struggling with now.

I could write about the idiocy of some people, or the judgement of people who are unable to see beyond their own small world.

Tonight though I find myself being drawn to the thread of religion throughout the book. I was drawn to this bit,
"I respected my family and friends' religious beliefs, in a detached, social-sciency sort of way, while secretly believing that faith in God was not only the opiate of the masses but the refuge of people too craven to accept the fact of their own mortality. "
because essentially that is what I believe. My lack of faith has evolved over the last ten years or so and for many reasons

In another part of the book Martha talks about a friend of hers who has a child with Down syndrome and how her friends mother blamed her friend for not praying hard enough for a normal child. Because prayer was going to magically change the number of chromosomes in this child?

I have many friends that have a strong belief in God. Many of them Christians. I always find it very interesting when I read on Facebook, or on blogs, when they say that God will take care of them. They give prayers and ask for prayers. And I think many of them really do believe that if they pray hard enough God will fix it.

In my group of moms with adopted children that are dealing with attachment disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, behavior disorders, autistic disorders, mood disorders, PTSD, etc. etc. many do believe that god is there guiding them. I just don't get it to be quite honest.

I don't believe there is a god out there that is going to change the chemical imbalance in my sons brain. There is not a god that can go back and prevent Noah's birth mother from drinking alcohol. Or make the baby hospital actually take care of him.

There is no divine being guiding us to the best doctors or therapists. Or whispering in my ear how to parent Noah. Or giving me the grace I don't have.

No amount of praying is going to cure him. What is going to help him is me, if I can find the right doctor or therapy. If I can find the strength and patience in me to work with him. But it is not going to cure him.

And God did not give us Noah. Noah came to us by chance. We were next in line and so was he. We were not chosen. I am nothing special.

That said, I wish I could believe in something. I think life would be easier if I did have some blind faith.

Martha experienced many mystical and magical moments during her pregnancy. I am envious. I could use some magic. I would love to have a voice guiding me. Something to help me know I am on the right path with Noah.

At one point she talks about deciding to believe everything until it is proven false, instead of only believing what is proven true. I haven't reached that point yet. I don't really think I will.

I would very much like to be surprised and proven wrong though

This post was inspired by the book Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck. I was given a copy of this book as part of From Left to Write. Read other posts inspired by Expecting Adam on Thursday, November 10, at From Left to Write.



  1. Sounds like a great book. I'm reading a scary small amount of books these days, but I might add this to my list that I would be reading if I had any emotional energy left.

  2. God believes in you, regardless if you believe in him. Praying will never "fix" our kids. I do not believe therapy will "fix" them either. God knows our kids intimately and loves them exactly the way they are. There is a purpose for GB and Hope being in my life, even if I don't (and I don't) know what it is. I can say, without our kids being who they are, we would have never met and wouldn't be friends. From my viewpoint, there would be a big empty spot in me where our friendship is. I will read the book. {{{Hugs}}}

  3. I wrote some similar thoughts today as well. I don't think God will change or "fix" my child, because that would also imply that God could have prevented him from his disability in the first place. And don't try to tell me God has a plan. Let him work out his plan on someone else, thankyouverymuch.

    If someone's faith helps them be the best person or parent they can be, or gives them strength to move forward each day with the thought that there is a higher purpose to all the struggle, that's great. I wish I had that. For now, I just have love for both my kids, and that has to be enough.

  4. I'm an atheist, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in anything. Every day, I am awed and inspired by what humanity can accomplish. Okay, sometimes horrified too, but mostly awed and inspired.

  5. This is a truly great blog, Kris.

    I do believe in God, I used to think he had control - now I honestly don't think he does, and that scares the crap out of me. Leaving our kids out of this, you can't answer the question of why God allows his children to hurt in so many evil ways without intervening, by simply saying, "its God's plan". Scuse me but, give me an FN break.

    We're his children. Would you stand by and let your child be used, abused, and worse..... It just doesn't make sense.

    I believe that God is the power of the universe, but he doesn't have control of what happens here. He doesn't send tidal waves or stop them. Shit just happens.

    I used to think I had a big daddy in the sky who would answer my prayers. I think the only pray I can bring myself to say these days is, please give me the strength.

    Okay, now I'm going to hell.....