Friday, February 1, 2008

Birth in the Bible

I was thinking a while ago about what the scriptures say about birth. God told Eve that she would have "sorrow" (which, in the Hebrew, meant travail, pain) in bringing forth children. I think people have traditionally interpreted this as God cursing Eve and punishing her. But I don't think that's what He was doing at all.

When I read these scriptures, I see a loving Father explaining to Eve that because she will be leaving the Garden, He will be changing her body so that she will have the ability to bear children ("I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception (increase fertility, discomfort and size)") and He is letting her know that bearing children will be painful. He is preparing her and Adam for the trials ahead of them.

I believe that opposition is a necessary part of life--without pain and hardship, we cannot truly know happiness and joy. This is evidenced in the scriptures as God tells Adam that the difficulties he will encounter in the world are "for thy sake"--for his (and Eve's) benefit.

Isaiah described Christ's Atonement this way: "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (53:11). The word "travail" is generally associated with the pains of a woman in labor. When Christ suffered the Atonement, that act--suffering those pains for us--was the greatest act He ever performed and the one which ultimately brought the greatest joy imaginable. Imagine the aftertaste of that experience! "[He] shall be satisfied"... more satisfied than anyone has ever been, no doubt!

I don't believe God was cursing Eve, and He wasn't cursing Christ. Pain isn't inherently bad. Intense pain makes intense joy more possible. The more pain we experience, the more we can understand the profound Atonement of Jesus Christ. Not that we should hurt ourselves on purpose, but when pain comes to us through life, we can try to bear it with patience knowing that it will make our capacity to experience joy that much stronger.

In fact, pain is an ally in childbirth. When we experience pain, our bodies are bathed in endorphins--feel good hormones--and other important processes take place in our bodies to make the labor and delivery go smoothly and to prepare our babies for life outside the womb. It is all so intricate and well planned out. God knew what He was doing!

Most women who tell horror stories about labor aren't the ones who embraced birth, trusted their bodies, and experienced it the way our bodies were intended to experience it. They are usually the ones who cut themselves off from the pain (by choice or out of necessity), and consequently cut themselves off from an even greater joy. Women who give birth without drugs (by choice) are usually eager to talk about their birth experiences and describe birth as being very positive. They glory in their birth experiences even though (or, perhaps, because) they experienced more pain than they had previously experienced!

When I think about labor pain and the account of Adam and Eve, I don't think why did God do this to women??? I love Him more because I can see that He has all knowledge and His workmanship was designed perfectly. The process of birth was designed just as it should be, and, when we try to interfere with that process, it not only often causes birth complications, but it also interferes with our capacity to experience the profound ecstatic joy we can be bathed in when birth happens as it was intended to happen.


Fig said...

I have no words except the entirely unsatisfactory: "that's awesome".

Amen and amen, agreed and agreed!

Kimberly said...

I found your blog while researching the very same questions you are posing regarding the scriptures and child birth. I've decided to have our third child at home--and I'm tyring to prepare myself (de-program the false traditions of standard obstetrics from my mind). I've been searching for what my Heavenly Father intended for me-and this child in the experience of birth, and it's already deeply spiritually satisfying. Thank you for writing on this subject, I quite enjoy reading these things!