Natural and Cursed

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.

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56 thoughts on “Natural and Cursed

  1. Thanks for having this discussion ladies. My husband nearly was left a widower, five days after I delivered our first, due to complications. Three weeks before that, we were with his mother as she died. A week before that, I was experiencing other pregnancy complications. I continue to be thankful that we’re all alive…and that has really left me an ‘outsider’ with all the Christian ladies who, well, fly the flag high on birth-particulars. “I’m just thankful that we’re all alive” is a real conversation-killer with people who have a strong sense of entitlement regarding birthing options. I had been feeling like a real party-pooper! Glad to know my perspective can be affirmed as having some wisdom to it:)

  2. Absolutely! I’ve tried to make this point so many times. You’re birth experience was terrible? No surprise there. It’s cursed, after all. Death is natural too.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have tried to develop and maintain this perspective through the births of my first 3 kids, but I definitely fell into the trap of fussing about the hospital, especially the first time.

  4. Thank you for writing this–this is the first time I have read z theological perspective on the issue and I whole-heartedly agree

  5. Rebekah, I love your blog, and your family’s collective oeuvre is a huge encouragement to me. However, I want to throw two thoughts your way.

    1. Have you had a chance to look at the Hebrew word which is translated “sorrow” in your translation of Genesis 3:16? I believe it is ‘etsev’ and is the same word which also used to Adam in 3:17 as regards the sorrowful/painful nature of Adam’s lot as a worker.

    Yes, we need to submit ourselves to the Biblical vision of a fallen childbirth. But we need to be careful in our exegesis. Despite extraordinary medical advances, many (Christian) women are still inordinately terrified of childbirth. I believe we should look at it as toil – painful, yet rewarding. Like Adam, we work very hard (and yes, sometimes at our own risk) to produce fruit – but it is worth it, and we’ve been called to that work by our Father.

    We visited a friend’s farm and my software-tech-support husband lifted railroad ties all day. He was in pain from head to toe afterwards, and for some time! However, he didn’t go into the work terrified and whining. Could a railroad tie have fallen on him and killed him? Yes. But he didn’t expect that. He exercised reasonable caution, trusted himself to God, and got the job done.

    2. The phrase “Do you know how many women have died in childbirth through the ages?” can be a bit confusing for people. Many women whom we refer to as having “died in childbirth” actually died because of infections – days later. Why? Because the people attending those women didn’t know to *wash their hands*! I’m not downplaying the enormous tragedy of so many mothers’ lost lives (I wept recently reading about two of Jane Austen’s sisters-in-law dying after giving birth to their ELEVENTH CHILDREN). But we should be encouraging Christian women to have a realistic and informed picture of childbirth and to trust God as they go into this imposing task, not stirring up nameless fears and anxieties.

    I get that you were making a point about gratitude, and I really like that. I hope that you get my concerns.

  6. All three of my births were incredible experiences of leaning on the Lord to get me through… still headed into having my 3rd (and the weeks before) I just had this anxious feeling. The Lord gave me comfort and we had a healthy birth and a healthy baby but I cannot imagine how women like Anne Bradstreet and others felt back in the day.

  7. To me, preparing for birth is like preparing for a marathon (one you don’t have a choice but to run). It takes time, and practice. It is difficult and at times painful, and there is the risk of injury (or even death). But we have seen people run marathons over and over again and know how to train well, along with what signs to watch out for if things start going badly. I think it is wise for a woman to prepare, and to be excited about the process of birth. Even if it is painful, it is still the process that God created and the ways that He has made our bodies to respond to so many different things about birth is incredible.

    I agree that we should be grateful for the advances of technology and not look at birth as nothing more than our own customizable “prom” day, but we also should not blindly give someone else free reign to treat our bodies as they see fit. Sadly, so much of what happens in hospitals these days is the result of financial motives and a desire for efficiency, rather than giving women, their bodies, and their babies a safe and patient time to give birth (as well as letting the path God has created take its course).

    I also love what Christina said about work being hard. It is difficult, but it is also rewarding. Man is cursed to toil in the fields, and women are cursed with childbirth, but God still gives us joy at the end of both of those things. This life is hard, but God is also full of Grace. He loves when we plan and prepare and strengthen our bodies (just like the Proverbs 31 woman).

    We can celebrate birth and the miracle of children without looking scornfully at other women (no matter what kind of birth you’ve had). We can also research and be fascinated by the glorious act of birth without idolizing it. Jesus came to redeem, and we can redeem birth and rejoice in His grace.

