Love in Labor
The Bible says we should change our attitude and our actions to allow us to place the needs of others as more important than our own needs. We are to give generously and help not only those who care for us, but also our enemies. This selflessness is part of what makes us stand apart from non-Christians.
Unfortunately, just as we live in a society that has taught us to believe that God created a faulty fertility system, we also have been taught that we need to look out for number one. We have been told that we need to love ourselves before we can love someone else. We have been told that meeting our own needs first will help us to meet the needs of others. These teachings are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible.
It is important that we understand that God commanded us to love others. God does not command us to do something that we are unable to do, although He does command us to do things that go against our human nature. When Jesus gave us this command, he didn't say it would be easy. In fact, we might assume that since loving God and loving others are the most important of all the commands, that they will probably be the most difficult to put into practice.
Why is it so difficult for us to love others? We may claim that there are many reasons, but in general it all boils down to whether or not we trust God. It is difficult to care for others needs before you care for your own if you don't trust that God will meet your needs. It is difficult to forgive others for hurting you if you don't trust that God will deal justly with each and every one of us.
In pregnancy, we are sometimes faced with decisions that put the health and safety our baby against our comfort or require us to sacrifice something we wanted to do. For some women it is a struggle to decide if they should stop smoking, even though we know that smoking can cause babies to be born prematurely and with lung problems. For other women it is a difficult decision to stop working or reduce the amount of time they work, even though their body is telling them to slow down and rest more.
You may not realize the opportunity that is before you when you are faced with decisions such as these. Here is a chance to demonstrate love to someone; true, Godly, selfless, Biblical love. You can choose to put your baby's needs before you own even though your baby is not able to repay you for your kindness, even though your baby can not request that you do this, even though it may not be easy for you to give up what you desire.
Have you been faced with situations that made you choose between your desires and the health of your baby? You may find that these decisions are easy to make. You may have been praying and hoping God would bless you with a child for years. You are eager to meet your babies every need and gladly change your eating, sleeping and exercise habits to account for your changing body.
Or you may find these decisions are a struggle. You desire to do what is best for your baby, but you also desire to continue a behavior you know may harm your child. This internal conflict, between meeting the needs of others and meeting your desires, is the crossroads at which you can begin to develop an attitude of love.
Putting others needs above your own needs or desires does not mean that you will not have needs or desires. It also doesn't mean that you will feel happy about what you have chosen as you follow through. But it is the very act of placing others as more important that is the definition of love.
One thing that I have learned is that when you walk in sin, it becomes easier to sin; and conversely when you walk with God, it becomes easier to turn from sin. The first few times you decide to act in your baby's best interest rather than your own interest may be a struggle. You may find yourself grudgingly acting out of obedience to the command to love. But your ability to love will increase, and soon you may even find joy in giving up what you want to meet the needs of others.
So you are faced with a choice. During pregnancy do you willingly serve your child by giving up yourself? Do you use this time to become familiar with the child who will share your house? Or do you fight your body every step of the way, complaining about the very processes that are preparing your body to give birth and your baby for life? You can choose to enjoy your pregnancy.
You can also choose to serve your baby during your labor. Many mothers become so engrossed in themselves during their labor that they seem to forget that they are not doing this for their pleasure, but for their baby's life. Some women place no value at all on the labor process, and instead try to get the benefits without doing the work. They reason that labor is so difficult, and the only important thing is that you have a baby at the end, so what is the harm in having a scheduled Cesarean Surgery?
We must not become so self-centered that we believe we know better than God. We cannot allow ourselves to think for an instant that our plans are better than His. Do you really believe that there is no value to the work of labor? Do you really believe that God designed a flawed system that was meant for no other purpose than to fulfill a curse of pain on women?
In Romans, Paul uses labor pains as a metaphor for the world being prepared for the coming of Jesus in the end times. We are told that these things must happen to get to the end. Why wouldn't God just zap us to the end so we can live with Him forever now? Why does he make us go through this world? For some reason, God set it up that the world must be prepared. He also set it up that labor would prepare a woman for birth. Although we do not know all the reasons that God established the labor process, we do know a few.
Before labor, a woman's body does not produce antibodies in the colostrum. But after labor, the colostrum is rich with antibodies. The labor prepares her breasts.
Before labor, some women's pelvises have not stretched adequately to allow the passage of the baby. During labor, the body is washed in enzymes that allow connective tissue to stretch, allowing the pelvis to open. The labor prepares her pelvis.
Labor contractions massage the baby, stimulating the nervous system and preparing her to breathe properly. Studies have shown that there is more respiratory distress in babies who are rushed through labor or denied labor because of a scheduled Cesarean.
Before labor, a woman does not know the hour she will hold and touch her baby. Labor gives her warning to prepare mentally and emotionally to become a mother.
There may be many other reasons for labor that our scientists have not yet discovered. Even without the scientific proof, it comes down to what you believe about God. Did God design the way a woman gives birth for a purpose? Or does God have nothing to do with labor and birth?
