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Volume 14, Issue 2: Femina

The Postpartum Mother

Nancy Wilson

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Whenever I address a topic related to child birthing, it is a very delicate operation indeed. Women have strong loyalties and views, as well as birth stories and experiences that may conflict with what I say, and I do not want to give offense needlessly. So in this article I hope to encourage and edify, not discourage or offend.
In all things related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum mother, a Christian woman is called to think and act like a Christian. In our day, as in every other generation, the secular community is eager to give its input and make disciples. Most modern books about pregnancy and childbirth espouse secular, nonChristian, or sometimes anti-Christian views. The Christian woman must gather her information with great care and wisdom as though she were picking flowers in a dangerous minefield.
What are some of these dangerous ideas? Here are a few samples. Often the pregnant woman is told to expect to be angry during birth. She will probably yell at her husband, and that is okay because labor pains are in fact pains. She may not even like her baby at first because of the trouble the child has caused her in birth. And after birth she may plunge into a depression that may last for weeks. These statements imply that a woman has no control over her own feelings and actions.
What is wrong with this sort of preparation for childbirth and mothering? It can be frightening to a godly woman who fears she will be a disgrace to her God and her husband. Or it can give the weak Christian an excuse for all kinds of ungodly behavior. This mentality that makes provision for sin speaks nothing of duty and does not account at all for the promise of grace and strength from Christ.
Though many things relating to childbirth fall in the category of things indifferent, some things do not. What do I mean? These are examples of things indifferent, things that are not moral issues: birthing at home vs. the hospital, midwives vs. doctors, pain medication vs. natural, breastfeeding vs. the bottle, schedule vs. demand feeding. But some things are moral issues, and these include the demeanor of the new mother. Christian women (whether childbearing or not) are required to be patient in affliction, to cast their cares on the Lord, to trust Him in all their ways, to honor and respect their husbands. These are moral issues that matter to God.
As the Christian woman approaches childbirth, she should endeavor to prepare herself spiritually as well as physically and mentally. She should pray that God would give her a gentle and quiet spirit as she enters into labor. She should seek to glorify God throughout the process, both in the preparation and the actual delivery. She should reject false ideas about her personality suddenly changing in labor, turning her into a sharp, nasty woman who is biting people's heads off. This is a lie. If she is normally quick to be angry, certainly labor will just be another opportunity to sin. But if she is normally a kind-hearted woman, she will continue to be so even under the provocation of labor. The world wants to excuse sin and does so by calling things "syndromes." Childbirth is something women are equipped by God to do. He has promised to keep His people, and He will certainly not abandon His children at a moment when He is bringing a new covenant-child into the world. The everlasting arms are something a new mother can trust eternally. In this, as in everything, the Christian has a tremendous advantage over the unbeliever: ours are the promises! Christ will never leave us or forsake us. He wants to bless us and provide for us in all conditions. Our business is to rest in Him.
At the same time, we are flesh and blood. He knows our frame. We are not to see ourselves as cartoon bionic women who can do anything: no drugs, no doctors, no problem. We may become frightened. We may grow weary. We may wonder why we are shedding tears. We must remember that He is sanctifying us; we are all at different places in this supernatural process. So we must be kind to one another and bear one another's burdens. If a weaker sister "loses it" in childbirth, then we gently instruct her and forgive her and pray better things of her next time. If she becomes "depressed" after childbirth, we must seek to help her. It may be hormones. What isn't? It may be that she thinks she is expected to have a bout with the postpartum blues, and so she is doing her best to do what she has been told. She may not know what is causing it. But we must encourage her not to give way to it. The blues are a common thing. We must not indulge ourselves at this point. Our feelings must in this case be ignored. Yes, it is common for some women to feel blue after birth. For some it is a passing thing of but a few minutes. For others it may persist longer. And for some, they cannot imagine feeling blue after such an exhilarating event. But for those who do lose heart, we must cheer them on, and exhort them to resist the temptation to stop and analyze what is going on. There is too much work to be done!
Birthing is such a glorious privilege and high calling. We must embrace it with wisdom and hardheaded obedience. We ought to stay away from reading stupid stuff or listening to foolish women. We should determine before God, by the grace of God, to make our husbands proud of us as we do our hard work of bringing children into the world. We don't want our husbands or our God to be ashamed of us by forgetting who we are or in Whom we trust. The eternal God is our refuge at all times, particularly as we fulfill our calling by bearing children.

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