In this episode of Verity Podcast, we begin a new season! Each episode dives into a separate women’s issue and how the gospel addresses it.
Pregnancy and birth are discussed at length here on the blog, and this episode outlines some of the most important points I’ve covered in posts:
- Why “Eve’s Curse” is a misinterpretation of Genesis 3
- What “labor” means and how we can respond
- How sin affected fertility as a whole
- How all women participate in labor in some capacity, including those struggling with infertility
Resources discussed in this episode:
- Holy Labor
- Redeeming Childbirth
- Labor with Hope
- Reluctant Crunchy birth and pregnancy highlights for practical birth resources
Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.
In this very first episode on Women’s Issues and Scripture, I thought, “What could be more appropriate than beginning with pregnancy and birth?” Because not only is it relevant and that foundational discussion starting in Genesis 3, but I’m also 38 weeks pregnant at the time of this recording. And so, I can’t think of anything that is more on my mind than the topic of pregnancy, and birth, and how we relate to that scripturally.
Now, this is something I’m very passionate about. Of all of the women’s issues are going to discuss, obviously, I care about them all, but this one in particular is close to my heart. And not just because I have a baby inside me right now, it’s mainly because how we talk about pregnancy and birth comes with so much baggage. There are so many women, who have heard these negative and depressing narratives that people have said are actually scriptural and that their understanding of Genesis 3 and labor pain is from the Bible. When in fact, it’s not. And so, in this episode, we’re going to talk about what scripture really says concerning labor, birth, and pregnancy. We will touch on fertility and infertility, and how we have the hope of redemption throughout.
Now, through this entire series, my hope is to keep the gospel central. What is the gospel? Well, the gospel is that narrative that’s woven through the entire Bible, the hope of Christ, who redeems us from our sin and our separation from God, who becomes the King, and who we get to live with eternally in His presence, both now and forevermore. The hope of the gospel is the underlying assurance that we have through every life circumstance as women, whether that is pregnancy, fertility, infertility, birth, adoption, marriage, singleness, all of it. Our relationship with Christ is the foundation of how we view those things and how we live them effectively in this world. So, without further ado, we’re going to jump right into the topic of pregnancy and birth.
Now, when I was first pregnant with my daughter, Adeline, I noticed very quickly that the conversations around birth in the church were very different than the conversations around birth in New Age communities. Now, the New Age is a secular ideology often connected with earth worship. it’s a new form of Gnosticism that elevates knowledge in hidden things to a level of spirituality that isn’t biblical.
Within this New Age movement, we tend to have some ideologies surrounding birth, pregnancy, and fertility, usually centering on the idea of the mother as a goddess or as connecting to mother Earth that empowers her in her fertility and in her ability to give birth. Because of this, they tend to have a very positive view of birth and pregnancy. They tend to be very encouraging and supportive of the process and speak life over women who are facing labor. Naturally, women who go through pregnancy and birth, especially in the natural world want to hear those life-giving words. And so, they’re drawn to the new age community and their perspective on birth.
In contrast, you have the Christian community and their track record discussing birth. Their track record isn’t quite as positive. It’s a lot about being cursed. It’s a lot about pain. And honestly, it’s not that encouraging. And so, when I was first pregnant, I saw this discrepancy and I wondered, “How could it be that Christian women, women who know Christ, who know the King, how could it be that we are more negative than the people who don’t know Christ? How is it that our theology of birth is so dark and so depressing that women go into it terrified, women who know the God who overcomes, women who know the deliverer Himself go into it terrified or avoid having children completely because of their fear and their anxiety over this issue, when women who don’t know God are facing it with such confidence and peace?” This is completely backwards. And honestly, this is what we’re seeing, though. A narrative of Christian culture of curse the birth of increased pain, half joking, Thanks Eve at our baby showers, and the miracle of birth, the creation and arrival of a human soul is overshadowed by the fall of Genesis.
We’re all positive about birth when we talk about abortion, and we want women to choose life for their babies. But when we actually talk about giving life with our bodies are negative, and depressing, and dark, and that’s not how this is supposed to be. And so, we’re going to go to scripture today to reframe our view of pregnancy and birth and the labor process, even allow God to reframe our view of fertility and invite the truth of His light into this tender situation.
