In American culture, fear surrounds pregnancy, labor, and the delivery process. Take a look at any of America's most beloved tv shows; Friends, The Office, Meet the Midwife, even Game of Thrones. Every single show has child birth portrayed by screaming women writhing around and rushing to the hospital right after their water breaks. It never fails that the mother then has some sort of complication or the baby's life is in danger.
In the past, when churches have addressed the topic of labor it may have been met with condemnation. That women are to feel God's judgment on them for Eve's curse. "Eve ate the apple, this is her fault" is commonly said amongst Christian women. It is looked at as a punishment from God instead of a time where you are able to lovingly walk with Him and stand in awe of the process He so intricately designed.
This makes it difficult for Christian women to fight against these mindsets. How does a woman not enter labor full of fear from either cultural influences or the wrath of God? Scripture clearly states, "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" 2 Timothy 1:7. What do we do with this?
"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
-1 Timothy 4:8
Do it. We overcomplicate prayer out of the fear of sounding stupid or because we need an excuse for why we are not praying. Stop. There is no need to fancy up your words before this King. He loves to hear your words spoken out loud with great joy or sorrow! He knows your fears of labor and wants you to express them to him.
By simply coming to Him in prayer, He will prepare you for labor. I often find myself in prayer after an argument with my husband. Typically, during these prayers, the Spirit reveals to me the pride, anger, disrespect, and fear in myself. He prepares me the for the struggles in marriage by refining my soul through prayer and will do the same for you in pregnancy and childbirth.
If you are nervous or find it difficult to pray about childbirth you can close your eyes and picture a scenario in the labor room that gives you fear. Who is in the room with you? What are the circumstances making you nervous? Why is this making you nervous? Now pray. Tell the Lord this exact picture you have in your head. Then ask for your soul to trust him more. Beg for him to take away the fear that culture has instilled in us.
If you have the time, another way I love to pray is through journaling. It allows my brain to slow down and think through every word. Then after I complete a written prayer I still speak it aloud to take ownership over my words and not allow it to become a diary entry. The beautiful thing about prayer journals is the ability to go back and see all of the gracious things the Father has done for you and the people around you.
In Jesus' most anguishing moment, Luke 22:44 says that, he prayed more earnestly. The Father then sent an angel to strengthen Jesus. What hope we can pull from this during our most anguishing, painful and sorrowful times. The Father will be there to strengthen you and give you the ability to lean into to Him even more.
No, no no. I don't mean repeating "ommmm" several times or emptying you mind of all thoughts. I actually mean something more along the lines of Psalm 19:14 or Philippians 4:8 type of meditating. Pick a scripture and read it slowly and carefully. Word for word.
If you are preparing for labor, as you are reading, practice relaxing every muscle in your body. Take deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold that breath for a count of 5 and slowly release the air for a count of 8. When you are in labor, clenched muscles can slow labor or even make it more painful.
You could even pick a scripture to use in the labor room as a focal point. Practice reading the scripture with intentionality, taking deep breathes, and relaxing your body. If you are having a c-section, try memorizing the scripture. Then as your body is delivering your baby you can have the scriptures going through your head or spoken out loud over your precious new child.
Spend time in Thanksgiving! Tell everyone you know about what is exciting you during this pregnancy. You post that 108th belly bump picture! Tell your mom, sister, friend, stranger in the grocery store about the kick you just felt in your ribs. It is ok to be JOYFUL! Practice this! The Lord is putting together a child inside of your body at this moment, you are allowed the freedom to praise Him for this gift.
Write down some of the characteristics of Christ that turn your heart to sing his praises. Take these into the delivery room and while you can speak say them out loud. Tell your husband how and why you love the Lord as you labor alongside Him. Ask your doula to keep speaking these truths during contractions as birth affirmations.
When we truly believe that we are laboring alongside the Lord, there will be no such thing as a "birth plan gone wrong". He was and is in charge of your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. He was the illustrator of your child and the author of his/her birth. The status of your birth (natural, c-section, VBAC, adoption, foster care, etc.) means nothing when your identity is in Christ. He was the orchestrator of it all and calling your birth anything less than a time of worship, is belittling Him and His plan!
Ladies, instead of repeating the cultural mantra of finding your inner "Birth Goddess" or "Inner Tiger" I would employ you to stare your humanity in the face in the light of a loving and gracious Father. See yourself as the vessel working/laboring alongside the Father. Women are strong, not because of their "inner birth goddess" but because we are made in the image of God! We have the Spirit. Rejoice!
If these are practices that you would like to try or have questions about these beliefs please do not hesitate to send me a message HERE.
The book that inspired me to write about this is called "Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman's Soul" by Aubry G. Smith. It is a great read for women before, during, and after labor.