I Don't Pray Anymore

When I was 10 and we were well into our left-the-cult-but-still-kept-everything-but-demons days we started going to church again. After being told churches in general were evil, it was weird going back to the buildings. My church experience was never great, we were never at one long enough to belong, because the pastor would say something and my parents would have a disagreement and we’d either leave or be asked to leave. I occasionally had time to make friends before we were shunned and never spoken to again. It was lonely, to say the least.

In September of 2001, 10 days after the trade centers fell, we had another reminder of the love of god – my mom had a stillborn. A boy, which was special because I only had one brother and at the time there were 3 girls including me (and another boy meant we’d have a chance of carrying on the family name, because that was somehow important..I remember that remark being made before). He died in the birth canal with the cord wrapped around his neck – he suffocated. My siblings and I were sick with the flu at my grandparents house, so it was just my mom and dad (homebirths were unassisted, always) at home and they called and had us come home and told us the baby died.

They showed us the blue and purple and red body, my mom was holding and touching it and wanted us all to hold it. I flat out refused, grossed out by the thought of touching a cold corpse (in who knows what state of decay *shudder*) I went to lay down and when I woke up a few hours had passed and the police and paramedics were there. I remember seeing strange people walking around while I was on the couch kinda delirious from being sick and dead baby, I think they tried to ask me something but I just mumbled something about just getting there and not knowing what happened and being sick. They were very very nice to me and understanding (which was comforting because I was scared), they took the corpse and my mom sobbed. I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why they kept the corpse around for so long.

By the time the funeral had come around, maybe a week later, the paramedics had labeled it SIDS, which I came to understand as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My parents said that this was all part of gods plan and nothing could have been done to stop it. My dad somehow worked the love of god and the salvation message into the eulogy, talking about how it was a good thing, and told us kids how this would be a good opportunity to get my catholic grandparents to convert.

I didn’t cry.

I didn’t cry for many reasons, one was because I learned early on that crying was weakness, but also, because I truly believed with all my heart that god was going to bring the baby back, I prayed sooo hard and didn’t want to leave the graveyard because I knew that there was going to be a miracle, I had the faith of a mustard seed – though it felt like more; I didn’t know what a mustard seed was, but I figured I could be moving mountains because I believed it so much. That there would be cries of life before the coffin was lowered into the ground and everyone would be surprised.

But as we left and the grave-people were getting ready to bury the coffin, there was no noise, just silence.

This didn’t bother me until years later, I just assumed that maybe I didn’t have enough faith even though I thought I did and gave it all I could muster.

Cut To: 2004

Valentines day (2 weeks before my 13th birthday), 7am, we were all there this time. I was woken up and told to keep the kids under control/fed/etc as mom was in labor in the master bathroom. I popped on cartoons and fed the kids and those things that you do while trying to pretend you can’t hear the screams and noises of labor.

The worst happened. We all heard it, “BREATHE” was shouted over and over again and silence fell.  Color drained from our faces. I don’t remember any sequence of events after that, the memory is locked somewhere, but I remember touching this corpse (girl this time) because it seemed to be important to mom. Still cold and blue and purple and pink and gross. It was the same cause; strangulation, the paramedics labeled it SIDS again, but I think we were at our grandparents house when they showed up because I don’t remember interacting with them. My grandparents did their best to comfort us and just let it all sink in. They’re good at that, at giving us what we need and being generally unassuming. I don’t think they know how much that means to us.

My mom said, later, that she felt god telling her that he did this because he loved her, this was his way of saying I love you. It was her valentines present, taking the baby. Same weird salvation, this is good, this is love, etc message was preached at her funeral too – another opportunity for my grandparents to convert, and a few months later they did, so it was all seen as a wash and “worth it”. We laid her to rest beside my brothers grave. I didn’t pray for her return this time, I figured that Lazerous and Jesus were probably just one time things.

Honestly it’s the questions that got to me most. Because every pregnancy since the first stillbirth, my siblings (who were around to remember) have asked “is this baby going to be born alive?”. The thought of them asking that and me having no answer, and mom and dad’s pat answers still make me cry and my blood run cold. I hate that it’s even a question that had to be asked.