When I was younger and had debilitating PMS, I, for sure wanted to curse Eve’s name in the classic “Blame Eve for my period” experience. But we have to remember something. The fall of mankind and sin’s entrance into the world wasn’t completely Eve’s fault. In fact, Adam was standing right with her when it happened. And the curses or the consequences that God gave to Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the world were rightly received for disobedience as parallel punishments. And so, we’re going to look at the word that means pain in Genesis 3 here in just a second. But I want to be sure, first, that we make something very clear.
When Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, they were not cursed. They were not set apart for destruction, which is what cursed means. They were not to be destroyed, they were not without hope or without redemption, because we know that the Messiah is promised in Genesis 3 as our hope of redemption. So, what was cursed? Only two things were actually cursed in Genesis 3. The serpent and the ground. Both the serpent and the ground will be destroyed in the final day. If you’ve ever read Revelation, you know this to be true. So, I would start there.
Why is it that we know in scripture, it says, “Cursed is the ground, cursed is the serpent,” and yet we act as if Adam and Eve themselves were cursed when they weren’t? Some might say, “It’s just semantics, it’s just words.” But words matter a lot in shaping how we think and in shaping how we understand and interact with information. And specifically, because of the power of thoughts when it comes to birth and pregnancy, it is important that we understand and think rightly about these things. The only two things cursed in the Genesis narrative were the ground and the serpent, Adam and Eve received a consequence for their disobedience, and it affected the entire world. The world was cursed. It was now resistant. It was not compliant with them and the work God had called them to do. In that work, I might add existed before the fall.
Adam and Eve were to tend the garden till the ground before the fall. But at that time, it was going to cooperate with them. It was fertile, it was ready to go, it was not resistant. And the same with Eve’s body, I think we can naturally draw that conclusion. That when the fall affected the world, it also affected Eve’s body. Not only was she dying, but now, she would have to labor to produce life, just as Adam would have to labor to produce life from the ground. When we see this in Genesis 3:16-18, he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing, in pain you shall bring forth children.” Now, we’re going to revisit that word pain in just a minute.
And to Adam, God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, you shall not eat of it. Cursed is the ground because of you. In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles that shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field,” Genesis 3:16-18.
The word here for pain is exactly the same. Pain and childbearing, and pain in work in the field, exact same word. Some translated pain, some translated labor, and some translations you’ll see labor in regard to Adam, but pain in regard to Eve, which in my view is, it fair. We need to use a consistent word here. Even in our translations, we can tend to read our assumption, childbirth is painful into the text and put that word there, instead of what it actually means, which is hard work. “You must now labor to bring forth life from your womb, Eve, just as you must know labor, Adam, to bring forth life from the ground.”
And so, this can be translated pain, sorrow, or toil, or labor and it’s used in all three of these contexts depending on which Bible translation that you have. We also see this word found one other place, Genesis 5:29, which is Lamech talking about his new son, Noah. It says, now he called his name, Noah, saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.” Isn’t that interesting? So, the curse of sin affected men and women equally, but in a manner specific to their individual creative abilities.
Humans have been granted this image bearing status that reveals itself through creativity. And for men, because they are not bearing children, this creativity takes form through physical work, how they echo the Creator God through their work what they make. And for women, it can take the form of their work also, of course, but only women possess God’s creative ability to produce a human life from within there being, only women. This is amazing.
Now, before the fall then, both men and women had to work to produce life from the ground and from the body. But as I said, after the fall, these things would resist them. What used to come naturally is now marred by sin. And so, for both men and women, labor is increased to “painful proportions.” And this affected the entire process for Eve. This isn’t just talking about birth. This is talking about the entire fertility process. So, conception, pregnancy, labor, birth, raising the child, that whole process is affected by the fall.
Now, here’s where this is important. Because of the effect of sin on life and the life giving of the womb, this does not make labor or pregnancy inherently bad or sinful. Remember, this existed pre-fall, it simply means that all who call upon the name of the Lord was partner with God, in order to overcome the effects of sin in a fallen world. So, pregnancy, labor, and birth are just as miraculous and beautiful as before the fall, but now, they are affected by sin, just like everything else in the world. And so, in birth, we actually get to partner with the creative power of God, and we overcome by partnering with the saving power of God. Only women have this capability and that is something to be celebrated.
