Faith in God during Labor
Have you ever thought about how humans feel emotions? Have you ever considered why it is that certain emotions cause expected responses from your body? For example, why does feeling happy make your entire body feel good? Or why does feeling angry make your body feel warm? And why does fear make your body stiff? Emotional response can have a tremendous effect on your labor, all because of how humans feel emotion.
What is fear?
From a psychological point of view, emotions are a mental response to the things that are happening around you. As you go through your day, you experience many different situations. One of the first things you do in a new situation is to form an idea or opinion about that situation. The thoughts you have are the beginning of emotion. When you think a situation is good, you have pleasant emotions. When you think a situation is bad, you have unpleasant emotions.
Emotions are not simply thoughts that your mind thinks. The brain is a complex communication system that is able to evoke responses from your body in split second timing. Most people are familiar with the electrical impulses that travel from nerve to nerve, signaling muscles to move and sending information about the environment back to the brain. But the brain does not communicate by electrical means only.
Your body also has highly developed chemical communication signals. There are structures in your body that are designed to release small amounts of different chemicals, and other structures that are designed to respond to the chemicals. You may have learned about these chemicals as hormones.
These chemicals do more than organize your development and fertility. These chemicals also change as a result of your emotion to signal changes that need to take place in the body. The most well-known chemical response is known as the fight or flight response that occurs when your think you are in danger. Basically, when your brain (thought process) determines that you are in an unsafe environment your body produces chemicals that shut down unnecessary processes and send extra blood (to provide extra energy) to your large muscles. This is done so that you can either change the environment (fight) or move to a new location (flight).
The names of the chemicals are not important. Science has not been able to determine all the ways the body is affected by these emotion-thoughts, or even all the chemicals that are involved. What is important is knowing that what you think (or feel) will have an effect on the way your body works.
Fear is of particular importance to you as you begin your labor, because fear will elicit a body response that attempts to shut down the labor process. This is not a defect in your design! God created this response to protect you and your baby from danger. A woman in labor is subject to intense sensations that could prevent her from fleeing to a safe place, or changing her environment to make it safe. God designed this labor shut-off to help you get the strength, energy and clarity of mind you would need to get to a safe location.
We are very lucky to live in a time and place where most women do not find their lives in jeopardy due to wild animals, advancing armies, or dangerous weather. This lack of life-threatening danger is by no means a guarantee that your body will not attempt to shut down labor in response to your situation. You see, we live in a society that teaches women to be afraid of the labor itself, and that fear is enough to start a response in your body that makes the labor process long, painful and in some cases unproductive.
Your uterus is essentially a bag of muscle. There are three layers to this bag, one that has muscle fibers running up and down, one that has muscle fibers running left to right and a layer in between that holds the two together. Generally in labor, these muscle layers have to work together to shrink the uterus from top to bottom, allowing the pressure of the baby and the bag of waters to open the cervix.
If a woman is overly fearful or anxious, her uterus will either change from an opening to a closing pattern, or work against itself by attempting to both open and close the cervix at the same time. Remember, this is not a flaw in your design, this is a built in protection system that God put in place to be sure you and your baby are safe. If your uterus changes from opening to closing, your labor will stop and you will be frustrated. If your uterus continues to open, while at the same time attempting to close, the result is a long painful fight while you continue to labor.
So we see that physically, there are real reasons for you to overcome your fears about labor and giving birth. But what about spiritually. Does the Bible tell us anything about being fearful?
The truth is, God does not want us to worry, be anxious or be fearful. He knows that these thought patterns can potentially damage our bodies. He designed these systems to assist us in short-term situations. However, many of us live our lives constantly worrying, always anxious and fearful of many things. We like to call this stress, and complain about the amount of stress that we have in our lives. We know that stress has disastrous consequences for our health, but we do not know how to get rid of it.
God may not use the term stress, but he gives us not only the reasons to overcome it, but also the way to overcome this stress. The Bible is very clear in telling us that worry, fear and anxiousness are the result of not having faith in God.
What is faith?
You may say to yourself, "I have faith in God, but of course I still worry about things." The Bible will tell you that you cannot at the same time have faith in God and worry about things. To understand this, you must first understand that faith in God is not the same thing as believing in God. Having faith in God does not mean that you believe God exists. Faith goes deeper.
Faith in God is trust in God. Faith means that you not only know that God exists, but that God is in control. Faith means that you trust God's plan for you is good. Faith means that you trust God will meet your needs and take care of you. Faith means you understand that God is the supreme being, able to change situations. Faith knows that it is God who supplies the things you need, not you. Faith believes that what God says is true, even if it is difficult to understand or hard to put into practice. Faith goes the extra step of putting the difficult teachings of God into practice.
Have you ever wondered what Paul means when he says that Faith without works is dead? If your definition of faith is "belief in God and Jesus," it may seem that works have no place in faith. Indeed, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that our salvation does not come works, but it is a gift freely given by the Grace of God. So what does "works" have to do with faith and salvation anyway?