You see, if you believe that God, as an intelligent being with wisdom we cannot comprehend, designed labor with a purpose, we should be vary wary of changing the labor process for our comfort or convenience. Why? Because making one change in the labor process usually leads to several other changes, many times with risks you did not anticipate.
If you have done any reading about birth at all, I am sure that you have learned that sometimes labor is sped up by the use of pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic copy of a hormone your body produces during labor. It is used in the hopes that it will begin or strengthen contractions when the doctor or mother is in a hurry, and frequently it does. But, when you use pitocin to start labor, you need to be monitored with an electronic fetal monitor because it can cause unnaturally strong and long contractions that make the baby's heart rate drop and stay low.
If you have medication to deaden the sensation for pain, your contractions may get too weak to do real work, or they may stop all together. All forms of medication (with the exception of synthetic insulin) reach the baby through the placenta. This can cause your baby to have difficulty breathing, difficulty breastfeeding or develop jaundice. There are real risks to you and your baby if you use medications during labor.
Knowing that there are real risks to changing the process of labor, it is a wonder that 50 - 75% of women are so quick to accept these interventions during a normal labor. The only true answer is selfishness. Women are too afraid of what they expect the pain to be, and do not trust that God will bring them through. So in their selfishness they will accept any way to reduce their pain without considering the consequences of their actions on the baby.
Who's Birth Is It?
We must remember, at every step of planning our labors and laboring, that birth is a gift given to our children. Your labor is not your test of womanliness. Your labor is not your badge of courage. Your labor is not your story to brag to the ladies at work about how bad it was, or how great it was. Your labor exists for your baby to be born, and the way your baby needs to be born may be different than the way you would like it to happen.
Are you planning for your perfect birth? Or are you preparing to do what is necessary for you to give birth to your baby. It is important to remember that this is not your birth, it is your child's birth. You will give birth to your child, you will not be born yourself. Trying to meet your plans and your desires can take your focus off God and your baby, and put it on yourself. This is a sure way to "suffer" through labor.
Your baby may need a long labor. Your baby may need a short labor. Your baby may be born breech. Your baby may be born head down. Your baby may need contractions to stop for a while in the middle of labor. Your baby may be in real danger, and need surgery to ensure she is born alive. Your baby may need very strong contractions. Your baby may not need very many contractions at all. Your baby may come during a time of great sorrow in your family.
What is a mother-to-be to do? How do you ensure that your baby has the birth she needs? The only way is for you to get "out of the way." You need to put your desires, your fears and your plans on the cross and die to your self. You need to keep the focus off you, and on God and your baby. You need to remember that labor is not for you, labor is for your baby. You need to give yourself to your baby for the few hours of labor, and let God take care of you.
When you look at it comparatively, labor is a very short time of your life. Labor is even a very short time when you compare it to the amount of time you will have to care for your infant. If you are unable to serve your child for a few hours, what will you do for the next few years?
Babies are very high need by nature. They are unable to care for themselves and must rely on a loving and caring parent to ensure that they have food, shelter and companionship. You have the opportunity to develop your gifts of serving while you care for your infant! You can choose to cheerfully change diapers, praising God that your child is alive and healthy. You can decide to willingly give up sleep to care for your child, thanking God that he will meet your needs so you can take care of your child.
You may be more ready to serve your child as a parent that you think. God uses pregnancy to help prepare women for motherhood. You have already learned that you can survive, and thrive, even though you get up several times a night, or are unable to sleep most nights. You are already carrying more extra weight than your baby will be. You body has already prepared to meet your baby's need for food. Your baby has already learned to be comforted just by hearing your voice. By serving the needs of your child through pregnancy, you have been prepared for the next step. As you serve your child's needs as a newborn, God will be training you to serve your child as a toddler, and the cycle will continue.
That cycle begins with pregnancy and giving birth. Are you willing to put yourself in the hands of God? Do you trust that God will meet your needs so you can focus on the babies needs? If you do not trust that God will take care of you, your focus will come off your baby and serving God, and your focus will move to comforting and caring for yourself.
An amazing thing happens when you trust God to meet your needs, He is able to meet them, and exceed them. Do you want proof? I was getting very frustrated with a lack of sleep. I thought there was no way that I could be a good mom if I did not get more time in my bed. I asked God to help me, and He sent me to two passages in the Bible. The first was Psalm 143:8 which said, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." And the second was Psalm 63:6 "On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night because you are my help. I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." I decided to trust God and live by these verses. I would spend my "up" time at night seeking God through prayer and worship, and regardless of the night I had I would tell God how much I still loved Him in the morning. The result: I had more energy without napping allowing God to meet my needs than I did trying to ensure by myself that I had enough sleep!
This same principle can be used in labor. You must trust that God will meet your physical needs and ensure your body will work, so you can focus your energy on following God's directions to help your baby be born. This means, you may need to forgo the epidural so you can respond to the need to walk and help your baby navigate your pelvis. This means you may need to opt out of the scheduled induction to ensure that your baby is full-term. This means you may need to give up your desire to give birth in a particular way to ensure your baby remains healthy. This means, you will need to put your baby's health and safety on a higher priority than your comfort or convenience. Will you do it?