It’s a Boy! (a theology of childbirth)

We recently welcomed our new son into the world. His older siblings are very proud of their new brother.

Being in the maternity ward (again) and suffering through the trial that is labor and birth (again) has made me wonder why it all has to be this way.  Seriously, why is it that one of the best things in life is directly and causally related to one of the worst things in life?  Why does childbirth have to operate the way it does–painful, awkward, traumatic, and even dangerous?  How did women get by before the invention of epidurals (God bless the anesthesiologists, by the way)?  Why do babies come out where and how they do?  Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone involved if we could just gestate them happily for a few months and then take them out through a door in the mother’s abdomen?

Not long ago I was reading Genesis 2 and 3, the account of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to the Lord.  After God discovered that they had disobeyed him and eaten the forbidden fruit, he announced the consequences of their “fall” in turn: to the snake, the woman, and the man.  “To the woman he said: ‘I shall give you great labour in childbearing; with labour you will bear children.'” (Genesis 3:16 REB)  The study note of my Oxford Study Bible says this: “A series of originally independent folk explanations is woven together: …Why is childbirth painful?…These explanations serve in context to show that the world as now encountered is of human making rather than remaining the divine ideal.”

Although I might quibble with their source theory (“folk explanations” that became incorporated into Holy Writ), they sure hit the mark on why the world is the way it is.  Because humans were created to be leaders of all creation, and because they failed to do their job and disobeyed God, all creation suffers the effects of their fall from grace.  Hence, even today–even in our experience of our son’s birth–we acutely feel the repercussions of sin.

And now, in this present age, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23 TNIV)

You could say that again. I don’t know about other families, but I can tell you that my wife was definitely groaning inwardly as she was waiting for the redemption of her body last week!

But, back to the subject.  Why do we experience affliction during childbirth?  Is that the way God intended it to be?  Absolutely not.  Somehow, in a mysterious, cosmic way, human sin has brought this upon ourselves; it has ruptured the relationship between Creator and creation.  And although in the mean time it may not relieve discomfort as much as an epidural does, being reconciled with God through Jesus Christ goes a long way to promising us that, someday, we will finally be free of such suffering in this present body and completely reconciled with God.  It is the ultimate solution.

If our relationship with God was broken because of the power of sin (and, boy, is it powerful) and that sin affects everything in the cosmos–including even childbirth–then we must seek to heal our relationship with God, which is exactly what Jesus did for us anyway.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) TNIV

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2 thoughts on “It’s a Boy! (a theology of childbirth)

  1. God bless all of you! Your questioning search bears eternal validity – past, present, and future – and continues to be exploited and speculated. Apparently where there is life there is pain. As we know, pain is not arbitrarily, universally bad. Without pain there is no love. There is something that starts out, “All things work together for good…” at least with a certain “group” of creatures who claim to be homo sapiens. (Incidentally, very soon my email address will be changing…watch for breaking news!) Peace and joy… Don Steiner

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