  8. This is a very thoughtful post and i appreciate the perspective, thank you! I agree that women can tend to get to caught up in the “process” rather than the “product” ie…”my birth plan wasn’t respected by the doctors and nurses, i’m disappointed in how my labor turned out, even though my baby was born perfectly healthy and i’m healthy”. I mean, what more could you ask for!?! A healthy baby and momma should always always always be #1 on your birth plan. But i would caution women to really do some research on childbirth and what their options are. Our hospital systems unfortunately are mainly concerned with giving care in a timely, neat, cost efficient manner. And while obviously doctors and nurses care about the health and safety of patients there are a lot of politics that surround care as well. thats just the plain truth. America has the WORST infant and mother mortality rate in the developed nations, which, although things have improved since the time of homebirths and non-medical interventions, is still saying a lot. And the numbers aren’t improving….we don’t want to be moving backwards here. Also as christian women its important to know and believe that we have in fact been REDEEMED from the curse. While i totally agree that if someone claims childbirth isn’t painful they are trying to sell something or are just being plain ignorant (i’ve gone through 2 births….its painful!), we can trust God with our childbirth and trust that He is keeping us safe in the process. I just think its good to go into childbirth with faith that God is sovereign over labor and delivery and trust that whatever the outcome it is and will be meant for good.

  9. Some of this is applicable to other areas we tend to go ‘Mom-zilla’ in. Today, I’m thinking about how long I want to breastfeed my one-year-old…not hoping that she’ll live till her fifth birthday. As I weigh the pros and cons of vaccinations, one thing that I’m not concerned about is my daughter dying of measles. I am very thankful to live in the 21st century!

  10. I recently had an opportunity to go with a friend to a midwife appointment. I attempted to distract her little ones in the waiting room while she and her husband went back for her exam. The office was fairly new, and the library was, shall we say, not extensive. The one book I could find was a fat, wordy one about dinosaurs. It was not quite toddler level, but I gave it a shot, thinking that I could edit or dramatize enough to make it work. But every story was about dinosaurs killing each other or dying of hunger because they couldn’t catch prey. I thought it was pretty funny to find such a “survival of the fittest” perspective in a Christian midwife’s office, but perhaps “Nature, red in tooth and claw” is a good reminder in a childbirth context! (Happily, baby Victoria arrived a couple of days ago and she and her mommy are safe and sound.)

  11. I agree with the Christian aspect, Christ MUST come first, and prayer MUST be a priority. However, you seem to be selling medicine over the natural birth experience. Statistics have proven that natural birth, specifically home birth (with qualified and experienced midwives) is not only *just as safe*, but even *safer* than hospital birth.

    You forgot to mention that women are dying all the time from C-Sections! I personally know people who almost died from giving birth in a hospital- because of faulty epidurals and C-Sections gone wrong. Women who had perfectly healthy pregnancies and perfectly healthy labors. Now they are limited to how many children they can have because of the risks of repeated C-Sections. Their babies were groggy and not as strong as they would have been without the exposer to drugs. Doctors preach not to take any drugs during pregnancy, yet they pump women up during labor- when the baby is the most exposed.

    The World Health Organization has declared that home birth is not only the most cost-effective; it also achieves the best neonatal and maternal outcomes. Research has shown that the number one way to improve infant maternal mortality rates worldwide is to have more trained attendants. NOT more hospitals, more technology, more machines, more physicians or even more midwives. Simply put- more trained attendants. “The Christian Childbirth Handbook”, by Jennifer Vanderlaan pg. 274

    You know that most OBGYN’s have never even witnessed a natural birth? Witnessing a perfectly unmedicated birth (including care for all 9.5 months) is not even part of their training. The C-Section rate in this country is SHOCKING and way higher than the WHO recommends.

    I have had two natural water births, one at home, one in hospital. I was perfectly healthy, walking around, even dancing with my newborn the day of. Most of my friends were groggy from drugs, with babies who couldn’t latch on right because they were full of drugs from the medical interventions. Even later, my babies held their heads up sooner, were more alert, etc than women I know who’ve had medical intervention.

    I think that by you downplaying natural birth you’ll scare women into the hospitals. Hospitals are no place for HEALTHY women. Pregnancy is not a disease.

    Toil does not come without reward. You forget to mention the great news of Christ. He is our reward. He suffered for us. We suffer for our children. Is natural childbirth painless? NO, BUT- an amazing phenomenon occurs directly after- and that is when the oxytocin kicks in. An unmedicated home birth can actually cause great joy and pleasurable feelings. God gave us these amazing hormones to get us through it all. Yes, sin came into the world, but God promised, and He keeps His promises- to take care of us.

    Read Galations 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

    Happy we have options, but you’re selling only one option here, and that is the option of a hospital, there’s so much more out there- rely on Christ and He will lead you to where you are meant to birth.