Cut To: 2007-2008

My life had become a living hell. I was 16-17, I was growing into an adult, forming my own opinions and, to their credit (and chagrin) my parents didn’t raise a weak daughter. My boyfriend-now-husband and I were in this process called “courting” à la Josh Harris. I don’t remember where my parents heard of the idea, probably a homeschool convention that also included HSLDA and Mike Farris. For those unfamiliar, it’s like, trying to date but with your whole relationship being micromanaged and manipulated by control freaks and outsiders who have no interest in the relationship itself, just in dictating things without taking the time to get to know anyone. In our case it went from my parents trying to marry me off at 16 because as soon as the word “relationship” entered it was like wedding bells were ringing. At 17 my mom got pregnant and the cycle of my existence as a person ended (again) and my existence as my mother’s sentient broom began – only this time, I fought back. I was just getting into my personhood after a decade of not having one.

I was dragged out of bed and cornered and bullied by my parents for hours. Told I wasn’t being godly enough, told I was a better daughter and better skilled when I was 8, that Alex was generally evil, and corrupting me, that I was on my way to hell and had better shape up, that god disapproved and I needed to make it right. It was my DUTY to end my life and be a live-in slave to my parents whenever they demanded it. That because I was a woman/younger, THEY heard from god for me, and there was no way I knew for myself what was best for me, and god wouldn’t tell me something against their will.

Unfortunately for them, they spent the 6 months prior drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions. I quickly came to the conclusion that people didn’t have the power to bestow and then relinquish adulthood at the drop of a hat, or plus sign of a pregnancy test.

I was devastated when my mom told me she was pregnant. No, not devastated, enraged, panicked, and hurt. I had spent the last hellish year, and especially six months praying oh-so-hard for god to work, to make it better, to make things okay. And the result of my prayers, every single time? the problems made up by my parents just escalated, escalated, and escalated until my parents told me that I was no longer allowed to talk to Alex. My prayers were hitting the ceiling, I felt pieces of myself dying as I spent those last six months of 17 plotting my escape and trying to fly low enough under the radar so as to not be noticed, so my near-suicidal depression wouldn’t cause room for concern and cause more squelching. I misdirected to survive, letting my parents think I was “over” Alex just to get me to my next birthday. I felt abandoned by god, which crushed me, because I had done everything, I had given up having my own life for years, I rarely saw friends, I didn’t ask for much, I worked so hard.

Cut to: February 28 2009

I left on my 18th Birthday, I had a party away from home (that took a lot of work) and Alex and I left that night. My parents went nuts when we called them. They went from acting concerned and sad to bullying, not hesitating to pull god into it.

Cut To: March 4 2009

Newest baby was born by Cesarean due to complications and that the previous child (boy) had been an emergency C-Section. The reasons for this C-section? Umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

I don’t think it hit me then. It hit me on the anniversary of the first stillborn. It could have been prevented. It was the same thing that killed him and the other one, but this one made it because they happened to be at a hospital. I’ve rarely been more crushed and angry than when that realization hit.

I stopped praying because my prayers didn’t do anything good, they only made things worse. I stopped praying because god obviously never listened to me. I stopped praying because I was tired of being let down and abandoned by someone who was supposed to never abandon me.

I’ve cried and wrestled and fought over this. Why didn’t god listen? was I not good enough? does he not care? if he did care, why did he let this happen? why would he abandon the fervent prayers of an innocent child, of a young adult? I don’t know, all I know is, praying has left me disillusioned, callous, and cynical.

13 comments

  1. This. This is why I stopped. Praying and my supposed gift of “faith” made no goddamn difference. Why would I keep doing something that only resulted in making me feel like a failure?

