If you’re anything like me, you’ve read through Genesis 3:16 and cringed (notice that I said Genesis 3:16, not John 3:16). This is the part of the story of Adam and Eve where God explains the consequence for Eve’s actions. I have often read through this verse and felt angry, because it always seemed like Eve’s punishment was harsh and worse than Adam’s. We all know that after Eve ate the apple and God confronted her about it, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Genesis 3:16, ESV). I became obsessed with this verse because every time I read it I felt punished by God. Even though I have never experienced the pain of childbirth, I have seen the way it is depicted in movies, and heard the way it is talked about in our culture. It is described as miserable, excruciating, and horribly painful, to name just a few descriptions. I couldn’t understand why God would give such a harsh punishment to all women for what one woman did centuries ago. I couldn’t stop asking, “where is God’s grace in all of this?” I mean, the gift of a new life is God’s grace in itself, but why does the process of bringing forth that new life have to be such a horrible experience for women to go through? I started to feel like God didn’t love women as much he loved men. I felt like God didn’t love me because I’m a woman, like being a woman is a curse that makes me deserving of punishment. But even though my thoughts were leading me astray, I knew in my heart that God loves us more than we could ever comprehend- both genders, all races, all personalities. I always knew that God loves women, but I was frustrated with how that verse made me feel, so I decided to do some research and find out just how God’s grace fits in to this particular verse.
First of all, notice that God says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing.” He says he will multiply pain, but nowhere in this verse does He say He will multiply suffering. When God designed childbirth to be painful, He didn’t design it that way to make women suffer. Pain can actually be a good thing sometimes, especially in childbirth. Many women in today’s culture are starting to realize that their experience in giving birth can be an ecstatic and spiritual experience rather than an agonizing one. When birth is experienced in a loving, supportive and comfortable environment without hospital or medicinal intervention, it can be a very intense and joyful experience, even in the presence of pain.
Pain during childbirth is what allows women to experience the spirituality and ecstatic bliss of the process. Physical pain during labor releases a hormone called Oxytocin, which is also known as the “bonding hormone.” Oxytocin is the same hormone that creates the feelings of intimacy during and after sex, as well as the feelings of bonding with a newborn during breastfeeding. This hormone is released in high levels during birth when medical interventions are not used, which increases a woman’s ability to bond with her newborn after birth as well as enjoy the process of labor before birth. It has even been found that Oxytocin levels are the highest they will ever be during birth. This means that during labor and birth women can experience heightened levels of this emotionally and physically pleasurable hormone. I researched the subject and found so many stories that women have shared about their experiences giving birth. These stories were not horrifying to read at all. Instead, they were inspiring. Many women mention the intense bonding they felt with their husbands, their newborn, and even God during labor, birth, and after birth. I read about some women who described an experience where they felt closer to God than they had ever felt before- and this wasn’t just after the baby was born, this was actually during contractions and giving birth. It seems that God created the sensations of labor and birth as a blessing for women, not a curse.
However, in order to experience the bliss that results from Oxytocin, women must surrender to the pain they are feeling and trust their body to do what it is designed to do during labor and birth. The same concept applies to other areas of life. When we stop trying to control and fix our pain on our own, it subsides and becomes easier to deal with. When we accept pain and make the decision to trust God rather than leaning on our own attempts for control, the pain becomes bearable and sometimes even a source of inspiration. There are various websites and books that emphasize the importance of surrender in order for a woman to fully experience the joy in giving birth. Surrendering to the pain and letting go of fear as well as the need for control makes it easier to experience bliss in the process. It really makes sense, because when we try to fight pain we tense up, which just causes more pain. When we have faith in the fact that our bodies know what they are doing, the pain of birth becomes bearable, even joyful if we allow it. In the same way, when we surrender all control in our lives over to God, pain subsides as we learn to roll with it and fully experience what God is doing rather than suffering through our own false control of the pain in our lives.
When God designed the process of birth, he didn’t mean for it to be a repeating punishment, he meant for it to be an intense and incredible experience. The pain that is felt during birth as well as other experiences in life, emotional and physical, can be used as a blissful, inspiring and strengthening experience when we stop trying to fight it and instead find the joy in it. God’s love and perfect design can be found in every experience of life, even the painful ones. God created the process of birth to be a gift, not a curse!
The research that I used in this article was found from Sheila Kamara Hay’s website, www.ecstatic-birth.com, Debra Pascali Bonaro’s website, www.debrapascalibonaro.com, and Elizabeth Davis’ website, www.elizabethdavis.com. I highly recommend checking out these websites as well as the documentaries and books listed on them if you are interested in learning more.