  12. I think you make some excellent points. And nurturing a spirit of gratefulness the graces of good prenatal care and interventions when complications arise that have dramatically decreased maternal and infant deaths is certainly something we should strive to do. However, many mothers choose to labor naturally, not because they’re deluded about the pain and danger of childbirth, but because they believe that natural birth will be safer for baby and mother and less painful as well. Furthermore, being thankful for a safe delivery doesn’t mean we can’t desire the best possible birth anymore than being grateful that our children can attend school for free in our country means that we shouldn’t fight for the best possible education for them. That being said, I do agree with you that just because birth is a natural event doesn’t mean it is risk-free. Yet, like sickness and death, the other natural events you mentioned, I do believe that labor can be redemptive through the grace of Our Lord. Thanks for an insightful post.

  13. I think we need to be wise in how we speak about home vs hospital births. Ultimately – where ever you deliver it is important to remember that God is God of every where – He already has our days and our children’s days numbered and delivering at home or at a hospital will not change his ultimate plan. Let’s try to encourage our sisters to hope and trust in God no matter where they chose to deliver. I have many friends who have delivered at home and many who have delivered at home. I believe it is a personal choice.

  14. In the Anglican liturgy (which I’ve been so blessed to use after every baby) there is a short service called “The Churching of Women” (sometimes “benedictio mulieris post partum”) which has historically been spoken by the pastor, postpartum mother, and congregation on the first Sunday the mom is back to church. It’s tremendous, tears all around as everyone remembers the perils and joys that accompanied the birth of the child who is shortly to be baptized (usually in the same service). We officially and before the church universal say our Thanksgiving for God’s mercy. Here’s a link to it.

    I’m a homebirther and I believe in God’s word. Childbirth is a beautiful, created process full of death and agony. I find it hard to believe that a woman’s physiology was so different before the Fall that it wouldn’t have come as seriously difficult and laborious had Eve borne children pre-sin. Was there never any pain before the Fall? Interesting to ponder just what the curse means, what Adam and Eve might have understood it to mean.

    Regarding the whole “epidural vs. natural, vaginal vs. c-section” kerfuffle: I always tell women they will not escape the pain of childbirth in either set of circumstances. Our choices are a blessing, but ultimately we are just deciding which pain we will undergo, which set of risks we will mitigate.

  15. I am a homebirth midwife, a CPM, and I say AMEN!!! Please, we need to realize this! I am all for home birth, I have had three in my own home, but I’ve also had one c/s–and it was probably (rarely absolutely certain 🙂 ) lifesaving for our baby, possibly me. Birth is cursed, and midwives see that. That’s why we think it a good idea to hire a midwife.:)
    But even in our world and culture and time and place women and babies do die. And nothing, not even all the technology of the world, can always prevent that. Neither of course would having all our babies at home. We need to be grateful for life.

  16. There is much about this post to absolutely love- the call to gratefulness, the reminder that we do live in a fallen world are just two things. However, I have two concerns with your exegeses. The first is that the curse automatically makes birth “dangerous”. I don’t see the idea used. I see pain, toil, and sorrow, but not danger. Now, we live in a fallen world where death exists, but in the curse death and birth aren’t linked. Everyone is curse with death, Adam’s work is specifically cursed, and Eve’s child bearing is specifically cursed. Please correct me if I am missing something.

    The other thing I find disconcerting is the idea of sickness and death as “natural”. They aren’t. They are due to an unnatural fallen state. Or to be completely accurate sickness leading to death is due to the fall, I don’t know that I could prove there was no sickness pre-fall from Genesis. But I digress. Death is not natural. Child birth is, it was meant to be around pre-fall, like work. The manner in which we give birth has changed, but not the fact that originally in Eve’s created perfection she was meant to give birth, she wasn’t meant to die.

    I don’t think either of those concerns undo your point, or take away from the good of being reminded to be thankful, but at the beginning of the post you caution women to be careful of their exegesis, and yet your handling of it leaves some important things unaddressed.

    The last thing I find concerning is the claim of the high number of women dying in child birth in the past. Before claims are made as historical fact one should site sources. I’m not saying your information is wrong, but it is bold claim to say something is historical fact without backing it up with citation. If you are going to make an appeal to how this fact should prompt us to gratitude and perspective backing it up becomes even more important.

    In the end, I have found these three posts on child birth very good, encouraging, helpful and do appreciate your all’s willingness to jump into what is often a difficult subject.

