Yesterday I talked about the importance of reframing the Christian perspective of birth and pregnancy. Today we see why that is so important: Because how we think dictates how we talk, and the way Christians talk about birth needs to change.
Every week I get an email, message, or comment from a single or newly married woman terrified of the prospect of pregnancy. From a silent seat at a baby shower to the children’s nursery at church, these women hear negativity, fear, and horror whenever the process of birth is brought up. The few who DO understand pregnancy and birth before they get there usually had a strong mother figure to help frame their perspective. Most women don’t have that figure in their lives today. This is one major reason I’m writing this series: Not because I think I’m an expert on pregnancy (I’m currently 36 weeks with my second child) but so we can continue the discussion of a topic which, like sex, remains behind closed doors.
As I articulated in yesterday’s post, labor existed before sin entered the world. Women were created with the complete capability of delivering children earthside. But because of sin, birth now resists woman just as the ground (physical work) resists man. It is sin that casts the shadow of complication over woman’s ability to produce life. But in Christ, we have hope. In Christ, we have overcoming strength and power – and when things don’t go as planned, we have His peace and redemption (read more about this in my friend Lisa’s post, “Why I Quit Saying “As Long as He’s Healthy“).
Unfortunately, this narrative isn’t the one we usually hear regarding pregnancy. After years of listening to alternative conversation – a very negative one – here are four things Christian women can stop saying about pregnancy and birth.
“Just you wait, the birth / postpartum / newborn stage is even worse.”
It doesn’t matter how funny this is meant to be – it’s not funny at all. Motherhood will be hard; that much is true. But it is also full of joy. Young moms will figure out soon enough the difficulties of motherhood. Prophesying further difficulty over them is neither what they need nor what they want.
I had a fast, hard birth with my first daughter – and an awful postpartum. If someone wants to know about that postpartum period and how I dealt with it, I will tell them! But I don’t lead with that story. When we enter the conversation of motherhood, pregnancy, and labor with negativity, what message are we sending the next generation of moms? This is the time to encourage, not discourage. To “encourage” literally means to “put courage into” someone. Rather than telling our mom friends how much worse the next stage will be, let’s give them the courage they need to face it.
“My pregnancy / birth was HORRIBLE. Let me tell you about it…”
Along the same lines as the last point, are we putting courage into our first time moms about to deliver new souls into this world? I hope so! The unknowns of labor (less unknown as women educate themselves, but many don’t know where to start) are scary. How are we honoring our sisters in Christ when we maximize on their fear for the sake of a laugh?
There is a time and place for sharing about traumatic birth experiences – I’ll talk about those at the end of this post. But part of loving others with Christ’s love is using His discernment to choose that time and place. A bright-eyed, hopeful young mom does not need discouragement and horror stories; she needs an accurate birth education. Give her resources, not fear.
“You’re not getting an epidural? What are you trying to prove?”
My first pregnancy ended in a whirlwind move from Virginia to Pennsylvania, during which I discovered all the birth centers in our new city were completely full. No one would take me on as a patient, and I wasn’t comfortable having a random OB who knew nothing about me or my prenatal care. At 36 weeks pregnant, I switched to a previously unplanned home birth. I’d been planning to try for an unmedicated birth before; now I had no choice.
That birth experience, and the mental, physical, and emotional preparation that enabled me to overcome it, was amazing. It’s why I’m having another home birth (barring an emergency transfer) in a few weeks. But many women who decline epidurals aren’t met with positivity. They are instead greeted with condescension and disgust, as if they made their decision to prove something to the world. What observers don’t know is that most women who decline epidurals have months of research backing up why they did so. The benefits are many, and the reasoning is solid. But when insecurity is the lens through which we view others’ experiences, judgment will ALWAYS be the result.
Judging women who decline an epidural does no one any good: the person bound to her own insecurities, or the woman who made the choice of her own volition and research.
“You had an epidural?… Oh.”
Ah, but there’s another side to this story: the shame-ridden undercurrent of the natural birthing world. I may be part of the culture, but I’m not blind to its flaws. The natural health realm accomplishes good, but its devotees can be extremely condescending and unreasonable toward women who choose standard medical procedures over more “natural” options. Worse yet, there are those who see genuine emergency c-sections as “cop outs” or “failure”, adding a further load of shame to an already defeated mother.