Here’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while: I’ve been frustrated, annoyed, even angry that though women often describe giving birth as a spiritual experience, there is not much out there in the way of connection between religious belief (specifically Christian, as that is my faith tradition) and childbirth. I have searched and searched, throwing the weight of my considerable research skills (gleaned over the course of 11–yes ELEVEN–years of higher education) and have come up with…not so much.
A good part of what I have found has focused on submitting to one’s proper place as wife and now mother in “God’s plan” for the family and on praying hard enough (i.e., “Having fertility issues? You are just not praying hard enough. Experiencing pain in childbirth? PRAY HARDER.”). That’s pretty much all I’ve found in the way of popular literature/blogs, and honestly, I don’t find that these views accord with my own experience of how God works in the world, nor do I find them particularly empowering. In scholarly literature, there have been a couple of voices over the past 30 years or so who have called for a theology of birth. From what I can tell, that idea hasn’t made a lot of progress. I’m not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because there are not many scholars who have both the ability and inclination to reflect theologically on childbirth.
I approached my own experiences of giving birth by intentionally minimizing medical interventions in an effort to enhance my own physical, emotional and spiritual experience of the process. So, I had these holistic birth experiences, AND I am trained to think theologically. There are not so many people who fit that description. Thus, I find myself in a unique position: I am an ordained minister, a birth doula, a theological scholar, a mother. I can write about this, I can make connections between theology and birth, and I can further the (so far) limited conversation on this topic. So, I introduce to you, dear reader, my new venture in blogging, in theology, in life:
(credit for the catchy title goes to my incredibly creative, talented, and supportive husband, Thomas)
I hope to use this space to work out some thoughts as I prepare to lead a seminar on this topic at my church in the fall. This seminar will be geared not just toward pregnant people, but also to the whole congregation. Birtheology is not just for women having babies, and the church as a whole has essentially ignored this transformative event in the lives of the majority of its members for too long. Ultimately, I would love to put together a childbirth education class for parents as well, with all the usual stuff about the stages of labor, medical interventions, pain management, etc., but also with a focus on the spiritual elements of giving birth. Of course, publishing some of this good stuff in a journal, magazine, or book some day would be pretty awesome, too.
So, keep reading! There will be lots more to come. And of course, if you have thoughts/experiences to share, I would love to hear about them. The more voices we can add to this void the better