  17. I tend to agree with Joan and Christina and not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” regarding women preparing and desiring a positive birth experience. As a childbirth educator and a doula, I whole-heartedly agree that the childbirth industry tends to get way too deep in the muck of “empowerment” and making it all about the mother and encouraging self-centeredness. But be careful. You can find this with anything, such as homeschooling, home decor, hospitality (which ends up being a way to show off what a “great homemaker” you are:), knitting, sewing, scrapbooking….you name it. Women like to get together and “talk shop” about their vocations, whether it’s childbirth, breastfeeding, educating children, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But educating oneself in the ways and means of labor/birth is just one of many venues where women can choose (or choose not to) indulge in the sin of pride and self-centeredness.

  18. Once again, love your posts! I so look forward to them! I could not agree with you more! Have a blessed weekend!

  19. Howdy howdy everyone! I just dashed through the comments, and thought I’d just quickly add a couple things that may or may not help with where I’m coming from! Christina – I checked with my husband about the Hebrew word for sorrow, (he’s the Hebrew guy!) and you’re dead right. It is the word for sorrow and toil. I don’t think that changes anything in my argument – I imagine that we’re both agreed that no women would have died in childbirth before the fall. Also, I am in total and full agreement that is terrific work . . . tiring, painful, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding in the world! I wouldn’t want to scare women into a worry fit before labor, but I have heard a whole lot of women saying that there is absolutely no reason for birth to be painful, dangerous, whatever. Those were the people I was objecting to. To NaturalChildBirthChristian – just by way of context, I’ve had five children naturally, and have never had drugs, but I did have my 10 lb, 9 oz baby boy get his shoulders stuck – and I can’t tell you how happy I was that I was in the hospital and surrounded by machines, blinking lights, and professionals standing by with a knife during those very dicey couple of minutes! I didn’t need them, thank goodness, but it was touch and go. Four of my births were completely uneventful, but I was glad for the safety net when I needed it! More things can go wrong in a birth than the doctor not washing his hands . . .

  20. Tiffany, just giving bekah a hand with the data source here….

    Using Irvine Louden’s research — he is a top historian working in the area of birth and pregnancy history, we find overall as far back as we have records the maternal death rate is around 400-450 for every 100,000 births. Currently it is about 10 for every 100,000 births.

  21. I’ve never given birth, but I certainly remember my mother having six children (in hospital), and how grateful we all were at the safe arrival of my littlest sister via caesarian. Nowadays my married friends are having children at home and at hospitals, and I have a few things to say.

    First, I can’t agree with Christina more that there are plenty of people trying to convince women that childbirth is the most painful, disgusting, and humiliating experience they will ever endure, and I thank God for my faithful mother sharing birth stories, cracking jokes, and more or less taking it in her stride. Without her example, I would be terrified.

    Second, while nature is certainly fallen, so is medicine. Childbirth is cursed, but women’s bodies were still built to do this. And medicine can be a great help, but the problem is when it stops trying to help and starts to try to do everything.

    Finally, I for one am really grateful that there are so many options available to women. I am grateful that my friend who has given birth to two children at home was able to have a really well-trained midwife to care for her. I’m grateful that my friend who wanted to have her children at home but lives too far away from a hospital for safety has been able to find a hospital that will allow her to have her children with no more medical intervention than she really needs. And I’m glad that my friend who wants to have her children at hospital can do so in a relaxed, friendly environment. Midwives are really well trained these days. And hospitals are unbending significantly. Ladies, we have so much to be grateful for, and so many ways to extend graciousness to those who don’t do things exactly the way we do.

  22. And not to play “devil’s advocate,” but one more thought: Wasn’t another part of the curse that thistles and weeds would come up through the ground, making it difficult for necessary trees and plants to grow? (Thus, making the work of tilling, tending, and growing crops difficult?) There are farmers today and throughout the decades who have worked hard in research and industry to make farming more efficient and productive. But do we call that self-centeredness or unbiblical? Remember, childbirth is a big part of a woman’s vocation, just as something such as farming or being productive in the industrial/business world is a generally a man’s vocation. Putting our hand to the plow and doing something with excellence should be a biblical perspective.

  23. Hi I am a doctor who initially trained in obgyn and then switched to family practice. I couldn’t agree more with your post, and have often wondered what women in the developing world would think of some of the angst we go through when there is a healthy mother and child at the end of the process. Just thinking about the work of christians who work to repair obstetric fistula’s (as a result of obstructed labour-they cause the woman to leak faeces and urine vaginally and lead to the women being cast out and shunned by their families) makes me so thankful to live in the developed world. In response to comments above I did witness and deliver scores of normal deliveries both as a student and as a trainee before I was let loose with medical deliveries. The maternal mortality rate in the UK (where I practice) is very low and there is no increased risk with caesarians over normal deliveries. Home birth is safe but as we unfortunately as a population leave childbearing til later and are more overweight then we increase the risks. Home birth is also not as well supported as it could be and if there were more attendants it is perfectly safe but some women will never be able to have a home birth for various medical reasons. I think like you say we have forgotten to be thankful-watch or read Call the Midwife written by a midwife practicing in the East End of London in the 1950’s for details. As my Prof of Obgyn said “a normal delivery is a retrospective diagnosis” you can divide women into low and high risk but I still saw plenty of disasters from the low risk end. Interestingly in my hospital it was the paediatricans who were most against home deliveries and early discharge as they were worried about the babies, the obstetricans were less fussed!
    Thank you for your sanity.