In an attempt to make a very long discussion short, the main point to remember is that "works" are your faith in action. You could think of it as a demonstration of your faith. Some people call it the test of their faith. Why? Because "works" are when you actually use your faith.
Think for a moment about a hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are studying to be an airplane pilot. Now, one would assume that to pilot an airplane you would need to have faith in the basic theories of flight. As you study reading your books on aviation and watching videos of how to use controls, your trust in the airplanes should be growing. But the test of your faith, the moment you truly demonstrate that you have faith in the airplane, is the moment you step on the plane and begin to fly it.
What would you think of me if I spent hours telling you how great it was to fly everywhere, that it was the most convenient and safest mode of transportation, attempting to convince you to fly on your next trip. However, as I prepared to leave and you asked if I would be flying I answered no, that I preferred to drive? I would have exposed myself to be a hypocrite because although I can tell you how wonderful flight is, I do not really believe it.
Unfortunately, that is how many Americans live their Christian lives. They can tell you all about how good God is, how He is able to meet your needs and provides you with a way out of your temptation. They can explain why your eternal salvation depends upon your relationship with God and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. But in their day to day lives they demonstrate that they do not really believe God will meet all their needs. They do not really think Jesus needs to be Lord, he can just be a good friend.
Why do we do this? Why do we live our lives as hypocrites, not acting according to what we say we believe? For most people the answer is fear. Although they would like to trust that God will take care of their needs, they are too afraid that God will not know what their needs are. Or they are afraid that God will not give them everything they want, so they would rather just take care of it themselves.
Rather than building their faith, people who live this way destroy their faith. They slowly tear down everything they had believed in God until finally their relationship has become a few memorized prayers and cries for help as they mindlessly perform the duties they think God expects of them. They go to church because they are supposed too, not because they want to learn more about God and spend time in corporate worship of him. Their religion becomes fatiguing, and they look no different from a non-Christian.
Faith begins where belief ends. If you believe God, you will do what He commands because you trust that if you follow his commands, God will deal with you in the way he claimed he would. You trust that God will honor his end of the deal. If you do not act on it, it is not faith.
You see, faith in God requires action. In fact, faith in God is an action. It does me no good to claim to have faith, tell others about faith and read more about faith, if I am not willing to do the necessary actions. As you began this study, you probably did not have the faith in God to attempt a natural birth with His help. But now that you are half-way through, you may be saying "Yeah, I believe this, God is powerful and He created me." Why would you have grown so much in faith?
Your faith has grown because you have seen God's power over pregnancy and birth through his word. The Bible tells us in Rom 10:17 "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." You have been increasing your faith already without even knowing it! D.L. Moody wrote, "I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightening. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, 'faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' I had closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since."
What faith is not!
Before we move on, it is important to note what faith is not. First, faith is not a substitute for an experienced caregiver. Although faith may lead you to forgo certain tests and procedures, faith should not cause you to become haughty or proud to the point that you will not accept professional help in monitoring the progress of your pregnancy or birth. Even as far back as slavery in Egypt, Midwives assisted pregnant women in ensuring health and monitoring the birth.
Your caregiver is like a lifeguard, trained in birth to recognize potential problems and respond if one should arise. Your caregiver can offer guidance and advice as you make decisions about you and your baby. Your caregiver cannot make decisions for you, but she can assist you in finding information, and by recommending ways for you to stay healthy. You hire your caregiver to serve your needs.
Also, faith is not an excuse to do nothing when a problem arises. Rather than deal with hard issues some women will claim that they are trusting God to solve the problem. Remember, faith is your belief in action, not reality in denial. Bad things do happen to good people. But it is our faith that will allow us to work through our problems and grow closer to God at the same time.
Sometimes, even with great faith, God will not simply remove a problem. Paul asked repeatedly to be delivered of the thorn in his side, but God said "My grace is sufficient." If faith were a cure-all for every problem in life, Paul's thorn would have been taken away.
The truth is, God uses problems to test us, to teach us and to grow us. Sometimes God does not desire a problem, but one is caused as a consequence to the decision or action of another person. God can remove the consequences, but frequently he does not. If you are hit by a car as you cross the street, God could heal your wounds instantly and have you back on your way. However, it is more common that God allows the consequences to continue, and then He uses the problem that was created to draw you closer to Him.
In the Bible there were women who died in childbirth, infants who died and there were women and children who were murdered. Bad things do happen. But these bad things should not cause us to lose faith in God. God can do, and still does do miracles. But the lack of a miraculous healing should not cause us to believe God is powerless.
If you do have a problem with your pregnancy, it is no comfort when you realize you may never know how God used that problem to work for good. But God can be your comfort when you turn to him as your source of strength and support. Lean on Him and cry on His shoulder. He will never grow weary of comforting you.
Fear or Faith?
