During my first pregnancy, I drank the birth junkie Kool-Aid poured out by my foremothers. I practiced relaxation techniques and did my Kegel exercises. I read childbirth books and watched an inordinate number of water births. The contractions came, and I never asked for pain medications. I had a natural birth. And I was proud of it. In fact, I recall asking my husband if he made sure our family knew that I did it naturally.
After my “successful” natural birth, I felt a real sense that I had earned my stripes. Friends began to ask me how I had achieved this task, and I reveled in answering their questions. My husband quietly observed this trend for months. He saw my desire to walk alongside new mothers and eventually suggested I become trained as a birth doula.
But my husband, being a godly man, also notice an unsavory characteristic developing: pride.
Giving Birth to Pride
How did such pride exhibit itself? I would judge the birth experiences of other women. I might have congratulated the new mom, but I was truly convinced that I had the better accomplishment.
With my second child, I looked forward to a second natural birth. While God did grant me the birth I planned, he dramatically changed my perspective. Gloria Furman published her insightful article about birth from a Christian worldview the day I went into labor. Her words were a shock of cold water: “All women and babies who are delivered through the pains of labor are recipients of God’s undeserved, common grace.”
My bravado buckled.
Following the delivery of our second-born, I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage, which cast an air of sobriety around my daughter’s birth. The experience was truly beautiful, but I couldn’t shake the harrowing reminder of my own mortality and inability.
God began crumbling my false sense of pride.
My professional circles place great emphasis on the “innate strength” and “goddess-like beauty” of a woman’s body. It is tempting to get caught up in their excitement. But worshiping creation rather than the Creator is sin. God pours out wrath on “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:18, 25). Why would we worship our own bodies when the God who made them demands exclusive praise?
Why would we worship our own bodies when the God who made them demands exclusive praise?
Professionally, I still believe it’s important that women thoughtfully approach their birth experiences. As a matter of stewardship, it’s important we understand the benefits and risks of medical decisions and take responsibility for our health care. But desiring a certain birth experience as a way to lord over other moms or boost our own egos is downright sinful.
Star of the Story
In a Christian woman’s birth story, Christ is the main character.
Telling the story of how our children come into the world is good and right. Birth stories are frequently swapped at mommy groups or baby showers. The Christian woman has a unique perspective on her birth experience that unbelievers do not. We can testify that a contraction is an image of creation “groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22). Our outward groans represent the believer’s inward groan “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). When we cry out for deliverance from labor, as many women do, we are casting shadows of a coming Savior who will deliver the world from sin and suffering.
Our births image truths about new birth. Christian mothers should share their birth stories as a way to point to Jesus, not to themselves.
Christian mothers should share their birth stories as a way to point to Jesus, not to themselves.
My deceitful heart would rather find a compromising middle ground. “Can’t I be proud of my body and God’s handiwork?” I reasoned to my husband. “No, babe. No. You can’t abide the tiniest bit of sin.” I so value his sharp mind and warm heart.
In my work as a birth doula, God has graciously seen fit to rip away the pride I’d previously touted over my own natural births. In walking with women through one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, it’s humbling to watch them mirror the human condition—in pain, helpless, needing a Savior:
And not only the creation [groans], but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Rom. 8:23–24a)
In God’s great mercy, he provides deliverance through childbirth (doulas, hip squeezes, epidurals, C-sections, and so on) as well as deliverance from our greatest problem: our sinful selves.
God’s glory is at stake. We simply cannot take the gift of a positive birth experience and make it about ourselves.
Repent, Rejoice, Retell
I pray you will examine your motives and consider how you have been telling your children’s birth stories. Have you written yourself in as the main character? Have you been robbing God of any glory? Have you missed opportunities to communicate the gospel?
If so, here are three ways you might respond:
- Repent. Learning who God is shows us who we are not. God, not birthing women, is the Creator and giver of life. If you’ve been claiming responsibility and praise for giving life to your children, repent. We are assured the Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). If needed, seek forgiveness from a sister you may have offended. Then walk in freedom and joy, knowing that if we confess “he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- Rejoice. It is perfectly appropriate and wonderful to praise God for his gifts—including beautiful births! As you reflect on your births, praise God for the beauty and wonder you’ve experienced.
- Retell. The next time you’re in a playgroup and the story swap begins, know you can tell a better story. You’ll have a wonderful opportunity to testify to your weakness and Christ’s strength. Speak to the groaning of creation and the longing for a Savior. Share the ultimate example of life coming out of death and suffering in the cross. Birth is a ready-made opportunity to talk about Jesus.
Moms, as we live, process, and retell the birth stories of our children, may we make the Author of life the hero. What a joy that we can tell of the new birth as we tell of the birth of our newborns.