This baby could be born by the time you read this. It's currently Sunday the 15th at 5:45 p.m., and I'm having to breathe through a few contractions. [WELL. BABY WAS BORN 4 HOURS LATER 😅]
I wrote this essay a while back and have been saving it for my due date, knowing it would fall on a Wednesday. I always have a hard time sharing how I feel about birth because I know words like these could be hard to read for people struggling with infertility or those who have had a hard or traumatic experience with birth. However, I think it's so rare to find positive words about birth, and I want to share a different perspective. ❤️
Two new people are born every time a woman gives birth: a new baby and a new mother. Birth is intense in every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually. No one emerges from birth unchanged, no matter how many times you experience it. It’s completely unique for each woman—for some, birth is traumatic. For others, it’s empowering. But regardless, a vast majority of women would agree the fruit of giving birth—a completely unique human soul whose veins are filled with your blood and whose body is covered in your flesh—is worth the labor it takes to deliver that person into your arms. I believe birth, no matter the method and regardless of the pain involved, is ultimately beautiful, worthy work that is a gift to experience.
So how does that fit into the Judeo-Christian narrative of labor and delivery being part of God’s curse on womankind after the Fall? In the creation story, after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, God says to Eve, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.”
In my teens and 20s, childbirth was a terrifying concept. Most women I knew spoke of it with dread and negativity, detailing horror stories and recounting the pain they experienced before the sweet numbness of an epidural or the birth of their child allowed them to rest from the endless cycle of painful contractions. Pair this with lack of education about our bodies and the belief that the experience of childbirth was handed down as a punishment for sin, and you’ve got a recipe for fear, anxiety and even shame surrounding birth. I remember being repulsed by pregnant bellies as a teen. I wanted to be a mother, but the idea of going through pregnancy and birth was just a means to that end in my mind. It was not something to look forward to. It was a curse.
I always skipped over Adam’s part of that story without really thinking about it: “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
I’m not a man, not a farmer and didn’t even grow up around any kind of vegetable gardening, so what context would I have to personally understand these verses? Not much, until my first job out of college: writing feature stories about farmers across the state of Alabama. They grew row crops, pecans, peaches, vegetables. Some farmed a few acres; others tended to thousands. Some struggled financially, and others were incredibly wealthy.
During our six-month stint in Wisconsin, I did some freelance work for an agricultural publication and met dozens of farmers who grew crops without the aid of any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. They jumped through insane hoops to become USDA Certified Organic farms and did a massive amount of outreach on top of farming to raise awareness about their passion for organic farming.
And since then, I’ve continued freelancing for various state agriculture publications across the nation, speaking with an even more diverse group of farmers from Oregon to Oklahoma to Tennessee.
Do you know the narrative I hear from every single farmer I have interviewed, regardless of their methods, age, crop, farm size, philosophy or geographic location?
“This work is hard. It’s never ending. We don’t take vacations, and we do a lot of praying, because we never know what nature is going to give us. It’s an unpredictable, hard, stressful lifestyle. But I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s in my blood. I love it and it’s a privilege to be able to live this life. I want to care for this land so my kids can do this, too.”
Farmers love what they do. They love it so much that there’s an entire subculture in the U.S. centered on country life and farming. Have you ever listened to country music? If the song isn’t about a girl, it’s probably about farming. There are powerful political lobbies devoted to advocating for farmers’ rights. I’ve attended countless conferences where farmers gather just because they’re all farmers. Their entire world is centered around the land—it’s not something they see as a means to an end. They see it as a gift from God.
Does that sound like a curse?
Does the never-ending, back-breaking labor of farming make it more or less valuable?
I think from a farmer’s perspective, the story of their toil that began in Genesis is one of beauty comingled with pain. Farming is tough. Making things grow reliably and profitably despite unpredictable weather conditions is incredibly challenging. But the reward on the other side of that labor somehow makes the labor itself a beautiful thing. It’s almost like they love it so much because it’s not easy.
Women can view birth, even through the lens of this Scripture in Genesis, in the same way. Yes, birth is painful. It’s long and hard and scary at times. It’s exhausting. But I refuse to believe we are meant to view it as something that cannot possibly be a positive experience. Like man’s “curse” of working the land, God left room for beauty and redemption in the narrative surrounding birth. When we back up and stop viewing Scripture with a myopic and hyper-literal lens, we can see a beautiful narrative emerge—joy and pain are two sides of the same coin, one intensifying and magnifying the other.
I’m so grateful my perspective on this shifted before I gave birth the first time—our mindset going into something as monumental as labor and delivery matters. And regardless of the outcome, our attitude can make even the most difficult of births worth every ounce of pain. The changes to our bodies can make us proud, not ashamed.
As I write this, I’m breathing through a Braxton-Hicks contraction. The birth of our second child could happen at any moment. I’ve written out three birth affirmations in magic marker to hang in the room where I’ll deliver that I hope will remind me of this comingling of pain and joy that birth illustrates so well. Birth requires an embrace of pain that is counterintuitive and deeply spiritual for me. I hope these affirmations encourage you in whatever pain/joy experience you’re in the midst of or that will come your way one day.
“Behold! I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:9
“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning—great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” -Lamentations 3:22-23
“Give in to grace. The ocean takes care of each wave until it gets to shore.” -Rumi