A spiritualized view of childbirth

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Is childbirth solely a physical event requiring a medical environment? In the United States today, over 99 percent of all births occur in a hospital setting; 97.5 percent in Britain. Consequently, the dominant view – at least in those countries – leans heavily toward the physical, medical, technological, and human emotion aspects of birth.

But there's more to bringing a child into the world. There's a spiritual dimension that, like the spiritual realities of life itself, needs to be more widely understood – for humanity's health and welfare.

In the late 19th century, childbirth had transitioned from an event attended by midwives and family to a scenario that was viewed as a medical condition requiring a physician. At this same time, Mary Baker Eddy had discovered Christian Science and was healing and teaching others with this spiritualized view of existence. She recorded a time in the early stages of her discovery when she visited a woman suffering with complications from a surgical operation following the birth of her last child. This woman was never expected to have another child, and her doctors predicted she would soon die. Mrs. Eddy requested to visit her, and after she prayed by her bedside for 15 minutes, the woman was not only immediately well, but later delivered a healthy 12-pound baby, writing to Mrs. Eddy, "I never before suffered so little in childbirth" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 40).

Herself a mother, Mrs. Eddy saw the importance of elevating thought regarding childbirth. She included a paragraph in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" on "scientific obstetrics," in the chapter "Teaching Christian Science": "Teacher and student should also be familiar with the obstetrics taught by this Science." And she emphasized, "To attend properly the birth of the new child, or divine idea, you should so detach mortal thought from its material conceptions, that the birth will be natural and safe" (p. 463).

Let's examine some of the common fears that would draw thought toward a strictly material concept of birth and consider how to address them prayerfully.

Pregnancy and childbirth are physical events, involving material growth and development. When it is clearly understood that all creation has its source in God, the only Creator, then material growth and physicality lose their predominance in thought. Expectant parents can care for their child from the very first, cherishing the child's spiritual individuality and origin. They can also glimpse the fact that they and the child share the same divine Parent, and that this relationship frees them from a false sense of responsibility or fear of the unknown. As God's ideas, we reflect His creative power, but we're not personal creators.

Childbirth is painful and unpredictable. A curse that traces back to the allegory of Adam and Eve shouldn't continue to haunt women. This verse from Isaiah provides comfort and reassurance: "Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God" (66:9). The notion that childbirth is a painful event suggests a separation from divine Love, which knows no pain for its creation. Divine Love rejoices in the constant and harmonious appearing of each idea and would never promote an environment of discomfort.

Childbearing involves two beings, mother and child, who could potentially harm each other. In the same paragraph on scientific obstetrics, Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Though gathering new energy, this idea cannot injure its useful surroundings in the travail of spiritual birth." Mother and child can witness how divine Life sustains and provides for its ideas. There can be no added strain, no depletion of life. And with the expression of God's creative power comes a natural harmony and order.

The best counsel anyone can hope for rests in the direct relationship to the Creator that all individuals have to nourish and learn from. We are, in St. Paul's memorable words, "all the children of God" (Gal. 3:26).

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.

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