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Read Susan's Response to this article.
This is not a self-help book. This is not a dictate for how you should live your life. This is not an extensive and exhaustive study of sexuality in the Bible. This is simply my story.
As a teen, my understanding of the dangers of sex before marriage was limited to the "holy two." First, I could get pregnant or get a disease. Secondly, sex before marriage was the wrong thing to do. Such a limited understanding gave me little concern and at the age of 15 I decided to have sex with my boyfriend.
I did not fully comprehend the enormity of that decision for 13 years. After the birth of my daughter I became a childbirth educator. In this role I have learned much about the physical, emotional and spiritual processes of giving birth. It was through this learning process that God began to show me holes in my life, and started to work to heal them.
I willingly share my story with you in the hopes that it will begin a similar healing process in you.
During my pregnancy with my daughter, I attended a natural childbirth class and read several books about pregnancy and birth. The theme that kept coming back to me was the need to relax to give birth. I dutifully practiced the techniques, and they were valuable to me in labor. My daughter was born with me only receiving a local anesthetic to the perineum (and that against my will).
Something about having given birth, knowing that I did it, changed me. I had some deeply rooted beliefs about myself and my body that I could no longer believe. I had never been athletic. I had never been strong. I never thought I was physically weak, but had never worked to increase my strength.
I could not believe my body was weak anymore. I could not believe I had been created without the gene to be athletic and coordinated. In response to my newfound faith in my body, I started running. To improve my running I once again was told I needed to learn how to relax my muscles. Once again I dutifully practiced relaxing.
At some point around this time, I read Helen Wessel's book, The Joy of Natural Childbirth. I did not particularly enjoy the book, in fact I MADE myself read it because I wanted to understand Christian Childbirth better. I can look back and see how clearly that was spiritual warfare. God wanted me to read that book.
Helen took the information I had learned about relaxing being the key to giving birth and running, and made it relevant to sex. It made sense. If it was true that tension during childbirth would cause discomfort, then tension during the pressure and tugging of sex should cause discomfort as well. I had to re-read that part of her book two or three times to make sure I really understood the concept. I was convinced. I needed to learn how to relax during sex.
I humbly and somewhat embarrassed explained to my husband what Helen had said about relaxing and gaining control of my pelvic muscles for sex. He was willing to let me try it. To be honest, I was not what anyone would consider interesting in bed at this point. I did not really enjoy having sex with my husband.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that it was painful or uncomfortable to have sex; it just was not anything that I thought was worth the big "to do" that sex always seems to get. I could take it or leave it. I was quite content to go a month or more without sex because I did not see any reason to engage in sex more often than that. My husband was very busy, keeping long hours and so was equally content to sleep rather than put forth the effort to improve our sex life.
Adding the relaxing practice to sex made it even worse at first. It took so much effort for me to relax that I had to just lie there. I called out to God asking him to teach me how to relax and he was faithful to my cry. His first instruction was that my body was not mine, but also belonged to my husband. I could not refuse my husband sex unless I was involved in a prolonged period of prayer!
I did not hesitate. I decided that I would never turn my husband down. Many nights it was very quick, "just do what you have to do and be done." I did not always enjoy it, but I was used to that. This first step of obedience opened the door to healing.
I am convinced that obedience is necessary for God to heal my broken emotions. One thing that keeps happening in my life is that when I stop running to my "idol" when I am fearful, angry, hurt, lonely or bored, I am no longer able to hide those feelings. I am left with no other options but to tell God how I feel. I remember standing in the kitchen crying as I did the dishes one day because I was determine I would not bake cookies to make myself feel better. I cannot tell you how healing crying out to God felt.
By not avoiding sex I was forced to start dealing with who I was sexually. Why did my body get tense every time my husband touched me. Why did I try to pull away from him when the sensations got strong. I did not have the answers, but the problem was starting to be clear to me. I humbly and needlessly embarrassed talked to my husband again. I explained to him that I hadn't ever paid attention to how I behaved during sex but that now I realized something was very wrong with my reactions. He agreed that it was probably not "normal" or an indicator of good emotional health that I always wanted to stop. He had no advice, didn't even try to offer any. In fact, he was a little embarrassed about the conversation. I told him I didn't know why I did it, but that God was working on me and that I may want to talk to him about it more later. He was totally fine with that.
As time went on and I continued to try to keep myself relaxed and not allow myself to pull away during sex I had what can only be called a "break-through." What Oprah calls an "Aha!" moment. I don't know exactly how to put this in words because it was all thoughts and feelings. But I will try.
My past sexual relationships were getting in the way. It was more than just the idea that I left a piece of me with each man.
It had to do with what I had learned. I had behaved in a way that sex was secret and you couldn't let other people know what you are doing. My body learned that sex was a secret and to engage in it in a way that no one will find out.