  24. Thanks for responding, Rebekah, and I think it is encouraging how much people have been in fundamental agreement in these comments, given the subject! I, too, chafe at the feminist rhetoric (“my body, my choice”) that has crept into the debate among Christians.

    I happen to live in a country (Australia) where we have “free” healthcare. I don’t think we have the same kind of mom-zilla situation — let’s just say that when healthcare is run by the government, it is no longer a service industry. 😉

    I personally see more problems in my community (and other Australians are free to differ) with outright negativity towards childbirth and children than I do with women preening themselves for some kind of boutique birth. (Possibly the latter is more of a temptation in America, where freedom is so enshrined as an unquestioned good. Here it’s “fairness” instead…which comes with its own set of problems, as you may imagine!)

    I’m sure your post will be very helpful and convicting to women who have swallowed the “trust your body” line. Don’t trust your body! Trust God who made your body, and will also raise it in Glory.

  25. Bekah,

    Thank you for this post. You have articulated something that I have known and understood for a long time, but could not put into words of my own.

    I have been a night-shift nurse in high-risk Labor and Delivery unit for 15 years (though temporarily retired after the birth of my twins), and have been in attendance of approximately 4,000 deliveries. On my drive to work each night, I would repeat the same prayer over and over: “Please, God, let everyone stay alive tonight.” My birth plan for every woman I labored was simple: that the mamma and her baby survive. Why? Because death is very real in labor and delivery. Because my fellow nurses and I have seen babies and even mothers lost in delivery – yes, even in “healthy” women/babies. Because, while most of the time Labor and Delivery is a very happy and exciting place, it can also be a place of terrible devastation.

    I think a few of your readers have again misunderstood you and Nancy as advocating one kind of birth over another. Instead you have addressed the attitudes and mindsets of women as they approach their labor and delivery, and you have expressed gratitude for living in a time where women have the luxury of so many options when it comes to pregnancy, labor and delivery. I appreciate your wisdom wholeheartedly – I read and re-read your words. I compliment your graciousness in your comments to your readers.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Ruth, the midwife, who recognizes with Bekah that birth is cursed and we need to be grateful for life.

    NaturalChristianChildbirth, I would respectfully request that you examine your heart and attitude towards medical providers in women’s healthcare. I am an RN in Labor and Delivery because God put me there. My husband is a physician through God’s direction. I have worked with hundreds of Christian nurses, and many God-fearing midwives, CRNA’s, anesthesiologists, and OB-Gyn’s (all of whom, incidentally, have witnessed a “natural childbirth”). All of these people are highly trained in the care they provide, and represent a vast resource of information and experience – more than you could possibly imagine. They are wonderful at what they do; they love their occupations, and the women and infants they serve. Many of us in healthcare were called to our occupations by God. Christ Himself was the Great Physician. Please do not demonize the many God-loving and Christ-serving men and women who seek the Lord’s direction as they work so hard to provide care for mothers and their unborn/newly born babies.

    Bekah, thank you again for your wisdom. You have blessed me.

  26. I appreciate so much of what has been said here and the respectful manners of the replies. When evaluating the medical establishment though, something else to realize is that the U.S.A. compiles it’s statistics on infant mortality differently than other countries do. Our doctors and nurses work to save the earliest preterm babies as well as term babies who likely won’t live. The vast majority of children born as very early preterm babies alive in the world live in America. If the baby dies despite all efforts, we count them as having been alive-because they DO matter. Other countries don’t try to save these babies’ lives and only count the infants who are alive longer than 24 hours to include in their infant mortality statistics.Despite the disparagement by some of the medical profession’s attitude toward the birth process, it does still have a basic respect for the lives of the infants born in great difficulty and tries to save them. Thus our statistics are skewed to show a higher infant mortality rate. So if a baby in our country is born at 22 weeks or with a congenital heart defect and doesn’t make it through the first day of life, he/she is counted as having existed.

  27. I so appreciate you women and your willingness to put yourselves out there, declaring and calling us to the Faith first. I, for one, am very appreciative.