  2. So many feelings. My mom had four out of eight children at home, and if my sister had been born at home she would’ve died – thank you umbilical cord – and yet that didn’t stop my mom from attempting home births for the rest. Which whatever. Her decision. But it was because it was more godly. And I was the oldest and the second mother and her right hand woman and was also in trouble for wanting a life outside the house and she had too much on her plate and it was all my fault because I didn’t spend all day sweeping and doing dishes and the five kids born in eight years were crying again and… Yeah. I can’t imagine how pissed off I would be at god and my parents if this had happened. I mean, I am pissed off at god, but for lots of other reasons. 😉

  3. When you hear about someone living through this kind of hell, sometimes the best thing to do is sit with it awhile, in silence.

    Processing your painful, painful story…thank you for sharing it.

  4. Kierstyn… There are no words I could possibly say to make the pain go away, but please hear me out. I saw this on some other blog that was featuring this post. I’m horribly sorry for what you’ve had to go through. The thought of your parents using their religion to control you and make excuses for their ignorance makes me sick… Growing up, I was taught by my Dad that all Christians were like this, and that God was a crutch people made up in their idiocy. But when my Dad died, when I was fifteen… I guess I got desperate enough to ask if there really was a God. I needed to know there was a reason for me to be here on this earth. I wanted a destiny. And somewhere along the line, I met a real Christian who taught me who God really was… It’s been three years since then. And I have found real reason to believe that I can tell you, He’s so real. I know that probably doesn’t mean anything to you right now, and you’ve been through agony. But the God I know is nothing like the god I’m hearing about from your parents here. I think a lot of what you’ve been through has actually been the consequences of your parents’ abuse and ignorant creed; when we do things out of God’s will it opens us up to attack by the demonic. That means death, abuse, and twisted ideals. It makes sense to me that your parents brought this upon you; not that God is punishing you for their sins, because that’s not what He does. It’s just that darkness and evil is a very real thing, more real than this world knows. And demons are very legalistic.
    I believe with all my heart that God has heard each and every one of your prayers… It’s just that, things don’t always work out the way we hope for them to. I’ve prayed for many things to happen that never have. I’ve been praying for three years for my feelings for a dear friend of mine to either go away or be reciprocated, and neither have happened, and it continues to be a struggle for me. I’ve never had such feelings for another person, and I don’t want to. But I guess there are things the devil does that God will fix, and things the devil does that God will use in some way to make us stronger… I don’t have all the answers. But I pray that one day you’ll know the reasons for this pain. And that you’ll find reason to believe that there is Someone watching out for you.

    Take care, both you and Alex.

    1. I used to spout this kind of run-around “logic” too. It’s insane in the brain.

      Good luck getting all your theology to work. You’ll need it.

  5. Your parents are fucking nutjobs. I am so sorry, Kiery.

    I regret all of my support for the home schooling movement, not because home schooling itself is wrong, but because it allowed this kind of abuse to happen to you. I don’t think that helps anyone, but I wanted you to know anyway.

    Oh, and your parents? Fucking nutjobs.

  6. I just wanted to say, Wow.
    Reading this has really touched me, and I believe you are right..
    I found your post while searching the same question…because for a long time, it was with me.
    And for a long time, I felt guilty.
    And for a long time, I felt confused.
    And for a long time, I searched for answers.
    And for a long time, as a young soul, instead of listening to myself,
    I was controlled with fantastical notions of God…and him helping me create something magnificent…
    to take away the pain I was in…selfish desires, now that I look back…but as a hurting, lost kid, how can you tell?

    I think God already speaks to us, but our minds are so filled with clutter or multi-tasking that we don’t quiet down (meditate)
    and Listen to our Inner Most self…which is of God. As above as Below.
    I like to think, God watches and Organizes, from afar, but is also within us, answering our day-to-day or ‘functional’ needs when we MEDITATE.
    To listen to our Spirit, our Soul, which knows everything, which is eternal, isn’t it?
    I don’t pray anymore, because for a very, very, very long time, I used God as a crutch,
    as a form of rationalization to the injustices i’d seen…or procrastination, without even knowing it…

    When I don’t pray, or contemplate of God, or think of how he created all of this (which, to many believers, is the day-to-day…)
    I feel like I have more time to worry about what’s going on around me.
    Thanks so much, and I would be interested to hear of your perspective since this Article.

Leave a Reply