When I was pregnant with my first son, my newly-graduated-from-theological-school self wanted to compile a journal of prayers for childbirth. Given my fear of the pain and the unknown that lay ahead of me, I was convinced that having prayers to accompany me through labor and birth would keep me calm, centered, cool.
Then the kid showed up three weeks early, and my procrastinating self had barely gotten around to packing the hospital bag, let alone gathering a set of inspiring prayers.
(And believe me, when the triage nurse informed us that it was indeed my water that had broken, and we would indeed be having a baby that night, the words that flew out of my mouth had nothing holy or prayerful about them.)
Thereby paving the beginning of my road to parenthood with good intentions.
But the Spirit works in mysterious ways. So thanks to a playlist of Taize chant on the iPod in the delivery room, I was able to muster some meditative calm (at least in early labor, not that devil of a transition).
Thanks to my mother who texted me the prayer of St. Patrick’s breastplate – which I made my husband read to me over and over during one of the most difficult parts of labor – I was reminded of Christ’s presence with us, which helped to ease my pain and fear.
And thanks to my girlfriends from grad school who lit candles to hold me up in prayer the whole time I was laboring, I was strengthened by a far-flung circle of strong women whose love helped carry me through.
This time around, I let go of the illusions that I’d once again amass a perfect prayer for the pain of childbirth. But as I’ve been pouring through the Book of Psalms and the Gospels for a project I’m working on, I’ve been jotting down Scripture along the way that speaks to me of the experience of childbirth.
In particular, I’m struck by the imagery of God as midwife.
I’ve never been in the care of a midwife, but I was blessed with a wonderful doula for my first baby’s birth and plan to do the same this time around. When I think of our doula’s calming presence, her faith in my strength, her support of both my husband and me throughout the long day and night, I’m reminded of how God’s love carries us through the dark and painful moments to the bright burst of joy at labor’s end.
So when I came across these two psalms again, I was reminded of the power and presence of thinking of God as midwife, especially when we are in the midst of the overwhelming work and pain of labor.
This is God’s Mothering Spirit: watching us, tending us, keeping us safe, never leaving our side, whispering words of comfort and strength and hope that this, too, shall pass.
“Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me
you have been my God.”
“For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”
(Ps 71: 5-6)
How beautiful to think of the midwives and doctors and nurses and doulas who attend to women and babies at birth as being God-like in their work.
And what a tender image of God as the wise and strong and loving woman who catches each of us upon our birth and places us into our parents’ arms.
From one great love to another.
Check out the other posts in this series: