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Topics: Family, Spiritual Formation

The Pain in Childbearing

March 18, 2014

by Candice Watters

Yesterday, St. Patrick’s Day, is a special day in our house, not least because Steve and I have Irish heritage and we all look forward to the traditional corned-beef and cabbage feast. But ever since St. Patrick’s Day 2001, the day has a deeper meaning, and a deeper grief. It’s a grief that four of my friends have entered into in just the past month-and-a-half; a grief common among women. Were it not for my miscarriage in the 14th week of pregnancy, yesterday would have marked the 13th birthday of our second son, Griffin.

The words I wrote in his baby book on what would have been his birth day are as true now as they were then:

The corned beef is stewing — filling our home with the scents of generations past. So many things about this holiday — the subtlety, the links with the past — will forever tie me to you. You will not be forgotten.

In the past 13 years, God has been teaching me a lot about the curse of pain in childbearing. I’ve felt it in weeks and months of morning sickness, I’ve felt it four times in the labor and delivery room, and I’ve felt it in countless situations large and small since each of our children entered the world. But in Griffin’s case, the pain was in his parting.

This is not how it was meant to be. When Adam and Eve entered God’s newly created world, He blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.” The work and expectation of bearing children was all to be blessing. But when Adam and Eve rejected His rule over them, throwing off His loving provision and protection, they incurred His wrath, including the curse on childbearing. Now having children would come with pain.

Mary felt it in the cave when she gave birth to Jesus, but that was just the beginning:

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Simeon’s blessing pronounced over Joseph, Mary, and Jesus included words of hope and warning, much like God’s curse after the fall included pain and promise. In announcing pain in childbearing, God gave Adam and Eve a glimpse of promise. They would not be struck dead instantly. Though they died a spiritual death that day, there was hope–the offspring of Eve would crush the serpent. She would live to bear children. The pain in childbearing would remind her that a savior was promised.

Eve undoubtedly felt pain giving birth to Cain. But that was just the beginning of her sorrow. And we are her daughters when we suffer miscarriage, rebellious children, and every other evidence of the curse of sin. But like Eve, we too can hope in the One who bundled hope with pain.

Bringing new life into this fallen world is marked by pain and pleasure; by sorrow and joy. But the work of bearing the fruit of the womb remains a glorious assignment. By God’s grace, may we embrace His gift of participating in the miracle of new life, remembering with Eve, that every pain points ahead to our promised redemption. And we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Because God kept His promise, and sent His Son, we continue to long for the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).[]

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