How did you really feel when you first saw those two little blue lines on the stick in the bathroom? For some it is pure joy. For others, absolute horror. It's the juncture where your life takes a completely new direction: parenting starts here. The birth of a baby is an incredibly significant event—it’s a good thing that we have nine months to prepare for it.
There has been little written about childbirth from a Christian perspective, and yet it is an experience that God can use to teach us and deepen our faith.
I felt shattered after my first birth. After devouring countless books on childbirth, I was convinced that I would have a mountain-top experience and sail confidently into motherhood. Instead, I was completely floored by the birth. And what’s more, I had no idea what on earth to do with this screaming stranger of a baby!
But even through that difficult experience, God was teaching me. He taught me that I was not in control—he was. And he showed me that he loved me, even in the midst of the most painful experiences.
As Christians, we have the privilege of knowing the Author of childbirth. So how might that change the way that we approach it?
Hand everything over to God
Firstly, approach childbirth with faith. Know God and know the gospel: God loves you, he loves your child, he sent Jesus to die for you and he holds you in the palm of his hand. God will not be absent when you give birth; he is sovereign over your birth. Whatever the outcome, God is working for your good. So hand it all over to him—your fears, your anticipation, your excitement—everything.
As you learn to trust God with your child’s birth, you are setting yourself up to trust him with your motherhood. Disappointments in life come from shattered expectations. But as believers in a loving heavenly Father, we can let go of our birth expectations and entrust ourselves into the hands of the One who has already ordained our days. Doing this is important so that you don’t start your life as a mother with a sense of disappointment or failure—although God can work through those things too.
Whether this is your first child or your last, ask the Lord what he is teaching you through your pregnancy and birth, and how you can glorify him through it all.
Worship the Creator of childbirth
The second way we can approach childbirth in a Christian way is to acknowledge how intricately and beautifully God has fashioned a woman’s body. Get to know your body. Love it and be pleased with the body that God has gifted you. If you have insecurities and fears associated with your body, pregnancy may be a time for prayer and godly counsel. God is the author of the birth process, so be worshipful as you learn about it and experience it.
Did you know that the baby itself initiates the birth? A good birth is an intricate partnership between the mother and the baby. So be aware of and connected to your baby as you birth him or her. It’s surprisingly easy to forget the baby during birth, but a strong mother–baby connection will facilitate a good birth.
Build a good support team
Having a good support team helps to create a positive environment for childbirth. Whether you’re giving birth in a hospital, a birth centre or at home, choose one or two people who are informed, proactive, compassionate and encouraging to have with you. This may or may not be your husband! It has been said that if a birthing woman doesn't feel like a queen, her support team aren't doing their job.
I expected the caring presence of a midwife when I had my first baby. But the reality is that in a busy public hospital ward, you won't see midwives as much as you might expect. So when my second son was born, I made sure I had someone there who was experienced in birth as a reassuring, constant presence.
It is important not to forget that you are the one who will have to give birth. This may sound obvious, but many women think that birth is something that happens to them. However, there's nothing passive about childbirth! A good support team will give a new mum the confidence to get on with the active work of birthing her baby.
Understand your pain
It is interesting that in the account of the Fall (in Genesis 3), God says he will increase the woman’s pain in childbirth. This implies that he intended there to be some kind of good pain in childbirth before the Fall. Not all pain is bad! Something that is wonderful is worth difficulty or effort to obtain. A child coming into the world is the most wonderful thing, and that should cost something! Birth is an act of love for your child. You’re saying, ‘I love you, therefore I am willing to birth you’.
As with a mountaineer or a marathon runner, pain is part of our journey to the goal. So prepare for it with joy in anticipation of the outcome. A human being is coming into the world and God has called you to bring them to birth! He's even going to give you custodianship of him or her for a short while. What a privilege! We can embrace it, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for the trials we face; and that is never more true than in birthing and raising a child.
God does not promise us an easy birth just because we are Christians. But God does promise that he will always be with us and carry us through. Christians also birth with hope, knowing that God has promised a day when there will be no more crying or sickness or pain.
The pain of childbirth is different to any other pain because it is completely wrapped up in the joy of what’s to follow. As God’s Son was facing the pain of the cross, he encouraged his disciples to remember the coming joy of resurrection:
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:21–22)
A picture of the gospel
There is a moment at the end of labour called transition—the last difficult crag to overcome before reaching the summit. Many women at this point want to give up and go home. During transition I remember feeling that God wasn’t there—such was the intensity of those few moments. It gave me a tiny glimpse into what it might have been like for Jesus to be separated from his Father when he was dying on the cross. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead and was gloriously reunited with his Father, making the way for us to be reconciled to him too. In this way childbirth gives us a little picture of heaven—as a slippery little body opens its eyes for the first time to the world.
Ali Maegraith and her husband Rich have four boys (and one more in heaven). They are currently church planting with European Christian Mission in Berlin, Germany. Ali is a doula (qualified birth attendant) and songwriter.
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