I’m in the final stages of a draft of what I am calling Giving and Receiving Birth: a spiritual theology of childbirth. I have my spiritual director hat on, and am offering Catholic women a way to reflect prepare for and reflect upon their childbearing as a sign that points to God. After all, if the body was created as a “pre-given language of self-giving and fruitfulness,” (Waldstein) childbirth is a privileged place to reflect upon our life as we participate in the Holy Spirit. He is, after all, the Lord and Giver of Life.
I address this in some academic depth in Theology of the Body, Extended…but this is angled more specifically to new mothers. The book is broken into small chapters meant to serve as daily musings on how to “perceive” the spiritual nature of childbirth, stage by stage, with spiritual exercises and reflections.
To that end, here is a very short reflection that I just cut. (I cut it because it had been covered elsewhere in the book, and better.) It gives you a flavor of the book to come, with more birth stories to flesh things out. Enjoy… and anticipate more coming!
Preparing to give birth: how can I pray in and through unexpected complications?This is for women who have not yet given birth, but are using this book to pray through their pregnancy. Although we’ve spent time considering what the signs of birth look like, according to broad patterns, it’s best to be honest: not all births fit the pattern. Most do, but some don’t. What do you do then?
Remember the three spiritual keys in the process: 1) Give God permission to work in your life and relax, 2) Cooperate with God’s intention to realize your motherhood through your body now (be ready to give), and 3) Yield to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. When the birth process seems to throw you a curve ball–the unexpected–it is time to lean on yielding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
It sounds so easy, but it may not be. At best these “curve balls” can be confusing and disorienting. At worst they can be frightening.
Remember these things:
1) It is wise to ask the Holy Spirit to help your medical team and other supports offer good advice and make good decisions for you and the baby.
2) Sometimes people pray in a way I call “wrapping prayer”: you ask the Holy Spirit to wrap you and the baby in His protection. You can imagine this as you like, including being covered in cloak. You may even bring, or re-purpose, a blanket or shawl to be used in this way, as a reminder. Scripture has many examples of using clothing as a form of spiritual protection.3) Often the Holy Spirit is called the Sustainer, and that may be most appropriate now. Pray, or have your husband or doula pray, for His sustenance and protection.
4) Listen, or if you cannot listen, have your husband and/or doula listen. What is the medical team saying? What are the medical options in moving forward? You can only make the best decision you can under the circumstances; God and no one else expects any more than that. You can ask for peace as a sign of a good decision, and often it is given. But if the decision needs to be made quickly, do it, and leave it in the hands of God.
Whatever happens, God is present. God loves this child and you. Whatever happens, that never changes. He will give you what you most truly need.