And so, when we’re talking about birth with other people, we’re talking about pregnancy and how to understand it. It’s so important that we remember this perspective versus not cursed. You are not tolerating a curse when you go into labor. In fact, pain, like, actual physical pain is not promised in the sense that there are women who have what they would call a painless birth. Just a difficult hard work birth. And so, it isn’t consistent to say that, “Oh, every birth is going to be painful because of Eve when there are women who openly say that they don’t have painful births.”
So, what happened? Well, what happened was, there is resistance because of sin on the entire conception, pregnancy, birth process. And in that resistance that we experience, we also can experience the overcoming power, salvation of God. That is our hope.
One of my primary missions with the Verity Podcast is to supply theology in an approachable and understandable way for the new believer or the longtime disciple of Christ. I know that theology can be overwhelming and sometimes, it feels you don’t know what book to pick up or where to even start. And that is why I wrote Theology Basics. Theology Basics is not a systematic theology, it’s not a book that is going to weigh as much as a dictionary. It’s just a simple eBook that introduces the concepts and basic, fundamental principles of theology on the nature of God, the nature of man, authority of scripture, and salvation.
So, if you’re starting out and you don’t know where to begin, this would be a great resource for you. Theology Basics is only $10 on my website in our shop, and it’s available all the time. So, if you head to phyliciamasonheimer.com, you can click on shop and you’ll find Theology Basics, as well as my other eBooks all available right there. I hope that Theology Basics opens a door to your excitement and curiosity about what it means to be a Christian and how to truly understand what it is that we believe.
So, what can we do about this? I want to talk about a few things in reframing our view on pregnancy and birth. When you look at mommy culture, even Christian mommy culture, it can be really discouraging to see women who are talking about all these terrible symptoms, and how hard it is, and how it’s miserable, and we can’t wait for it to be over, and then birth, oh, it’s terrible. And the reality is, yes, traumatic births happen. Traumatic births can happen. You can have a birth that ends in a C-section that you didn’t want, you can have a birth that damages your body in certain ways, changes your body through pregnancy. But what we have to remember here is that any time life is created in a fallen world, there is a cost. There is a cost. And so, we are partnering with God and bringing life into the world. And that means that we pay a cost. There may be some loss involved.
And I often think about God in a sense, giving birth to Christ into this world, giving birth even to humans through creating them in the loss and the cost that He experienced in providing that life, what a cost to Him. And yet, we complain when we get a few stretchmarks, or we complain when we don’t take our magnesium and near constipated during pregnancy. There are so many ways to make the process more comfortable now, but we focus on the negative and we focus on the loss or the cost, and we fail to see that this is literal partnering with God to bring a soul into the world. That is powerful. So, so powerful.
A good part of changing our perspective on pregnancy and birth is remembering that God, He is described Himself as a deliverer like a midwife, but He also describes Himself as giving birth and giving birth to Israel, giving birth to our hope of the Messiah. He came upon Mary through the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus, and Jesus was born of a normal human birth process. My favorite book on this is Holy Labor by Aubry Smith. And she says that, “In Jesus being born, the incarnation, it raised what people like to call dirty. What they like to call disgusting, or they want to avoid talking about the birth process, He elevated it to secret. He was born just like every other baby is born and that should be powerful to us. It was not gross to Him, it was not dirty to Him. He elevated it.”
And honestly, even before Jesus was born that way, I believe birth is a sacred thing. We talk about sanctity of life, but we talk about the process by which that life is born into the world. Do we denigrate the process while celebrating the life that comes from it? We shouldn’t. We should celebrate what birth and pregnancy accomplished, because God created them and it’s sin that has affected them, not God’s design.
A limited perspective on Genesis 3 will always lead to a limited perspective on pregnancy and birth. If you believe your body is correct instead of beautifully designed, even in a cursed world, you will enter labor overwhelmed by fear. Our perspective on birth as Christians should be the most positive one that exists. Now, this does not mean that birth always happens without complication, obviously. But it does mean that we have God’s perspective and confidence, no matter what we face. So, we can be that biblical voice for birth in the corner of the world currently dominated by the New Age. As one of my birth class teachers said, “We have the Spirit of God in the birthing room. We have the power of the Almighty present with us. That must change how we view labor and birth.”