  28. Emily I appreciate your post. I believe you have expressed yourself eloquently. I too am a labor and delivery nurse in a large hospital in a major metropolitan area. I couldn’t agree more with you.
    I would like to add to those of you who think the hospital is evil and we are all about money. every one wants to be diligent with their resources as i assume many of your households are. That does not mean I choose to shorten your hospital labor and delivery experience. I listen and go over every birth plan with every mom and inform all my coworkers of her desires. I always discuss that I will work hard and diligent to keep to her plan as long as she and the baby are safe and healthy. We have birthing tubs in every room , several birthing balls and I know how to coach and help you through a natural child birth. We have monitors that let you walk and we can watch you and your baby. When you have been in labor for long hours, and I mean days, you risk infection and bleeding and that is the reason for intervention, not a specific budget or time line.

    Although infection is a big concern in these days many women do not die of it. Babies die of infection, however there are antibiotics to help them overcome infection. It is bleeding and there are diseases associated with bleeding like pre-eclampsia. At my hospital because we are a big city hospital we often get pt’s sent to us from rural places I have had women in the ICU for brain hemorrhages, strokes and aneurysms. I have seen far more than I have wanted. God is faithful to help us all through the grief we see in this pt’s families eyes and face. I don’t have an answer for their pain just a heart of compassion. I have seen women bleed out their body in 2 minutes. I can’t tell you how fearful that makes me feel. I just work to help her body adapt and give her what I can to help her. I have witnessed another women fearful for her children when she survived a hemorrhage to put us all in tears as she realized she was dying and her concern for her children that they would be left without her. I don’t want to enact protocols and procedures they are there for your benefit. I have standard of practice I have developed over the years and with the help of the Dr’s and RN’s who write these protocols for your safety. They do studies on mom’s and babies that is their life’s work. Whether they believe or not they are bringing glory to God through child birth, because one day you may need their wisdom to save your and your child’s life

    When you come to the hospital remember I have lots of experience like Emily said she has seen 4000 deliveries and 15 years. I don’t know how many I have seen I have been a delivery nurse for 14 years. I want to help you not ruin your experience I want you alive and nursing your baby. I want to see the joy and love your children have for their new brother or sister. In all of this I pray every day I may glorify and honor my Father above who has so graciously given me life and this profession to work out my salvation and sanctification. Trust me I see God working out in me patience and perseverance through my work in a hospital.

  29. Thank you, Bekah. What a beautifully worded, lovely post. Your point is so well made that at the end of the day, gratitude should be foremost in our hearts. Gratitude for the time that God has placed us in history, with options for a healthy, safe delivery.

    I know that if God had not placed me in this time in history, and in this country, I would most likely not be here typing right now. I wouldn’t have survived the birth of my first-born, who was too big to fit through my narrow pelvis. And then there are my twins – with the placenta of one covering my uterus, and the blood vessels from that placenta imbedded in my uterine wall, none of us would have survived without the skill and care of many doctors and dedicated nurses when they were born weighing less than 4 lbs each. And then there is our seventh little miracle – here safe and sound 6 years ago despite the thin and tattered uterus God kept her safe in inside of me, and then bringing her out thanks to the gifts He has given my OB. I feel thankful to be here with them and Glenn. So thankful.

    I don’t consider the place where I’ve had our children to be a godly choice. I didn’t have more of the fruit of the Spirit for having them in the hospital. But for us it was the right place. The safest place. The one we are thankful God led us to make.

    But there have certainly been times where I’ve felt I needed to defend that choice to other women who seemed to be trying to convince me I wasn’t strong, or natural, or trusting God as much because I didn’t have a home birth. And then again, maybe I was being easily offended? Assuming motives? 🙂

    At any rate, I love my friends – even the ones who have had home births. (Kidding!!) 🙂 But we’re not going to agree about everything – and at the end of the day, gratitude and love for each other ought to win. Fellowship should be more important to us, than winning others to our way of thinking when it comes to things that aren’t salvific.

    Childbirth is a kind of sanctification- whether we deliver at home or in a hospital. It’s hard work! It’s messy! It’s scary to think about – that baby has to come out somehow! It hurts, by golly! But it’s incredible, fantastic, amazing, miraculous, breath-taking, humbling, courageous, emotional, vulnerable, and every time – I have felt gratitude.

    Gratitude that God created life, and I got to be part of it. Gratitude that He gave me a great husband who made labor fun and even funny sometimes. Gratitude that at the end of the hard work – I received a beautiful gift that I could take home with me. I didn’t even have to pass a test! Gratitude to the kind and skilled doctors and nurses who helped. Gratitude that overflowed, and still does. And even the gratitude is a gift.

