Thursday, January 28, 2010

Appreciating the Physicality of Birth

My husband is taking a class on Isaiah and the other day he came home excited to share something his teacher had shared in class. In Isaiah 3 it talks about leadership and my husband's teacher pointed out that it is important in order to have effective leadership in the home, in church, in society and in government you need to have the talent and strengthens of both men and women. The teacher asked the class

When you think of the word "Spiritual" what gender do you generally think of?

They replied... Women.

When you think of the word "Physical" what gender do you generally think of?

They replied... Men.

He then continued and said that generally in most societies men's lives are more physically based-- they are biologically physically stronger, they do most of the hard physical work in the family, and in general their minds are more "physically" minded than women's. Women's lives on the other hand are generally more spiritually based-- they focus on creating relationships, they do more of the nurturing and caring work in the family, they are more likely than men to be religious and to join a church, and generally they are more "spiritually" minded than they are "physically" minded.

I thought that this was so interesting and being the birth nut that I am I immediately saw how this applied to my previous post about the importance of birth.

It is so interesting to me that men, whose minds are more physically oriented, are asked to do the more spiritual work in God's kingdom. In D&C 121:41-42 it says that the powers of the priesthood are only to be used through persuasion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and kindness. These are qualities that are usually considered to be more feminine and which some men, if not given the opportunity to practice them, wouldn't ever develop. It seems to me that God had eternal lessons for his son's to learn that could only be learned by listening to their spiritual self and learning to yield to it.

On the other hand it is interesting that to women, who are more spiritually minded, God gave the more physical work of God's kingdom. Women, who are physically weaker (generally), were given the hard physical task of bearing children. For most women pregnancy, labor and birth are the hardest things they will ever do physically. Carrying and giving birth to a child requires a great deal of endurance, faith in your body's ability, listening to and trusting your body, learning how to handle pain, learning to let go, sheer strength and willpower. Most women wouldn't ever stretch their bodies and their souls in that sort of physical way (I make an exception for marathoners and other athletes) unless they were asked to. God didn't have to design childbirth to be physically hard, but he did. I think it is because He knew that his spiritually minded daughters needed to learn eternal lessons that could only be learned by learning to listen to their physical selves and learning to trust their bodies.

I think that way too often we look over the significance of birth and of the experience women have during it. I know women who are terrified of becoming pregnant, women who when they are pregnant are terrified of labor, and women who in labor are terrified of becoming mothers. I can't help but wonder how their perspective on birth would change if they realized that the reason God gave women the physical trial of birth was to strengthen them spiritually and that there are important eternal lessons to be learned from the process.

We do so much to teach young men about the importance of their priesthood callings and we help prepare them for the hard work they have ahead of them as missionaries and as leaders. From a young age young men know that what they are going to be asked to do will be hard but that they will be given strengthen from God to handle it. Why don't we teach our young women from a young age that what they are going to be called to do will be hard, physically, but that God will give them the strength to handle it. Why aren't we teaching them about the symbolism and importance of birth and motherhood? Why aren't we helping prepare them, from the time they are 12, to handle the physicality of bearing children and motherhood? I can't help but think that if we were doing these things that not as many women would be scared of becoming mothers. I think that if men and women really understood the power and symbolism behind birth that the birth process would be treated much differently that it is. I also think that motherhood would be more valued in society.

What do you think?


  1. You definitely make an interesting point. I wasn't comfortable with the whole childbearing/rearing thing until I had my third baby. I was finally able to trust in myself and the Lord more fully and it was wonderful. And for the first time, I actually saw my husband do the same thing when I decided to have my third naturally. I felt that it really strangthened our marriage to go through that together. I think marriages as a whole would be stronger if we had a better understanding of what the other one goes through in their respective roles.

  2. Love this post. I have often thought about the fact that men need the priesthood and its accompanying roles in order to become more spiritually minded, but I had never thought of the fact that childbirth and rearing gives us women that chance to be more physically minded. What a lovely relationship. I just love the differences between the sexes and how we need each other and can learn from each other.

  3. I am a hypnobabies teacher and doula--and I only became one because my mother started the legacy of telling wonderful birth stories to her daughters. So, I always looked forward to birth and have since had two amazing birth experiences. Thank you so much for your very poignant, spot-on thoughts.

  4. Great post! I love these insights. Especially since I've had the importance of the body and physical experience of birth on the brain, as you know. ;-)

  5. I read this as I am holding my 5 day old son in my arms, he was born at home and he was breech, it was HARD! What you say about preparing our daughters for thier purpose really resonates with me. and I hope that I can do that for my now 2 year old.

    Thank you for this blog!

  6. That was a fascinating thought about the assigning of roles that would be opposite of our natures. The idea of balance does seem vitally important to the Lord.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. It gives me a whole new perspective on the roles and strengths of men and women.

  8. I LOVE your blogs and all your insight. I have forwarded a few to others hoping they would speak to them! I never realized just what a birth advocate you were. I have had my last three babies at home unassisted in the water.

    My now four month old was a month over due and posterior it was very physically tasking. God blessed us with a safe labor and delivery. She was 10lbs 4oz my pre pregnancy weight was 95lbs.

  9. Heather, thank you for this post! I am going to get marry in a few weeks. I'm excited for the next couple of years when I will experience motherhood and wifehood, and I had the chance to learn this before I have my baby in the future.
    There is one more thing: do you think there are symbols behind menstruation? I'm sure labor and pregnancy is hard enough, but menstruation??? I was thinking about it and wondering if there's such a thing as symbols whenever we experience the horrible pain each month. Maybe it does have to do with fertility...but why pain? Why blood? Why all that?

  10. This makes a lot of sense. I really like this post!

  11. Really interesting. I'm going to ponder this some more.