Now, I want to go to the flip side of this. It’s a very difficult conversation for many people in may be triggering for some of you. So, I did want to warn you. We’re about to talk about infertility and touch on this topic. Infertility is something many, many women experience in today’s world. And thankfully, more and more women are speaking out about it. But even if you look at scripture, we see recurring examples of women, who were not able to have children or were told, thought they would never have children and then God miraculously brings them a child. And the power of these stories, the significance of them being in there is, I think, specifically to encourage women who are walking through this effect of the fall on their bodies. And you might be wondering, “Why me? Why am I the one who has to walk through infertility like Hannah did or like Rachel did? Why is it me?” There’s these other women who are over here like Leah and can have all of these children.
And one of the things that I would first say is, God sees that pain. And one of the most beautiful pictures to me is of people like Hannah and Rachel, where it says that God heard them and He saw their anguish of heart. He saw that pain. And when you were walking through that, you may feel very divided from the women who are having physical labor, having the physical “pain” of bringing the child into the world. But actually, you’re more united with her than you think. Because the sin of the world when it affected fertility, pregnancy, and birth, the pain of bringing life into the world wasn’t just physical. It was also emotional. It was affecting the entire process and that includes conception. So, the pain that you feel, the labor that you feel to carry with you the grief of infertility is a labor pain. It is a birth pain. And while that may not be comforting to you, I hope that in a strange way it is that you’re not left out of this story, but you’re actually very much included in it and that God’s redemption of the birth process applies just as much to you as it would to the woman who needs confidence in the birthing room.
Now, I personally have not walked through infertility, but I do know many people who have and one resource that I recommend is a book called Joy in Suffering that talks about miscarriage and infertility. I’ll be sure to put it in the show notes once we get show notes up on to the blog for this episode. But that particular book as well as my friend, Sara Hagerty’s book, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet is such an encouragement. It was an encouragement to me to know a little bit more about the experience of infertility and how God enters into that, even though, I have not actually walked that path personally.
How do we view birth positively or pregnancy positively, if one, you may be affected by infertility or two, affected by a miscarriage or you’ve had a traumatic birth? How do we view this? Well, all comes back to the gospel. It comes back to who is Christ in the middle of this trial. If you think back a few seasons in Verity, we talked about how Christ enters into every area of our life, whether it’s grief, or legalism, anxiety, fear of man. He enters into that, and He transforms it, and it is the same here. Does that mean it’s easy? It just, “Oh, I get over it. It’ll all be fine.”
No, there’s a grieving process for that kind of thing. And I think that the more we recognize that, the more we as a church surround people who are walking through these difficulties, let them grieve that their birth didn’t go the way they hoped. Let them grieve that they haven’t been able to get pregnant. Walking with people through that process and pointing to the Lord not in a pat answer kind of way, but in a, let me hear your story and let me act out the sufficiency of Christ for you. Be there for you in this time is perhaps one of the ways that we can best support one another as we go through these labor pains.
I have thought to that, and this is just an idea that I’ve thought of. It would be so interesting if there were miscarriage support teams to bring meals to women who have babies they don’t get to keep. Just like we do meal trains for women who have babies they do get to keep that may be something that our churches could do. It’s hard to keep track of who does go through this, because it’s often a very private thing and people don’t want to talk about it. But the safer we make the church for those kinds of conversations, the more we can enter in and labor alongside them.
I love the picture of labor, because yes, it’s affected by sin in the fall, but it also shows that we’re in a communal work together. Work existed before the fall and now, it’s affected by the resistance of sin. But what does Christ say? He says, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.” That means He’s overcome everything in the world. That He’s overcome every grief, every pain, all of it and we will still have to face it, but we have his strength in it. And so, we, the church get to be that strength to other people and walk alongside those who are affected by the fall in their fertility, and their pregnancy, and their births.
So, how do we walk away from this with that more positive perspective? How do we do that? By keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and His intention, by understanding Genesis 3 rightly, by entering into birth with prayerful confidence. I always encourage, no matter what you’re walking through, pray specifically and pray boldly. God doesn’t always answer the way that we want. I firmly believe that all of us go through trials that are specifically permitted and sanctifying to us. I’ve had very easy births so far. I’ve had smooth births. I have my babies at home. I think a lot of that has to do with preparation. But a lot of it is just a blessing too. I haven’t had to be transferred to a hospital.
