Christian Disciplines for Childbirth
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to divide up our lives into the "spiritual" part and the "not spiritual" part? For example, you might have expected to open this page to find a list of "spiritual" things to do during labor. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.
In the first place, everything about your life affects your spirit. Every decision you make and every action you do has the potential to bring glory to God or to separate you from God. It may seem a bit extreme, but I firmly believe simple things like changing my baby's diaper give me the opportunity to worship God or to worship myself.
Secondly, I can humbly serve my child by meeting this physical need of a clean diaper, and through that action I can demonstrate a heart willing to love sacrificially. Or, I can complain and grumble as I put off meeting my baby's physical needs to reveal a heart that is selfish. Or I can quickly and seemingly cheerfully change my baby's diaper while secretly allowing a bitterness towards meeting my baby's needs grow in my heart. Or I can lovingly put off meeting my baby's needs while I quickly finish fulfilling the need I was in the middle of.
I can serve God or serve myself and you couldn't necessarily tell the difference just by looking at me. It is the same in labor. I can be praying during every contraction, but you don't know just by watching what I am doing if my heart is focused on God or if I have been avoiding God for weeks and just want him to help me now. Spiritual comfort measures don't necessarily "look" like anything in particular.
The truth is, any position for labor or comfort technique can be used in a way that focuses your attention on God and the strength of Jesus Christ. It has to do with the attitude of your heart, not the comfort measures or interventions you choose. However, using your spiritual life as a comfort measure in labor requires you to do some work before labor beings.
Any spiritual issues you are currently struggling with need to be dealt with before labor begins so you can freely go to God during labor. As an example, during my pregnancy with my son I struggled with concerns that I wouldn't be able to love my son. Instead of being honest with God and others, I tried to hide my fears so I wouldn't look like a bad mom. God actually had to pull it out of me during labor and deal with my fears as I was pushing. Once I opened up with God about my fear, he was quickly able to show me the lie I was believing and my son was born just a few minutes later. Deal with your spiritual issues before labor begins so you have the energy necessary to focus on the work of labor.
As you look over your life to find any spiritual issues you need to deal with, watch these two places. First, look for strong negative emotions. Emotion does not dictate our action, but it can let us see where there might be problems in our lives. You can use the 10 questions exercises to help you identify places you need to work through.
Secondly, review any past pregnancy and birth experiences you may have. These may include a miscarriage, illness, pain, lack of support, feelings of failure, uncomfortable circumstances or other issue that gives you a strong negative memory. These experiences can affect you in a variety of ways: you may have guilt you have not dealt with and so you need to confess and seek forgiveness; you may struggle with bitterness towards those who hurt you and so need to forgive others; you may struggle with a lack of trust in God and need to ask him some hard questions; or you may struggle with the fear of the same thing happening again.
There is no super spiritual technique for getting through labor. As in the rest of life, the best way to handle it is to keep in a right relationship with God. Seek God first and everything else will fall into place. For those who want to learn the basic techniques of pain management of labor, use the links to the left to explore ways to incorporate your regular Christian disciplines into the labor and birth experience.
Before you can be effective at practicing a birthing skill, it is important to understand why you should master them. The easy answer to that question is we use comfort measures because they work. Although every technique is not helpful at every labor, overall the comfort measures taught by childbirth educators do keep laboring more comfortable than not using them.
In the two Biblical examples of God providing comfort to Hagar (Genesis 21) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) we see that comforting a person involves both meeting the physical needs of the individual and encouraging the individual. So from a Biblical perspective comforting someone is about more than keeping them physically content. The comfort techniques used should encourage the laboring mother, keep her reminded of the strength and love of God.