Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Mysterious transitions: childbirth and death April 4, 2011

Filed under: Pregnancy — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:25 am

I’m in the final few weeks of my pregnancy, and my energy and motivation levels are unusually low. Typically writing is an outlet I seek and an energizer for me, but “typical” hasn’t been the order of things for the past couple months.

A  topic I’ve found myself ruminating a bit about, and this is going to sound morbid at first so bear with me, are the parallels between childbirth and death. You might think I mean that bringing a child into the world represents a ‘death-to-self’ event because the moment your infant enters the world, her needs supersede your own and thus a spirit of selfless servanthood takes over. You die to self in promoting your new baby’s life. That’s true, but that’s not it.

What I’ve been reflecting on is how strange it is that, on the eve of bearing my fourth child, the whole thing still seems so surreal. I mean, I’ve been through labor and delivery three times now, I know how childbirth works, and I generally know what to expect. But still, I can’t fully get my head around the fact that sometime in the next few weeks, a brand new human being is going to emerge from my body. That it will happen at a time and in a way over which I have basically no control. That once the process has begun, there will be no turning back until it’s complete. And that once it’s done, a brand new reality sets in – my life will never be the same again. Things will be wholly, irreversibly, wonderfully different for me and my family than they are today. Even though my infant daughter moves bulbously in my enormous belly right now as I type, it still seems bizarre to me. I know what will soon happen, and yet I somehow also can’t fathom it.

In what other arenas in life do we run into such strange and mysterious circumstances? Few that I can think of; probably fewer in our modern era than in prior generations. The one event that seems equally strange and mysterious – more so, really – is death. An event that I know is coming, and yet one I really know nothing really about (far less, even, than I know about the circumstances of my baby’s birth).  In death I will move from one state to another; it is apt – like labor – to be an uncomfortable and taxing process. The possibility of fear and dread are present in death as they can be in childbirth – though neither fear nor dread need be present in childbirth or death.

And what will meet us on the other side? For the follower of Jesus, we know that the moments following our earthly deaths will be wonderful and glorious. We know intellectually that the moment we encounter our God face to face and enter His presence, every other wonderful moment in our lives will pale in comparison. We can believe this; be empowered and invigorated by it; live confident and Spririt-filled lives knowing that here on earth “we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (in heaven). (Heb 13:14)  But what does that really mean; what does it look like? What will it feel like? We have no idea till we’re actually undergoing it.

So for me, giving birth to a child is akin, in some shadow-like sense, to leaving earth and entering heaven. It’s embracing a wild and unfathomable mystery, an event completely orchestrated by God, a transition in which I’m ushered by my ever-present, sovereign, loving God from one reality into another. I’m a passenger on His train, moving where and how He takes me on a journey beyond my control. May I give myself, wholly and trustingly, to Him and His perfect care, in this transition as in that one, whenever His timing directs. “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”


4 Responses to “Mysterious transitions: childbirth and death”

  1. cari Says:

    This is a profound and courageous post; thank you for sharing so deeply at a point where even the simplest of assingments can feel exhausting. Looking forward to tonight!

  2. Michelle H. Says:

    I am right there with you on this one and keep commenting on how this 4th pregnancy seems so surreal. I look at my other children and know they were once where baby #4 now resides but its so beyond my comprehension. This really helps me put a beautiful spin on this miracle. Thanks!

  3. Crystal Says:

    As I am right behind you in my own pg, I completely empathize. There is a sort of fearful anticipation – knowing it will be a wonderful gift, but understanding the physically taxing and somewhat scary process one has in receiving this gift. One of the best and most beautifully poetical accounts I’ve read concerning this exact subject (the parallels between birth and death) is included in a book called Great with Child by Debra Rienstra, a book I typically have read in every one of my pregnancies (except for this one). It’s very helpful to know others in the same boat are feeling the same waves. Good luck in your nearing delivery! “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Is. 40:11

  4. heartpondering Says:

    I love that book too! In fact, I’m pretty sure that you and Erin were the ones you brought it to my attention. I have also read it in prior pregnancies (but not this one) and given it to others, too, during their pregnancies.
    I had forgotten – or perhaps never fully absorbed – Rienstra’s comments on the parallels between birth and death. But just now, reviewing the notes I took on the book, I see exactly what you’re describing. A few excellent ones:

    “Birth is a serious, weighty, death-shadowed thing. The pain reminds us of this depth.”

    “Pain is a teacher: childbirth pain reminds us, stubborn and dense as we are, that to bring a child into this world is a serious thing and cannot be done lightly or purely for selfish pleasure or fulfillment. There is pleasure and fulfillment in it, but there is also a cost. The pain is there to speak, in the body, of that cost.”

    “Amid all the busyness and antiseptic cheerfulness of a medically protected birth, I do not want to lose the deeper, even mythic dimension of it.”

    Love the comment; thanks so much for reminding me of the book and her insights. Thanks for the well wishes, and blessings to you on your pregnancy and birth too!


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