The title of this post might spike your blood pressure seeing as though there seems to be a huge debate going on among Christians in particular about this topic. I’ve had friends on both ends of the spectrum – 100% home birthing women and others who have signed up for that epidural as soon as they checked into the hospital. It is not my intention to proclaim an opinion here but I am concerned about this issue mainly because it reveals idols in our hearts. I want my little girls to think humbly and biblically about this issue when they grow old enough to bear children of their own. A thoughtful friend took me out for lunch for my (belated) birthday yesterday and we chatted for at least an hour about this very issue. It was edifying conversation being able to talk about both ends of the spectrum – she having never been pregnant or birthed before, me having experienced 4 pregnancies and 4 very different birth stories. When I came home, I found this article in my inbox sent to me by my thoughtful husband. It encapsulated nearly the exact thoughts I had just expressed with my friend. This article is written by mature, godly women and seems to be the most balanced one out there. May we be women of grace, not pride. Women of gratitude for the One who grants life and writes all our stories…
(in case you don’t want to link over to the article, you can also find it below)
I may perchance be going out on a limb here . . . so let me state at the outset that I’m not trying to poke anyone in the eye! I haven’t even made it through all the comments on Mom’s recent childbirth posts, so this isn’t directed at anyone in particular. (Not because I don’t want to read the comments, but because I’m with my husband in England at the moment, and our internet opportunities are a bit patchy!)
Anyway, those qualifications having been made, I just wanted to point something out that I think Christian mothers need to keep in mind when they’re in the middle of “birthing option” discussions: You’re Christians. And that means submitting to the Bible as the true and inspired Word of God. It means actually listening and paying attention to what the Bible says, and then . . . believing it. When you hear claims being made regarding childbirth, your first question should be, “How does that line up with Scripture?” Because, as it turns out, the Bible does have some things to say on the subject – and shockingly, they aren’t really the same things you may be hearing from your facebook buddies.
Which things do I have in mind? There are a number of things – but the most fundamental one is this. As a Christian, you should remember that childbirth has been cursed. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” After Adam sinned, God cursed the ground, and gave Adam weeds to fight . . . and he made childbirth painful and dangerous for Eve. Death entered the world. When you hear women telling you that “childbirth is a completely natural process” you need to remember to think about that statement like the Christian that you are. Yes, it’s a natural process – but it’s not the same natural process that it was before sin entered the world. Now it’s broken. Now there are complications. Weeds have arrived on the scene. This means that in childbirth there is pain, there is danger, there is something to overcome. (Childbirth is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.) I hear women all the time talking as if this wasn’t a fundamental truth. I can understand non-Christians not getting this – after all, they have no framework that explains sin and death. But it always shocks me to hear Christian women say it. So let’s analyze this statement from a few different angles:
“There’s nothing to be all wound up about – childbirth is a completely natural process.”
1. From a theological perspective: It’s wrong. The Bible says something different. It’s a completely natural process that got cursed by God because of human sin.
2. From a common sense perspective: In what universe does natural mean safe? Sickness is a completely natural process too. Death is a natural process. “Natural” certainly doesn’t mean risk free.
3. From a historical perspective: Anyone who talks this way is showing a shockingly provincial understanding of life and the world. Do you know how many women have died in childbirth through the ages? For 99% of human history, women went into childbirth the way a man went into battle – not knowing if either she or the baby would come out alive. Have you ever read Anne Bradstreet’s poem Before the Birth of One of her Children? It makes me cry every time. She was writing her goodbye to her husband in case she died in labor. Has that ever even crossed your mind to do before one of your babies? No? Is your biggest worry whether you’ll get the crib painted in time? Whether you’ll get the cozy experience you wanted? Then thank God for letting you live in the 21st century – and don’t forget where you’re standing in the story. You’re standing in the place in history where women have the luxury of acting like little brats about what kind of “experience” they want. (Hopefully that’s not you – but you can’t deny that it certainly happens! Think of the celebrities having babies and tummy tucks at the same time so they can come out with their perfectly flat stomach. Women who are “too posh to push.” Women freaking out that they didn’t get their epidural in time. Other women freaking out that they had to get taken to the hospital when they wanted a home birth.) You’re not on your knees every night, begging God to let you live long enough to be a mother to this baby . . . but it might be a good thing to be on your knees thanking God for that fact.
Think of all the facebook discussions you’ve seen on this subject. Think of all the complaining about “uncomfortable monitors” and “this wasn’t my birth plan” and “sterile, medical atmosphere” and “I didn’t want a c-section.” And then imagine trying to explain those women to Anne Bradstreet. Do you think she might have been willing to deal with a c-section if it meant she was going to live? Do you think she’d have been willing to put up with a hospital room and a monitor if it meant seeing her husband again? Do you think she might have been willing to make do without an epidural?
Moral of the story: You live in an amazingly blessed moment in history. We live with the fruit of insane medical advances. We’re at a point where people can actually forget how “natural childbirth” went for most of history and actually start to think that it’s an innately safe process. You’ve got all kinds of options regarding childbirth. Thank God. But never forget that those choices are privileges and blessings, not rights. Hold them loosely. And, at the end of the day, thank God that your biggest problem is that you might have to have c-sections from now on . . . and not that your husband was left a widower, with a newborn baby and four other kids.