The “Horrors” of Childbirth 

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

Women looooooove to dwell on their birth horror stories.  And honestly, to someone who hasn’t gone through labor yet (both men and women), everything seems like a horror story.  It sounds painful, dehumanizing, and just plain awful.  

I grew to despise this fear-mongering type of conversation before I was pregnant, and I avoid it like the plague now that I am pregnant.  I will admit, I feel these stories heaped fuel on my anger towards God.   

And then – with birth and babies on the mind – I read a very familiar passage in a whole new light…

Birth Requires a Sacrifice of the Body

Most of us are familiar with Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus at night.  Many of us would know that’s where our “born again” term comes from, and I’d venture that all of us know that’s where the famous John 3:16 comes from.  It’s such a common passage that I think we often gloss over it, never pondering the passage completely.  

Let’s look at those two verses with fresh eyes, in light of childbirth:

“Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life…’ – John 3:3, 16

In this passage, we have birth and life juxtaposed next to each other.  I immediately thought, “Jesus gave birth to our eternal life like I have to give birth to my baby.”  A strange thought, but an important one. For giving birth was now a very painful, messy process full of horrible possibilities.  It was no longer just a happy event that led to life.

And I realized: our rebirth in the Spirit required a bodily sacrifice…not too different than childbirth…

…And yet, it IS Different

This gave me a good deal of encouragement…but it wasn’t until I read the crucifixion scene in John, along with a commentary, that I realized something important: yes, there is a similarity between the sufferings of a woman in childbirth and the sufferings of Christ.  However, the “horrors” of childbirth are nothing – NOTHING – compared to the horrors of the Cross.

We tend to gloss over them.  We read that Jesus was beaten, whipped, mocked, and nailed to the cross.  Seldom do we stop and think about what that would be like. Not to be graphic, but I want to share some insight into the horrors of the Cross by dwelling on just one aspect: the scourging (or beating/flogging) of Jesus.

The Roman scourge was a brutal form of torture.  It had several strips of leather with pieces of metal, bone, or clay shards attached at different levels of each strip.  These were specifically designed to “flay” the skin from the body in different places. Prisoners would often die from this before even getting to the cross.  What’s more, the legion stationed in Jerusalem was from Thrace, and were “known as the most brutal of all the Roman Legions.” Basically, they knew how to exact the most amount of pain and suffering from those they scourged.[1] 

Jesus endured this willingly for you and me.  He even lived through it and “made it” to the Cross.  And this was on top of the pain of seeing those He trusted most betray Him and flee, being stripped naked, having spikes rip through his hands/wrists and feet, suffocating on the cross, and having the Father turn away, abandoning Him.

Put in Perspective 

Women often struggle to breath during pregnancy, and they endure rips, tears, pain, and certain humiliations during the birth.  I said last week that this made me feel betrayed, abandoned, unloved, and vulnerable. These are all very real, valid issues and feelings.  These should not be brushed under the table.

But as we saw above, they really are nothing to what Jesus went through.  Jesus went through all of those things, too, but worse. Jesus could not breath, had his flesh ripped open, was literally betrayed by friends and abandoned by the Father, surely felt unloved, and was exposed and vulnerable on the cross.

After reading that, I feel a sense of kinship with Job, who said,

“I am so insignificant. How can I answer You?  I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing” (Job 40:4-5).  

Who am I to complain about the “horrors” of childbirth when I see the true horrors Jesus experienced to give me life?  

A Close Bond

And yet, there is a striking similarity between what Jesus went through on the Cross and what we go through in childbirth.  Actually, it’s quite remarkable, and it makes me smile and feel overwhelmingly blessed.

Yes, blessed.  I get to share this very special bond with my Lord and Savior.  He went to the cross “for the joy that lay before Him” (Heb. 12:2).  What was that joy? To give us eternal life (John 3:16)! Likewise, we women have babies for the joy that lays before us in loving and nurturing new life.  And, of course, because children bring joy to the Lord (Gen. 1:28, Mark 10:14, Matt. 18:10)!

Men will never experience this deep bond with our Jesus the way we will.  They can’t (unless they are also crucified, which doesn’t happen anymore).  But throughout the centuries women have always had this bond with their Savior.  We can cherish it, and what’s more, we can know that He not only understands…He went through it, too.  But worse.  

No matter how traumatic of a birth experience you have, nothing will ever, ever be worse than what He experienced for you on the cross.  So when the horrors of childbirth begin to overwhelm your mind, or you begin to dwell on the truly painful and degrading things you went through during the birth, remember the horrors of the Cross and what Christ did for you.  Although this might seem morbid, I think it will help us ladies put our sufferings into perspective.  

What’s more, it will deepen our love and devotion to Christ, who went through all of that willingly so we might have life.  

 

 

Sources

[1] “The Scourge – Its role in Biblical History and Jesus’ Execution,” accessed July 3,2019.

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