Birthing Abram: Spiritual or Embodied?

This is the third of three posts that go together. Birthing Abram and The Details are the first two. If you don’t like reading birth stories, you may want to skip The Details. This post is less about the details and more of a theological reflection on giving birth.

Abram and Zora were both born at about 4:00pm. After Zora was born, the combination of medications from labor and surgery had turned me into a big lump of quivering (literally), incoherent, maternal mess. I’m not sure I said anything that made sense before I dropped off to sleep for the night.

After Abram was born, I wasn’t one of these no-childbirthing-drugs women who cartwheels down the hall in perfect condition within a few hours of delivery. But I felt about 300 times better than I had with Zora. And I was having coherent conversations with family members who were gathered in my room on the mother and baby floor.

At one point in the conversation about how Abram’s delivery had gone, I made this comment:

“Well, now that I’ve done this the “natural” and the “medicated” way, I have to say: I still don’t think giving birth is the most spiritual experience of my life.”

Here’s where I might get myself into trouble: I know there are women who describe giving birth as the most “spiritual” experience of their lives. I flat out disagree. (And, yes, there is an argument to be made that this is a subjective thing. So I understand if you are reading this and you think that giving birth is spiritual. But for me, it’s not. And I don’t think that’s because I haven’t had the “right” birth experience or anything…stay with me here and you’ll get where I’m going…)

I don’t think giving birth has been the most spiritual experience of my life. But I do think it has been the most embodied experience of my life. Embodied from the down and dirty minutia of muscle and blood and fluid and excretions, to the pain and sensation, to the rhythm of breathing and contracting and pushing, heartbeat and blood pressure, right on to the big moment of a new little person coming out of your body and being placed on your chest. If the experience of birthing is not about bodies, I don’t know what is.

(As a side note, I also have a hard time with describing birth as miraculous. Again, I know some people like to use that term when describing birth, and I understand the desire to use it as a way to describe the wonder and awe of the whole thing. But for me, it’s a matter of theological vocabulary: miracle is something outside of the created order. Birth falls within the created order. I don’t think this makes it any less amazing. Even more so, I think the fact that this is how God ordered the world to work, day in and day out, makes it that much more amazing.)

God made us as beings with bodies. We are embodied creatures. We are meant to experience God not just in “spirit” but also in the embodied creation around us: the real life, physical, touchable world. Birth is embodied, a part of that good and wonderful created order. I believe that our souls and our bodies are so intricately linked that we can’t be truly whole people without both. (This is why I believe that whatever the new creation will be, physicality will be some part of it.)

Living and experiencing God through the body is a key part of the Christian understanding of who God is and how God relates to us. Don’t forget: we believe that in order to carry out salvation, God became flesh (incarnation), embodied. I took great comfort in giving birth in the fact that while Jesus was not female and clearly didn’t give birth to anyone, he at least experienced the other end of birth: being birthed. Which, if you think about, is probably just as embodied an experience for the baby as it is for the mother.

At the same time, I have no trouble admitting: giving birth hurt. Alot. Both with the drugs and without. Although, honestly, it hurt more DURING the birthing process without the drugs…that said, it wasn’t unbearable…and the recovery from the C-section definitely hurt more after the fact than the recovery from the VBAC.

I’m still not sure how to interpret the passage, but the fact that birth hurts lines up with the part in Genesis, after the fall, where God tells Eve that it will hurt to give birth.

So I don’t want to relegate birthing to the spiritual realm. I don’t want to gloss over the fact that it hurts. And I definitely don’t want to take the embodiment out of it. That it is something that happens in the body is just as important as what happens in the soul.

One Response to “Birthing Abram: Spiritual or Embodied?”

  1. Heidi De Jonge Says:

    Love this. Love you. Love your family.

    Love God.
    Love Pickle (who is choosing this day as most-acrobatic-ever… never more aware of embodying an embodied being as an embodied being!).
    Excited to give birth again.