Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crime and Punishment

I have asked a few friends who are pretty firm in their beliefs about God, whether they think God punishes us here on earth while we are living or whether He waits until we die and then hands down judgement. My friend Andy believes wholeheartedly that God punishes us here on earth for our sins, by either denying us our prayers, or handing out retribution for acts against Him. I have been struggling with this for years. I have been torn between believing in the all-knowing, forgiving, image of God I was raised to believe, and the fire and brimstone God preached by various religions. As it stands, I don't know what to believe. I struggle daily with my faith and often feel I am being punished, the ultimate punishment being Calvin's death.

It's 1994, February 24th to be exact and I have just walked out of the public health clinic in shock. I'm pregnant. My boyfriend and I have been on-again/off-again for the last four years. We are currently living together but our relationship is volatile, and I have become accustomed to being intimidated and afraid. I know he's not going to take the news well, and this of all days is his birthday. I wonder if he'll react positively, maybe see it as a birthday gift, but nonetheless, I'm scared shitless to tell him. I wait until we're at home and alone that night, after the celebration at his mother's is over. I ask him if he loves me, and when he says yes, I tell him I'm pregnant. Silence. "What are you going to do about it?", he asks me. "I don't know," I answer. He is displeased to say the least. I quietly think to myself that he needs some time to get used to the idea and then he'll soften his stance. The next day he starts asking me again what I plan to do about it and when I waffle he tells me that if I have the baby, he'll leave me and tell everyone that I was cheating on him and that it's not his. "Then you'll be a single mother on welfare and noone will want you, you'll be damaged goods". I'm stunned. "Ok, I'll have an abortion," I said. Of course I still hoped deep down inside that he would think about things and change his mind.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks I find myself becoming attached to the baby growing inside me. I find myself daydreaming about becoming a mother, about my boyfriend and I getting married. He notices. He starts taking every opportunity to make sure I go through with the appointment. He starts dragging me out to bars and insisting I drink, I don't want to, it goes against the built in feelings of protection I have for the baby. He makes me cry in the bar and he insists that I drink the drinks he's placed in front of me. After one drink, I get up and leave. When I get home, I start thinking that maybe I will have the baby, I obviously love it enough to defy my boyfriend's wishes to sit with him and get drunk, maybe I'll just put my foot down and say that this is the way it's going to be. When he gets home that night, he's rip-roaring drunk. I'm already in bed, sleeping. My pregnancy and the morning sickness is exhausting. He grabs me by the foot and pulls me violently out of bed and onto the floor. I'm crying. "Please," I beg, "don't..." We start to argue. He wants an answer, am I going through with it or not...Every time I say "I don't know", the arguement escalates. Pretty soon I'm sobbing as he jabs his finger into my chest, telling me I'm not going to ruin his life. Finally, I agree to go through with it, just so I can get some sleep. During the night, my boyfriend repeatedly woke me up, probably every fifteen minutes or so, deliberately depriving me of sleep, wearing me down. I'm beyond tired. I'm hurting all over, more than anything I'm devastated that this man who claims to love me doesn't want our child.

The clinic is a five hour drive away. We leave at three in the morning to make it to my nine am appointment. We're in the middle of a blizzard half way to the city where a doctor is waiting to give me an abortion. I'm crying, I reach out and touch his arm as he's driving and ask softly, "Please, let's just turn the car around and go home..., please." "No", he says. There's no changing his mind. Silently, I pray on the way to the clinic for him to feel bad and have a change of heart. He doesn't. I lay crying on the table, legs spread as the procedure is completed. I hate myself, and I hate my boyfriend in this moment. I wonder if I'll ever be able to forgive myself for what I have just done....

I haven't. And neither has God, according to the way some people believe. It took me eight pregnancies with nine babies to get my two daughters and my son. Then Calvin died and I wonder if I'm still being punished for not being stronger, for being afraid of my boyfriend and what he would do to me, for being afraid of going it alone. I'm so sorry for what I did, I've never been able to let it go and I don't know if I ever will. I hope that if God is looking down at me with His fire and brimstone and saying "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood..." that He realizes that losing Calvin has been the worst thing to ever happen to me, and that I've had enough, I'm completely broken and on the verge of collapse...Please Forgive Me.


  1. That is so heart wrenching, I'm so sorry.

    I can't give you any advice about God, but I think I'm being punished too.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Me too. That's how I feel at times. I feel as though I am a rotten person. I wasn't good enough for my daughter and that is why she died. Or that I wasn't strong enough to be a mom to twins.

    But I met so many fantastic women during Jessica's 4 month NICU stay and I don't believe that those who lost a baby were being punished. What terrible crime could we have all committed that the loss of a child would be deemed a fitting punishment for us? Reading this has clarified that I don't really believe in blessings or punishments or miracles, just grace and my own bewilderment.

