I’m getting to the stage of pregnancy where it feels like all my thoughts and plans are beginning to be sucked into the newborn vortex. I’m getting to the “business end”, as someone from church today said to me. (And I just realised how hilariously awkward a pun “business end” is, when talking about childbirth – ha!)
Everything I’m thinking about for this year is in terms of “before the baby comes” or “when the baby comes”.
And many of my thoughts are consumed with preparing for the birth.
Birth has never been “easy” for me, but it is something I look forward to. It’s a huge turnaround for me from when I was first pregnant with my daughter. I was terrified of giving birth, and pretty much thought “give me all the drugs I can get”. But the Lord changed my attitude through several books, people and courses he brought into my life at the right time.
Now, I know birth hurts, but there is no fear. Just joyful anticipation and focused preparation.
Like a runner preparing for a marathon, I am purposefully preparing my mind and body each day for the great task ahead.
I really like to have worship music playing while I labour. I find it’s such a great way to focus on God and remember that my strength comes from him.
So I’m always mentally “scanning” songs I hear during pregnancy for my labour playlist. Here’s one I’ve been really getting into lately:
The chorus in particular is so great for childbirth:
I LIFT UP MY EYES
TURN TO THE SUN
THIS IS WHERE MY HELP’S
IN THE HEIGHTS
OR THE BATTLE
MY SUN, MY SHIELD
Yes, a great reminder that God is with me, in the good times and the hard, and that He is my strength.
You know, I feel like a lot of childbirth discourse swings between two extremes – there’s either “Childbirth is horrible and completely out of your control” or “Childbirth is naturally wonderful and every woman has the strength within her to make it what she imagines”. (I know, those are caricatures, but I have seen these attitudes around…).
I personally think it’s so important for women to talk about childbirth in a positive and realistic way, particularly for the sake of women who have not yet given birth. Our words can plant the seed of fear or the seed of joy.
And I don’t agree fully with either of the two attitudes I just mentioned above.
So here are my thoughts on childbirth, coming from a Christian perspective:
- God designed our bodies so amazingly well for the process of giving birth. Read up about all that goes on during a birth, and you will come away praising Him more!
- You can’t control everything that happens during childbirth, but there are some things you can control. Your attitude. How much you prepare. Who will be your care provider. These things can have a huge impact on how the birth proceeds!
- Fear is destructive and harmful to the process of childbirth. The hormones your body produces in response to fear and stress (adrenaline and cortisol) actually slow labour down and magnify your experience of the pain. Work on reducing your fear of childbirth during the pregnancy (education, sussing out women who had good births and asking them to tell you about it, confronting any specific fears you have, etc.). Work on relaxing and calming yourself as much as possible during labour (breathing exercises are great for this. We did a course called Calmbirth – similar to Hypnobirth – which has been invaluable, especially for the breathing techniques!).
- Spiritually speaking, Christian women should not be welcoming fear into our hearts, even if it’s at a time when fear is socially acceptable (childbirth). We can take comfort in knowing that nothing happens that is out of God’s control. And that he will be right there with us through everything that happens during the birth, including when things don’t go “our way”. Lay down your fears at the foot of the cross, and ask God to take them away from you. You don’t need them!
- Be careful what you take in. I personally refuse to listen to birth “war stories” (at least until I’m done having babies). This was especially important during my first pregnancy, as I had no birth memories of my own, so my mental image of birth was entirely dependant on other women’s experiences. And for those of us who have given birth before, let’s resolve not to say things to our sisters in Christ that will make a stumbling block for them. Use your discretion, but if your intention is to shock and horrify them, what you’re going to say is probably not helpful.
- Use the time of pregnancy to educate yourself about the facts, but realise that there is such a thing as “too much information”. Don’t feel like you have to read up about every possible thing that can go wrong.
- And here’s what a friend told me a week before I gave birth the first time – childbirth is hard work, but you can do it. Don’t expect it to be easy, but don’t expect that you will fail (without taking drugs).