This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
Here are some final thoughts on the topic of natural childbirth. I’ve been thinking in theological terms about this the past few days so here’s my thoughts (from an non-theologian!).
The issue of women’s bodies being created to give birth vs. women’s bodies being broken by the Fall and therefore not easily able to give birth seems to be something that is brought up quite a bit. This was mentioned in a comment on my first post on this topic as well as I read it more recently on this blog post*.
Both my friend who commented and the author of that other post pointed out that although women’s bodies were created for giving birth, we also live in a world affected by sin and therefore, we should expect complications to occur. So therefore, most likely, many medical interventions are necessarily and even good because things are going to go wrong.
Yes, I would agree 100% that human bodies (men and women) don’t always work the way we were created to work because of the Fall. And yes, I should have mentioned that in my original post. I apologize for neglecting part of the natural childbirth story by doing that.
BUT…here is my struggle with emphasizing the Fall: In doing so, we forget about creation. We forget that although our bodies are 100% affected by sin, we are also 100% created in the image of God. The field of medicine (although not in religious terms) does this with pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth are medicalized. What happens when women go in for a prenatal checkup? The very first thing we have to do is pee in a cup to see if we have something wrong with our urine, even if we have no indications that there might be anything wrong. What happens when a women first enters the hospital to give birth? She has to be hooked up to a fetal monitor, get an IV put in, and all kinds of other stuff that assumes that something will go wrong even if she’s totally healthy and neither she nor her baby have any signs of distress.
I haven’t felt the need to emphasize the “things can go wrong” side of the equation because the field of medicine does such a good job of it already. Why didn’t I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I was pregnant? It was because I had too many friends who read it and then were terrified throughout their whole pregnancy that one of the sixty million terrible things they’d read about were going to happen to their baby.
Why didn’t I talk about the brokenness aspect of women’s bodies with childbirth in my first post? I don’t see the necessity of reminding women that something might go wrong. We all know this! We’re reminded of this every time we go to the doctor! What we forget is that God also created our bodies perfectly for giving birth. The medical literature is clear that there is a perfectly-designed system in a woman’s body for giving birth. This doesn’t mean that things will go right every time. However, we forget that more often than not, IF women are given the support and freedom that they need to labor well, births go relatively smoothly.
Please do not read in this post an opposition to medicine. I am not advocating that we throw out all medicine and go back to 200 years ago. I know the good that medicine has done, that far too many women used to die in childbirth. I am not saying that all medicine is bad. What I am saying is that too much medicine is bad. Medicine when we don’t need it is bad. There is a difference between intervening when something is going wrong and intervening when everything is fine.
In the end, we need a balanced approach to pregnancy and childbirth, theologically as well as medically: created but fallen, perfectly designed but flawed. It’s a hard balance to find.
Any theologians out there with any thoughts on this issue? It’s been a long time since I studied the “creation, fall, redemption, restoration” ideas so I’m sure what I’ve written here can be improved!
*I hesitate to even link to that blog post because the post is such a mix of valid points and [what I think is] misinformation. But in the interest of keeping this honest, there it is. I’m not going to write a whole blog post about it (although I could) but here are my thoughts in short. On the negative side: I’m not entirely in agreement with her interpretation of the curse in relation to pain in childbirth; she quotes anecdotal evidence from doctors and labor and delivery nurses to prove that having an epidural is better and safer than natural childbirth, ignoring the empirical, peer-reviewed, published research which shows the opposite; and she neglects to acknowledge that women’s bodies are under physical stress when giving birth, regardless of if they have an epidural or not. On the positive side: I very much appreciate her reminder that each birth is different; that we need to trust God with all parts of our lives; that we need to be graceful in our interactions with each other, particularly on this issue; and that ultimately, this is not a spiritual issue.