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Christian Childbirth and the Curse

Are women cursed?

Christianity gets a bum rap when it comes to childbirth. In many books, websites and even personal conversations, the Bible is blamed for societies belief that childbirth is to be excessively painful. Having a broader world perspective, I can assure you that even in cultures without a Biblical history childbirth is very often expected to be difficult for the mother. But this alone does not mean the Bible has not had an influence.

The verses most often blamed are in Genesis chapter 3.  This is the story of Adam, Eve, a serpent and an apple. There are three ways these verses are interpreted.

The first, and most commonly interpreted way, is to read the story as if Eve has been cursed by God to have difficult childbirth.  In fact, in the Eastern Orthodox traditions it is believed that childbirth did not even exist until the apple had been eaten.  Instead, God had some other intention for reproduction but never had the chance to introduce it. Individuals who read the Bible this way expect labor to be painful for all women, and either believe it is good for women to suffer in childbirth or that women should be given medication to prevent the unavoidable pain.

The second interpretation has to do with the coming of Christ.  According to this interpretation, women were cursed, but the blood of Christ redeemed humanity from the curse of sin and so the curse of Eve has also been lifted. Individuals who read the Bible this way expect labor to be mildly uncomfortable to pain free for women who have accepted Christ and may or may not expect pain for those who have not. This interpretation also often coincides with a belief that women can do something about the discomfort they feel.

The third interpretation looks at the wording of the passages to find that it was the serpent and the ground that were cursed, not the man and woman.  Individuals who read the Bible this way also refer to the original Hebrew text to show the word translated as pain or sorrow for the woman is the same word that is translated as work for the man.  This leads these individuals to believe labor will be work for the woman, but not unbearable. This interpretation often includes a belief that women should prepare for birth physically and by learning tools to use in labor, just as a farmer must prepare an use tools to work the soil.

One point to remember is that except for the traditions that believe childbirth did not exist before the apple incident, all interpretations believe the man and woman were perfectly designed by God.  This means most Christians believe God created the female body to bear children, it is not an illness or a curse to be pregnant and have children, even if they believe the actual birth itself includes a curse.

So now it is your turn.  Read the passages in Genesis 3, spend some time reading and praying over it and share your thoughts.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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