  30. I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments on this post. Sweetness and gratitude look as good in writing as they do in person. I know we ladies have strong opinions but certainly our bond of being found in Christ is the strongest of all.

    Having been blessed with 4 precious little ones, I’d like to send a special thank you to all those who work, in whatever capacity, in the field of delivering babies. Thank you for doing what you do! Your ministries of love are seen by God! Thank you!

  31. Thank you for your perspective here….I’m a missionary in Africa. I’ve had all three of my children here- Firstly, I am thankful for Doctors who have knowledge and experience and care about their patients. I am thankful for hospitals, ones that actually care for the occupants and don’t neglect them or use dirty needles or leave birthing mothers half naked on stretchers in hospital corridors. I am thankful for medical staff who consider each birth a sacred event and another precious life not another statistic to be counted or just as easily subtracted….Sometimes it seems we need to broaden our perspective a little.

  32. The problem is not the presence of godly choices in childbirth, the problem comes when that choice becomes our identity. I think we all know the difference between giving birth at home and being a “Home-Birther.” There are ladies who breastfeed their babies and then there are “Breastfeeders.”

    As in all things, our identity is in Christ, not in a particular child-raising method. It’s when we try to identify ourselves with a method that we become idolators. The attempt at righteousness outside Christ is what breeds the “Mom-zilla.”

  33. When I look at Genesis 3:14-17, I see that two things are cursed: the serpent and the ground. Verse 16 says our pain is multiplied in childbirth. It doesn’t say we are cursed or that childbirth is cursed. I think the distinction is important because a curse is an invocation for injury or harm. Pain, labor, hardship, sorrow and toil are not the same as injury or harm.

  34. Not to belabor the subject, but I blogged about this whole thing today. And I heartily agree with you all on the subject! Thank you for starting this great conversation!

  35. That was “hard-core” and right-on … loved what you said! I was a brat and had a huge pitty party when I had my 2nd baby by c-section. Then the 3rd and 4th were natural and I praised God, ’cause I preferred that. However, my 4th was born with a major birth defect and spent the first 2 months of her life in the ICU at a Children’s Hospital. Needless to say, I praise God for the effect that experience had on me as a “brat.” I had to go c-section with #5 and probably face them from here on out and I’m very much ok with that because I am ok with whatever it takes to be cradle my baby, along side my husband. Praise God for medical advances that can safe our lives and the lives of our littles! Sadly we sometimes go through the hardest things before we see clearly. But we/I can and should use them to help upcoming “brats” see childbirth Biblically.

  36. I don’t live my life in fear. Knowing that many women in history did not survive childbirth does not mean I need to be afraid. Knowing that there are risks in childbirth as in life does not mean that I shouldn’t make the wisest, safest and most comfortable birth plan I can. A negative birth experience and the emotions that can come from that are valid and do NOT mean that a woman isn’t grateful to be alive or have a healthy baby. Where does Faith fall in your theory?

    I do not understand you urging women to live in fear. That is not of God!

    Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

    John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

    2 Timothy 1:7 Cambridge Ed.)
    For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind

    I feel that you are using the Bible to chastize those whose choices in childbirth don’t line up with yours. That is unnecessary. I have not had a homebirth but that doesn’t mean that I can’t respect others who feel that is the safest choice for them.

    Life is a risk. Childbirth is a risk. Jesus is a sure thing. I would rather place my trust and faith and grattitude, in Him In all things, including childbirth, than live in fear.

  37. Ahh this is timely for me, having just having given birth to my third in the “natural” (and oh yes, painful) way. Giving birth in Africa (in a nice clean clinic with a well-trained OB, not the bush–no complaining here) gave fewer “options.” This was my first without an epidural and I’d have to say I missed it, but other than the pain (which is big, of course:) it was a very positive experience.
    My thoughts echo many of yours–be humble when it comes to your “opinions” on the “best” way. And at the end of the day, rejoice that you and baby are alive and well, your husband isn’t now a single dad and your other children half orphaned. Give thanks for God’s mercy and for another covenant child.

  38. Thank the Lord! Someone finally said it. Please remember you are not only putting the mother at risk. You are putting the precious child God has entrusted to you at a massive risk. I went in to deliver thinking both of my twins were perfect and one was born with a fatal condition. God gave us 87 days with our little one by using wonderful physicians and medical equipment that were available immediately. The chances are things will go as planned if you have a home birth but what if you are that 5%? If your child died because you chose to have him/her at home and were not close enough to get to a hospital in time…are you ready to live with that? Mothers have to put their children first!

