… At least not any more or any less than He cares about your harrowing trip to the dentist sans novocaine, your half marathon finished under 2 hours with a stress fracture in your tibia, or your heroic push through to bedtime while your better half is away on business and the natives are restless. And pooping in the bathtub.
I’ve observed an uncomfortable phenomenon in the Catholic blogosphere whereby some moms seem to be trying to out-suffer each other with gruesome labor tales, stories of timing contractions to correlate with each mystery of the full, 20-decade rosary and, my personal favorite, uniting the incredible pain of labor to the mystery of Christ’s redemptive suffering on the Cross. Because holiness.
This is right and good. It is what we as Christians are called to do: unite temporal suffering to the salvific passion of Christ.
But, here’s the thing. There are as many ways to suffer virtuously as there are human persons on this planet. And there is nothing uniquely efficacious about labor pains and the grueling achievement of birthing a fresh human being. Aside from the fact that in modern day 21st century America, it might be the closest many of us come to true physical anguish for the first time in our lives. And I totally get that. That is powerful.
But there is nothing about labor – particularly labor sans meds – which makes the suffering incurred more holy or more effective than any other cause of suffering. And there is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to forgo or mitigate some of that incredible physical pain with modern medicine. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian. It doesn’t make you less of a hero. And it definitely doesn’t make you less of a mother.
Look, I’m all for a good birth story. God knows I’ve penned a few in my day. But let’s cut the crap and stop trying to one up each other in the delivery room (or in the birthing pool, as it were.) It’s not a competition. And you are not more holy than what’s-her-name if you did it all without a needle stuck in your back or an incision across your bikini line.
We live in a time where medicine is available to mitigate the pain of labor. And God did not say “though shalt not numb thy nether regions for to give birth is to remove the stain of original sin.”
That’s actually what baptism is for (the stain removal, not the numbed nether regions. But I digress.)
I love that some women are prepared to enter into the birth experience with a clear mind and veins absent of any controlled substances. My two best friends have birthed 7 children between them using nothing stronger than castor oil. Good for them!
And if that is your story too, then good for you! May your child know of the real sacrifice you made, for whatever reason, to bring them into this world au natural.
But may you never presume that the months of sleepless nights with a newborn, the horrors of mastitis, the hell of postpartum depression, or the pain of recovering from a c-section are somehow lesser sufferings. We each carry our own crosses. And no two look the same.
There’s no one way to have a baby. Thank God for that.