    And if 'God' took Calvin away from you and your family as a punishment. If 'God' is something or someone that would use the death of a child as a punishment. If 'God' is something or someone that thinks what happened to you is an act that deserves to be punished then I will do without him/her/it (delete as you see fit). And I'm mad as hell as with him/her/it and will give him/her/it a good piece of my mind if we ever do meet. And if that means that I am in big trouble when I get to the pearly gates so be it.

    But I honestly don't think that is the way in which 'God' works. Not from where I am standing (which could certainly be at the bottom of a deep well of ignorance) and I don't think your friend Andy is right. But he is entitled to his opinion.

    And I am so angry that I have even got my Bible down from the shelf so I can quote this correctly!

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts"
    Isaiah ch 55 v.8-9

    In my humble and definitely extremely ill-informed opinion this is God trying to tell us that we can't second-guess him and no human can claim to KNOW that God is out to punish us all. I've always been mistrustful of anyone who claims to 'know' what God is up to.

    I've had lots of people say to me that Jessica's survival is a testament to the power of prayer. And I bite my tongue but I sometimes think to myself. Hmmmm, you've obviously forgotten that there was another baby haven't you? Remember that it was twins? Hmm? Thought not. Were my prayers for Georgina not fervent enough for God's liking? Makes me mad as a cut snake as my mum would say.

    Phew, I have some anger issues today. :)

  4. Thanks Catherine...I am obviously struggling. I want to believe there is a God and that He is good because I want to see Calvin again someday...I just can't understand why. There are times when I think, Fuck You God, Fuck You and your lack of compassion and love...and I could cheerfully extend my middle finger to the heavens. There are other times when I am begging Him to be real and for having a reason other than what I've done in my past...I'm so desperate to find answers. I don't think that any answer I do find while I'm here on earth will be satisfactory to me, will make me go "Okay, well now that I know, I can be ok with my son having to die..."
    I wish I could find some peace with it. It's a daily struggle.
    Thank you both for your non-judgemental comments, I took a chance posting what I did, and I wasn't sure if I would find a gazillion hurtful comments about it. Regardless, this is my life, my thoughts and if people don't like the content of my blog then they have the power of choice to not read it. Hugs to you both.

  5. Oh Margaret. I often think that if I had some sort of belief in the notion that I would meet my Georgina again, in any form, than I could have some peace. But it's the uncertainty that gets me everytime.
    When I held her I felt a love so fierce that the fact that she was about to die became irrelevant. As though everything fell away except her. If that doesn't mean anything, none of it does.

  6. I just started reading and following your blog. You are an amazingly strong woman who needs to forgive herself. It took guts to post this. You wouldn't believe how many women relate to your situation but could not admit it.
    I believe that God is not in the business of punishing us. I don't claim to understand Him, but I really think He loves us and that we just live in a very screwed up world. A world where babies die and people are uncaring.
    I think He gives us peace if we ask. I believe that He forgives us if we ask. I believe that if He forgives us, there is no reason to save up all of our sins and punish us when we die.
    This is just my VERY humble opinion. I hope you find some peace and healing.
    Calvin is beautiful.
    Much love Lindsay

  7. oh Margaret, thank you for posting this, thank you for the hug. i'm so sorry that you have been through this too, but i'm so glad that there is someone who understands what this is like. as you know, i don't have a religious bone in my body but i am still wondering, is there something out there punishing me? i neither forgave myself or got over it, and still hate myself for it, and though my ex has apologized many times, i still hate him too sometimes. he never got violent and hostile with me like your ex did, so i didn't have the fear that you did. i'm so sorry. what a horrible experience that must have been. my ex simply lacked any human emotion about it at all. he went with me to the clinic (i drove), but then when it was over, he asked if he HAD to drive. he couldn't have cared less, about me, the baby, all the tears i shed. and this, from a man that wanted to marry me and have children? after i came back to him pregnant after leaving his sorry ass? i should never have come back, i just thought he would change and decide that he wanted the baby. stupid, stupid me.
    i know you posted this four months ago, and am wondering if anything has changed since you've been on this journey? any closer to forgiving yourself? i don't think i ever will. i just don't think i can.
    much love,

  8. margaret, i'm slowly making my way through all of your blog posts (yes i started with the very first one) and couldn't help but be moved by this post. i am so sorry for the heartache and pain you went through and are still going through. i've also wondered about why God decided to take both of my babies, wondered if he was punishing for all the sins i'd committed, but i don't really believe that He would use something as precious as a child to punish the wrongs of a parent. the God that i believe in would never do that, though it is not that difficult to imagine the "fire and brimstone" God of the Old Testament either.

    i wanted to share this blog post with you, i'm not sure if you've come across it already, it's by Holly, a babyloss momma blogger. i hope that one day you can forgive yourself and find peace with what happened.