  39. I think as Christians we be careful not to wrongfully judge a woman’s birth. I have felt embarrassed because I decided to have an epidural at times, and I have felt ashamed while talking with some friends because I gave birth out of a hospital setting. I think encouraging others with our experiences is helpful but do not think that we should feel we have all the answers to child birth and expect others to do it the same way we may. By the way, I don’t believe Rebekah is wrongfully judging nor scaring ladies into thinking birth is dangerous. Dangers do arise in any situation; yes, we are cursed.

    I do agree that more well trained attendants, meaning to me more experienced attendants, at a birth are vital for the health of mother and child. I don’t assume that this will be done outside of a hospital.

    I’m not against home or birth center births; in fact I have had three births outside of a hospital and even planned one at home. With my last birth I almost did not survive; and it wasn’t due to inexperienced/ill-trained attendants nor infection. I would say that my easiest and happiest (in terms of little pain/stress) birth was at a birth center, but it was certainly providential that I gave birth in a hospital with a well experienced OB recently. Both settings were what I needed at the time, and God knew that.

  40. So I didn’t go through and read all the comments….so please forgive me if I’m echoing others.

    I think you made some really good points :). I find it funny when people have specific birth plans, personally, because you just never know what’s going to really happen. However, I think we need to give other ladies a little grace. Some people are planners and it helps them to deal with the enormity of the situation if they can think through how they would like things to go. You never know the extenuating circumstances in a woman’s life during this time. If she had a good, bad, or horrible pregnancy. If she and her husband have a good relationship when church is over and the fake smiles are done. If she’s insecure and feels like she needs to echo the masses on whatever is popular in childbirth and rearing. Point being…I think we need to remember to give each other the kind of grace we would want others to give us. As much as I think I know the motives of other people…its often times not the truth.

  41. I agree with Christine, we are not cursed by God. That has serious implications theologically, and is a faulty premise that for years has remained unchecked. A simple reading of scripture will lead anyone to see that God only cursed the ground and the serpent. The pain of childbirth is a result of the fall. I believe it is an important distinction to be made because it effects our relationship with God as our Creator. People start viewing women as cursed, and that is why they are valued beneath men. For many years I believed the lie that I was cursed because of Eve’s sin. Well Adam and Eve were both there together side by side when the serpent tempted Them. Eve spoke up, but Adam remained silent. When I Realized Biblically that God did not curse Eve, my relationship with Him changed, and I felt more freedom and love. I think that your blog is excellent, but I would caution you in the way you talk about women or childbirth being cursed. It does have serious implications for people. Blessings

  42. Thank you for putting into words, what I think!

    I had a homebirth that ended in a severe shoulder dystocia and the almost death of my son and his lifelong birth injury that involves therapies, surgeries, and limited arm movement and also trauma to my body that has never healed right. I did everything “right” (ie: kept me low risk)and naively thought because of that; that my birth should go perfectly fine… because we were “designed to do this if we just trust the natural way”… sure… I subconciously thought that because I had “done it all right”, that I was entitled to a healthy baby. So I had my homebirth and my life forever changed. My thoughts and theories on all of the above were shattered forever. I had done it all the natural way and ended up with an injured child (who needed worked on and oxygen because he was almost dead) and a 4th degree tear/broken tailbone… I was shocked by it all. I was thankful that God intervened in nature’s plan for me and my son (which would have resulted in my baby’s death and most likely my own) and saved my son’s life; and have learned to trust in His plan as He chose not to intervene in my son having his injury. The experience pushed me into a whole new world (the medical world) and because my pride was gone, I saw this world fresh and new. It wasn’t the evil I had thought it to be, instead it was full of mostly caring people who were trying their best by my son and I. I thank God for the medical professionals He has placed into my son’s life and to my life as well. Long story, shortened, It has ALL been a very humbling experience!
    -Now I have c-sections (talk about 2 different worlds… homebirth to c-sections), but God has given me an amazing peace, I know is only from HIM. They come with their own problems (I just had my 3rd c-section last year), but I would much rather have surgery than have my other children die or even go through what my oldest son goes through everyday.

    I do not put my trust in Nature, I put my trust in God. Nature can be great, but it is still fallen, nature lets us down sometimes. I thank God that He has given some people wonderful brains who are smart enough to help us when nature fails us.

    Anyway, thank you very much for writing this. 🙂

  43. To Sarah, the reason the USA has bad infant mortality rates is that it actually counts ALL live births including very tiny preemies who in other western nations with socialized medicine (think Canada, Great Britain) are left to die.

  44. I used this article in my second daughter’s birth story because it really changed my heart while waiting for her to come and trusting God for the method by which she came!
    You can read about it in my latest post. Thank you for being an instrument of God’s hands in my life!

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