It had to do with things that I had trained myself to do. I had rationalized that if I was doing it just for him to enjoy it then it was better than if I was enjoying it too. I had trained myself to not enjoy sex fully so I could feel "better" about what I was doing.
It had to do with anger and frustration that I still felt towards some of the men I was with. I don't have any explanation for it except that my body would not give in because my spirit was so damaged.
My husband knew enough about my past that I did not shock him when I talked to him again. I explained that I felt my past relationships were the problem and that the only thing I knew to do was to confess them and seek forgiveness. I didn't defend my actions, explain them or even give details. I simply told my husband that I had stolen from him and given it to other men. I accepted the responsibility for the problems that my sin had caused in our sex life and I asked him to forgive me for my previous sexual encounters. He easily forgave me and didn't think a second thought.
I knew enough about my husbands past to know that he needed to seek forgiveness too. He didn't. I asked him one day about it and he told me that he didn't feel it made any difference to our lives. I never pressed the issue. I am not responsible for his actions, only for mine and I determined that I was going to be obedient to God. I confessed and sought forgiveness from my husband and from God.
This was the first big change in my sex life. It became much easier to relax and I began enjoying our sexual lives. But I knew that I wasn't "cured" because I remembered how exciting it felt to be touched as a teen. I remembered how I longed to be kissed or held, and I didn't feel that anymore. I might have assumed that the feeling of excitement about holding someone's hand goes away after a while, but I didn't. Besides, I was still needing to focus and deep breath to relax during sex. I knew there was more work to be done.
In God's time he had me go back to my husband and talk again. This time making the confession a little deeper. I needed to tell my husband that not only had I been engaged in sexual relationships before I met him, but that I had used sex to have control over the relationships. I had sex with men as a way to get what I wanted. If it was someone who didn't really want to have sex, I showed him just how much he really did. Sex was power.
But in the end, all those relationships broke. I think that might be where all the anger about sex and the pulling away came from. I was angry that sex didn't get me what I wanted. The men didn't do what I wanted them to do, the relationships ended and I was alone anyway.
Again my husband easily forgave me. Again it was the end of the conversation, he didn't bring up his past sex life. Again, it got easier to relax and enjoy sex.
Then a miracle occurred. I have no other way to explain it, God worked a miracle for me. My husband returned from a trip and wanted to talk. He told me that he had been thinking about our sex life and that he realized how sorry he is that his first memories of sex, of experimenting sexually were not with me. He asked me to forgive him. I was nearly in tears. Of course I forgave him, and then God reminded me of one last hold out I needed to confess. Again my husband easily forgave me.
After that discussion, we were quite intimate of course. As I was getting ready to go to sleep I realized that for the first time I had totally relaxed my body without even thinking about it. The feelings and sensations were amazing. It has been an uncomfortable journey at times but I am so glad that God answered my prayer and restored my sexual purity.
You may be wondering why I put this on a site about natural childbirth. I first became aware of the connection between sexuality and childbirth in a book by Carl Jones. He had a list of ways in which a woman's body, movements, noises and reactions in labor were similar to the body, movements, noises and reactions to sex.
Shelia Ketzinger also discusses sexuality as it relates to childbirth. She has found that a woman responds best to labor in an environment in which she responds well to sexual intimacy. She even considers childbirth to be a sexual event and a defining moment in a woman's sexuality.
Penny Simkin has addressed issues during hospital birth that may be "triggers" for women who have experienced rape or other sexual abuse. She explains that the feelings, sensations and the parts of the body used so closely resemble sexual intimacy - and again the woman is completely out of control of the sexual parts of her body.
Helen Wessel made the final connection for me when she explained briefly how to engage in sexual intimacy. I am fully convinced that the way a woman feels about her sexual parts and her ability to relax during sexual intimacy are going to affect her ability to labor.
We cannot pretend that the parts of the body used in childbirth are suddenly not sexual because a baby is coming out of them. You cannot pretend to be ok with someone looking at and sticking fingers inside your vagina if you cannot feel ok enjoying sex with your husband. If sex tenses you, childbirth is going to tense you.
Pelvic tension (tightening of the kegel muscles linking to tensing of the stomach and even the "pulling away from touch" that I experienced) is going to hurt you in labor because it can slow down the process of your baby being born. The kegel is a sphincter muscle. When it is pulled in tight, the opening your baby must go through is closed tighter. You must be able to relax the sexual parts of your body to open the kegel and allow the baby to pass through.
One of the issues that is associated with lessened pain in childbirth is confidence. Women who feel confident in their ability to give birth seem to give birth easier. I suspect that this confidence carries over to sexuality too. I believe women who are confident and comfortable with the sexual functioning of their body give birth easier. I encourage you to reflect on your own sexual experiences and if necessary, regain your sexual purity.