Nora Allison is the wife of Dr. Gregg Allison, professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. They have three grown children, Lauren, Hanell, and Luke and five, soon to be six, grandchildren. She co-leads the Women’s Ministry and is the East Campus Women's Director at Sojourn Community Church.
There is much emphasis these days on our stories, on MY story: My experiences, my development, my insights, my suffering, how I navigate and grow through my circumstances, how I live and face the ups and downs of life. Cyberspace is crowded with blogs about “me” and “my.” Knowledge of ourselves and our ability to own our stories is critical to our understanding and our growth in wisdom. Where we’ve come from unquestionably shapes where we are and where we are going.
But I see a downside. So much emphasis on MY story often results in ME being the star of the narrative. Then in no time at all, the star becomes a diva. And as any good diva will won't admit, “IT IS ALL ABOUT ME.” Every experience is about how I experience it. Every circumstance is about how it affects me. Every up and down of life is about how I feel on this roller coaster.
No place is this more evident for women than in our childbirth experiences. We love to share them. We love to compare them. We love to prepare for them. And oh, do we prepare! We choose the music to play during labor, transition and delivery. As Christian women, we select Bible verses to be read to encourage us and if we’re smart, curses to be pronounced to settle accounts with our mother Eve. We plan for doulas and coaches. We have snacks and wardrobe changes. We are focused and ready for our experience of childbirth. What will MY story be? Will my labor and delivery live up to my expectations? Sometimes, what we experience is weirdly similar to what we had planned. More often it’s not. But in any case, I’d like to encourage all women everywhere to remember the goal. The goal is not our delivery experience. The goal is to hold that baby on the outside rather than on the inside.
The Bible is loaded with “begats” explaining who fathered or mothered whom. Some of our most well-known and esteemed biblical personalities have both their conceptions and births highlighted in Scripture. Think Sarah, the mother of Isaac, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and of course, Mary, the mother of Jesus. And God is faithful to have inspired the record of many other mothers and their key roles in shaping his kingdom and bringing about our Savior: Jochebed and Moses, Tamar and Zerah, Rahab and Boaz, Ruth and Obed, to name a few.
What is strikingly absent in all of this vital “begetting” is any mention of the mothers’ childbirth experiences. The only times childbearing itself is mentioned in Scripture is to comment on how painful it is (!) and how quickly that anguish gives way to joy (Jn 16:21), but never is the mother’s experience related as a component in the biblical narrative. This is not to say that the experience itself is unimportant to the mother and certainly not to say that it is unimportant to God. He knows how critical an undertaking it is for any woman – thus the sting of the curse upon Eve. But he also knows, unlike the Hokey Pokey, that it’s NOT what it’s all about. The transition of life from inside the womb to outside the womb pales in comparison to the final product. It’s not about our childbirth experience. It’s about the baby and the part he or she may play according to God’s design. A short conversation with any mother who has lost a child before, during, or any time after childbirth will leave no doubt.
So as we wait for the midwives, we can plan thoroughly. And once that infant is swaddled, we can share the experience freely. But in the midst of it all, let’s remember that God is doing something which goes way beyond the delivery. In secret, he has fearfully and wonderfully woven a body and soul. He has knitted together a baby (Ps. 139:14-15)! A new person has entered the world as his image-bearer, to the praise of his glory.
Let’s celebrate him. Let’s celebrate the miracle of it all. And let’s remember: Whether or not we enjoy the experience is irrelevant. This is not about us. This is much bigger than us. This is his story.