If faith is our belief put into action, you should have opportunities to demonstrate your faith every day. The battle will be between your fears, worries and anxieties, and your faith. When you react to situations, do you let your actions be determined by your fear, or your faith? When you prepare for the future, are you preparing with anxiousness and worry or are you preparing with faith?
For some reason, ours is a culture that has trained women to prepare for the time of pregnancy and birth out of fear, anxiety and worry. Rather than being told about the large number of times that everything is normal, women are reminded again and again of the small percentage that is abnormal or dangerous. Rather than sharing information about positive, healthy experiences with pregnancy and birth, women seem to compete to have the worst, most dangerous experiences.
This makes it very difficult for the Christian woman to keep her faith in God, and the authority he has over her fertility. Suddenly, your attention switches from the normal experience you will probably have, to the problems that may happen. Before you know it, your faith in God's control over your labor and his ability to give you strength is gone, and all that is left is the fear that something will go wrong.
We have already discussed what can happen to your body in response to this fear. But the damage fear can do goes even further than simple body mechanics. If you believe that something is going to go wrong, you will be looking for it to happen. Some people say it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because at the first sign of something that may be a little different you overreact and whether or not it is a problem, you treat it as if it is.
This happens very frequently in pregnancy, labor and birth in America. Doctors and nurses who care for pregnant and laboring women have seen the worst emergencies, sometimes repeatedly. This gradually wears down their faith in the normal process to the point where they see any small deviation from "average" as a problem. They are not trying to cause a problem, in fact they are trying to prevent a problem. Unfortunately, when what is happening is not a problem but simply a variation of normal, reacting to it as if it were a problem can cause other problems. Before you know it, what was a normal labor is suddenly a seemingly life-threatening situation, and the worst fears of the medical personnel have been realized. This makes them even quicker to determine to intervene the next time.
Remember, this is not done to hinder laboring women. Doctors, nurses and midwives are not trying to cause problems. They believe they are solving problems. Remember that the amount of time that they have available to train is very small when you consider all the information they need to know and understand. Sometimes it is just assumed they already know about "normality" and the basics of an unmedicated, normal birth are skipped over. There are a wide variety of problems that could happen. Even though these problems occur less than 5% of the time, the caregivers need to be able to recognize them. So much time is spent understanding the problems, and learning how to react if something goes wrong.
It is also a delicate balance between preparing for the normal and preparing for the abnormal for the mother. Although 95% of labors are normal and problem free, you do still need to be aware of what can go wrong, and the options you have should something not seem to go right. But your education must go deeper than simply knowing what may go wrong. You need to understanding the difference between a variation of a normal labor and a true emergency situation. You must become familiar with the options that are available to you should something deviate from normal. To top it off, you must understand all the variations of normal so you can be prepared to make decisions about how to handle the situations that will arise while you labor. But you must also not allow your learning about the abnormal destroy your faith in God's ability to make your labor normal.
Perhaps the worst effect of fear is that when you are living in fear, you are not trusting in God. Despite all your preparation, all your hopes of trusting in God during your labor, fear can destroy that faith in an instant. It will be a constant battle to keep your eyes on God and your faith active to prevent fear from pulling you away from God's comfort.
Fear is a very powerful tool used by Satan effectively to destroy our hope and trust in God. For example, why do Christians not share their faith more often? They have fear that they will look silly, or other people will not understand. Why do Christians not seek forgiveness when they have sinned against someone? They have fear that the other person will judge them or will think they are weak. Why do Christians not give more money to charity? They have fear that their basic needs will not be met.
Fear is also a powerful tool for Satan to use during pregnancy, labor and birth. Think about the fears that Satan has tried to teach you to live by. Satan tells us to be afraid because labor is so painful, and dangerous. Satan tells us to be afraid to eat because our bodies will remain fat forever. Satan tells us to be afraid to wait for labor to begin because our bodies are not able to work properly to give birth when the baby is ready. Satan tells us to be afraid to get more rest because others will think we are weak because we are pregnant women. Satan tells us to be afraid to give birth because the baby will have so many needs that we will always be exhausted.
There are other fears that Satan puts into our hearts. If you listen to the world, most talk of pregnancy, labor and newborn care are full of fear. Fear that God is not in control. Fear that our bodies are defective. Fear that we are not adequate to the tasks at hand. Fear that we are not intelligent enough to make decisions. You need to test every thought that Satan tries to plan in your head to determine if it lines up with scripture, or if it is simply and attempt to make you act in fear.
You see, once you begin to believe some of these fears, you lose your faith in God. You can not believe that God created you adequate for the tasks he set before you and also believe that your body is defective. You can not believe that labor is so painful that no women can handle it and also believe that God is in control of labor. These fears are in direct opposition to the Bible and rather than build your faith, they will destroy it. Rather than encourage you to turn to God, they will encourage you to feel hopeless.
So you must decide now how you will live your life. Will you live your life in response to fear, or will you live your life based on faith in God. Will you be ruled by your worries or your Lord. Will you worry, or will you trust God. Will you live in fear or faith?