“He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish.” – Genesis 3:16a
If we’re going to talk about childbirth, we need to start at the beginning. We all know the story: the serpent persuades the woman to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She eats, and gives some to the man – who is with her. They realize they are naked, and hide from God when they hear Him. Then the blaming begins. And then the “curses.”
This, the woman’s “curse,” is the reason for so much hype around the ordeal of childbirth…
The Lies I Believed
Last time, I wrote how I felt betrayed, unloved, and left vulnerable by God. Why? Because of this verse. I believed that because of the “curse,” God wanted women to be degraded in childbirth, to suffer because of Eve’s sin.
However…God did not curse the woman. We often use that term in regards to the Fall, but we shouldn’t. He cursed the Serpent (Gen. 3:14) and the ground (Gen. 3:17). He did not curse the woman or the man. They had consequences.
It’s so important to see it as a consequence – but why that consequence?
The Consequence of Pain
First, we need to look at the verse again: “He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains…” (Gen. 3:16a). Did you catch that? He said He would “intensify” the labor pains. Does that mean there was a small amount of pain before? Or – dare we say those doctor-ish words – discomfort and pressure?
I have a feeling “discomfort” and “pressure” are indeed the words women would use if the Fall had not occurred. (And they wouldn’t be a euphemism for pain, either!)
But why are they intensified? Again, why that consequence?
It was actually Andrew who pointed this out to me. One of the things we purchased when we first found out we were pregnant was a webinar on how to do a natural birth (I’ve come to terms with it a little, but epidurals freak me out.) Anyway, the webinar host talked about pain, and being afraid, and all these things I took notes on….but didn’t actually apply.
It wasn’t until I was (once again) crying to Andrew about “why would God give us this pain intentionally???” when he turned to me and said, “Babe! Remember what the webinar said? Fear increases pain. Sin introduced fear into the world. Maybe that’s why pain is increased.”
The light bulb went on, the dots connected. Sin introduced fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of death. All those things are wrapped up in childbirth. We don’t know how our birth experience will go. We don’t know what the future holds for our precious child. And for centuries, death and childbirth have often gone hand in hand. What’s more, from the time we’re born, we teach ourselves to fear pain and being hurt.
With all of that, no wonder there’s fear in childbirth, which leads to an intensification of the pain. Thus, intensification of pain in childbirth is, in fact, a direct consequence of sin. Because without sin, there would be no fear.
A Fitting Consequence
Another lie I believed in relation to this verse was that God gave this consequence because He didn’t love women, or He was for some reason vindictively cruel in this instance. It’s a lie with deep roots in my heart, and it required more than analyzing just this verse to unearth them. But it began here, and it’s worth mentioning.
A lot of women point out that the pain of childbirth doesn’t stop at childbirth – it continues afterwards. For we bear children into a sinful world, and we cannot protect them the way we long for. That heartache, they say, is worse than all the physical pain you endure. I don’t know if that’s true, but I sense that might be.
And I have to imagine that God felt that same pain as He created – or “birthed” – the world…
A Link Between God and Women
God created this amazing, beautiful, bountiful, life-giving world. And yet, He knew. He knew sin would enter. He knew the animals would turn on each other, tear each other apart, and that man would also be cruel to them. What’s more, He knew mankind would do heinous, awful, ineffable things to one another.
He knew…and yet, He still chose to create life.
Likewise, women know. Women know this is a sinful, terrible world. We know of the cruelty, the neglect, the humiliation, the fear that awaits our children. Of course, we also know there will be physical pain in childbirth. We know…and yet, we still choose to create life.
Why? Because we know it’s worth it.
God didn’t give – or allow – this consequence because He was vindictive or cruel. I think He allowed it because He had gone through it with the “birth” of the world. It goes hand in hand with the knowledge of good and evil, which is what we wanted to begin with. It’s a fitting consequence because it’s what He went through, too. It’s a special bond we share with Him. We know He understands our anguish.
That gives some comfort, albeit not quite enough. After all, that was a heart pain, which sounds like a cop-out when you’re grappling with the intense physical pain of childbirth.
But as we’ll see, that heart knowledge became physical…