As with anyone who experiences a sudden burst of enlightenment, these things can often occur in the strangest of places and circumstances. I have decided to tell you all about a very personal moment, which ultimately cemented my belief in the Norse gods.
On the morning of 17th June 2013, I awoke bright and early, fully believing that that day was to be one of the best of my life. By that afternoon, it had become the worst.
You see, that day was supposed to be my first ultrasound scan. I was pregnant, and very much looking forward to seeing my first child and hearing their heartbeat.
At 1.45pm, myself and my now ex partner were called into the ultrasound room. We were basking in the glow of euphoria, blissfully unaware that our world was about to come crashing down in a horrendous, heart wrenching fashion.
As the doctor moved the machine over my stomach, I had a sudden feeling that something was amiss. They were far too quiet, and they were taking way too long. I asked what the problem was, and that’s when they said the words that no expectant mother should ever have to hear: “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat”. In that moment, a trapdoor opened beneath me. I felt as if I was free falling at lightning speed, helpless and absolutely terrified.
We were told that our beautiful baby’s heart had simply stopped beating. The doctor then explained that I’d have to come back in two days to be induced.
Distraught, shocked and grief stricken, I went for a long walk. To this day I don’t know why, but I somehow ended up at the doors of Peterborough Cathedral – one of the biggest religious buildings in England. Perhaps it is human nature to seek comfort in a higher power, I don’t know, but nonetheless I found myself walking through the ancient wooden doors and sitting down in an empty pew. For the first time in my entire life, I prayed to the Christian god – who I’d never really believed in. I prayed to him to make this situation go away. I prayed to him to make my little one’s heart start beating again, to make this nightmare end. I’m not sure how long I sat there and prayed, but it felt like an enternity. I was a broken shell of a woman, and god suddenly seemed like my only hope.
Two days later, I went back to the hospital, and discovered that my child was definitely dead. I was then induced, and at 3.15pm on 19th June 2013, I gave birth to a perfectly formed, yet tiny, little boy. I named my son Riley, to honour my rich Irish ancestry. Riley also means ‘courageous soldier’. My boy was a fighter, he may not have lived but he made it further than the doctors thought possible after the autopsy confirmed that he’d suffered from an incurable heart condition.
In the following months, I was utterly grief stricken. I have no idea how I kept myself going, but somehow I managed to function outwardly, despite my inner turmoil. During those dark times, I felt a huge amount of anger towards god. He had abandoned me, and allowed my son to die. What sort of loving, caring creator would sit back and let that happen?
To make it worse, my religious relatives would often say that “it was god’s will”. This only made my hatred for the Christian deity grow. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure now that I was surviving on pure rage and hate back then.
I have since lost three more children – an ectopic pregnancy in March 2014 which cost me my left fallopian tube, and two miscarriages in May and July this year. No amount of loss dulls your heart to the immense pain and grief that you feel; a child dying before its parents is unnatural, and something that I wouldn’t wish even on my very worst enemy.
Following each loss, all I seemed to get from people was that blasted phrase – “its god’s will”. This has only served to solidify my heathen beliefs, and my unadulterated rage towards the Christ god. The Christians amongst you may point out, and fairly so, that Odin did not stop my children dying either. But if you study the heathen ways, you will come to realise that our gods aren’t there to beg for help. You may ask them for guidance, but they will not solve your problems for you; it is up to you to deal with them. Embracing my true path – heathenry – has really helped me to make sense of the traumatic things I’ve experienced. It has comforted me throughout my grief, because I know that I will eventually meet my children again in the next life. It has helped me to realise that bad things happen to good people, but that this is neither due to them being sinful, nor necessarily the will of the gods. It has also made me understand that a good fate may well be in store for me, hopefully one devoid of infertility and loss, woven by the Norns. Everything happens for a reason, and I truly believe that my reason is still yet to be revealed.
When I prayed to the Christ god in that cathedral, I felt more lost and alone than I’d ever felt in my entire life, before or since. When I am immersed in nature, surrounded by the presence of my gods, I never feel alone.