When I assisted at home births I became more aware of the spiritual nature of childbirth. When labor reached a peak intensity, when the woman felt she couldn’t get through one more contraction, she asked for prayer. Sometimes the husband prayed or one of the attendants. I was asked to pray.
Prayer gave the woman the confidence to release herself to the waves of contractions that were bringing the baby to birth. As I thought about it, it seemed right. In the moments before birth the mother was leaning in to God for assistance.
Prayers rarely took place in the hospital but I remember one. A young woman was in labor. As I worked with her to alleviate her pain I noticed her anxiety. She received an epidural for pain management and I hoped it would help her to relax.
A short while later she grabbed my hand, her eyes wild. “I am afraid,” she said. “The pain is much less but I am afraid.”
This young woman had a circle of friends that had come to the hospital with her. One friend offered to read scripture, but she replied, “No, no I can’t concentrate. I want to pray.”
In a loud voice she confessed her inadequacy and asked God to help her. A short while later she gave birth to a healthy boy. With baby in arms, this new mother gazed at her infant with joy and wonder.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34: 4-5