But I will say this, I have gone through many other trials in my life that other people haven’t faced, people who have had traumatic births, but didn’t break their leg with a toddler and a four-year-old in their home [giggles] or whose husbands didn’t lose their job, when they had two babies under the age of three. Those were my trials. And all of us may walk through different trials in a sin affected world. But what matters is, do we come back to the truth of who Christ is or do we let our experiences dictate our view of Christ? Is Christ King or are our experiences King? We have to be honest with ourselves, which is it?
And so, as we go through scripture and we think about what does the Bible say about birth, we look at Genesis 3, we look at how the Bible talks about our bodies, and about birth, and pregnancy, we have to keep this in mind. Now, I wanted to talk a little bit more about pain just as we’re wrapping up here, because I think that this will help us regardless of what kind of pain, emotional or physical we’re dealing with in regard to fertility, pregnancy, and birth.
In John 16:21, it says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come. But when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” Now, when you see the word, anguish, you won’t be like, “Yikes, that is a scary word and that sounds terrible.” But if you look up in Strong’s, how this word is interpreted, the only time I’ve seen it interpreted aguish, only once is in that verse. Everywhere else, it can mean tribulation, affliction, trouble, persecution. And it’s most clear meaning is a pressing or a pressing together. Pressure. When I had my first baby, that was what I told my midwife. I said, “I just feel a lot of pressure.” [laughs] And that’s what this word means.
In John 16:21, it says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hours come. But after she has the baby, she no longer remembers the pressure for joy that a human being is born into the world.” And sometimes, what’s born in us through trials, through the pressure of infertility or the pressure of a birth that doesn’t go the way we want, what’s born in us is something so beautiful and new, something life giving to the people around us that it may not be a physical baby. But you still have birthed a new life into the world through your character, to the people that you minister to, to the people that you can pour into, the families that you disciple.
I know so many women who struggle with infertility, who’ve been able to pour into other families and disciple them, even when they have not had their own physical children. And so, while I’m not at all downplaying the loss or the grief that goes with infertility, I just hope that this encourages you. This word, the anguish, the pressure of what you go through brings forth life, whether that’s a physical life or whether that’s life in you poured out into others.
I hope this encourages you, guys, and I hope it transforms your view of pregnancy and birth. There’s obviously many practical things you can do as well to prepare your mind and spirit for the process of pregnancy and birth. I, again, just so want to encourage thinking of it biblically and positively, because that’s how God thinks of it. If life is sacred, the process is sacred. We should celebrate that and not talk of it in these dark and depressing terms, especially– And this is something I would encourage those of you who don’t struggle with infertility.
Especially when your sisters do struggle with infertility, there’s nothing that is harder for someone to hear, who wants a baby than a woman complaining about her pregnancy or complaining about the little discomforts that go with it. Now, obviously, there are discomforts, but there are ways that we can deal with those, and we should just remember that the privilege of carrying a soul is something that many people longed to have and don’t. And so, we should think about how am I talking about this? How am I talking about my body, how am I talking about this process, how am I talking about this life? Am I caring for my neighbor and how I talk about pregnancy and birth? Am I honoring the biblical narrative that this is hard work? Yes, but it’s a good work. These are things we should consider as women who are seeking to honor God with our bodies, with our minds, with our hearts regarding the touchy subjects of fertility, pregnancy, and birth.
A few last resources that I would recommend, I previously mentioned Holy Labor by Aubry Smith. This is my top recommendation on this topic. It is fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough. I would recommend it over my second one, which is Labor with Hope by Gloria Furman. Of the two, Holy Labor is my favorite, but Labor with Hope is still a great resource. Redeeming Childbirth by Angie Tolpin is another resource. And then on my health Instagram, @thereluctantcrunchy, I have all secular resources on preparing your mind and body for birth as well. Thanks for joining me you, guys. And next, we’ll be talking about body image and sexuality, how to view those through a scriptural lens.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also, visit phyliciamasonheimer.com for links to each episode and the show notes.
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