Pregnancy & Birth: A Theological Journey

A Review of Jodie McIver's "Bringing Forth Life: God's Purposes in Pregnancy and Birth"

We were at a friend’s house when I went into labour for the first time.

I’d had a long, frustrating day and had shed tears at multiple points, feeling that this pregnancy was dragging on with no end in sight. Watching a movie together, I noticed the tightenings I’d been having for weeks become more painful and regular. As the movie crawled on I found myself wriggling uncomfortably with each contraction. Our friends had three children, and I noticed them looking at me and then looking at each other with a small smile. My dear husband sitting beside me, however, was totally oblivious.

I made it to the end of the movie, by then in significant pain. Our friends suggested a cup of tea and my husband readily agreed. I quickly interrupted to say that I really thought it was time we left. My husband seemed very surprised by this, as I’m never one to leave a social gathering early. As we drove away he asked why I hadn’t wanted to stay for tea. “Because I think I’m in labour!” I yelled at him. I’m not sure I’d ever seen him look so shocked!

Bringing Forth Life: God’s Purposes in Pregnancy and Birth

Bringing Forth Life: God’s Purposes in Pregnancy and Birth

Youthworks Media. 170.

Pregnancy and birth bring a whirlwind of change. But beyond physical and emotional challenges, there is something even deeper going on.

Bringing Forth Life offers a unique look at pregnancy, birth and life with a newborn, preparing readers physically, emotionally and spiritually for these experiences and the Christlike transformation they promise. Weaving biblical perspectives and real women’s experiences together with the down-to-earth insights of a midwife, this book guides women and those supporting them along their childbearing journey. Bringing Forth Life goes beyond standard birth books as it leans on the wisdom of the ultimate life-giver to reveal the wonder and purpose of pregnancy.

Youthworks Media. 170.

After our daughter’s birth, those friends admitted they had known what was happening. On reflection, I wondered why I had wanted to keep it a secret. So much around pregnancy, labour and birth can be like this, can’t it? There is a layer of secrecy, of leaving things unsaid. Most of us don’t disclose when we are trying for a baby, or that we are pregnant until past the first trimester. While we might be happy to share our birth stories with others who have laboured, we might be more guarded with someone yet to experience it. Even more significantly, women can be slow to speak about the spiritual and emotional changes and challenges that can come with pregnancy and motherhood.

That’s why I believe Jodie McIver’s new book, Bringing Forth Life, is such a helpful one. McIver, a theologically trained midwife, speaks into this time of transition. She takes the reader on the journey of pregnancy, birth and life with a newborn from a physical, spiritual and emotional perspective. You can find hundreds of books on the practicalities of pregnancy and birth, but this book goes so much further. McIver places pregnancy and birth within the whole biblical narrative. She also takes the time to discuss the emotional and spiritual changes that can accompany this process for many women.’

I really appreciate the way Bringing Forth Life draws attention to the goodness and significance of being made female. Pregnancy, for many, is a time when women become more conscious of being female. Often, in a woman’s experience, the differences between the sexes might be downplayed up to this point, but now her body shows its unique ability to bring forth and nurture life. McIver sensitively explores ways in which this might be difficult, but ultimately points us towards finding contentment and joy in being made in the image of God as women.

McIver draws the connection between God bringing about the new birth and our own stories of bringing forth life from our bodies. Throughout the book we are encouraged to view this journey of childbirth not as an inconvenience to be managed, but as a means to appreciate and marvel at what our God has done for us in a new way. While not becoming beholden to the metaphor, McIver takes us through parts of the Bible that use labour as an image and draws similarities between the process of becoming mothers and what God has done to make us his children. We are given a theological perspective on the significance of birth.

McIver places pregnancy and birth within the whole biblical narrative.

The book draws deeply on the experience of many women, including the author herself, making it deeply personal and engaging. A range of feelings and attitudes to becoming a mother are explored. As a Christian midwife, McIver talks through different aspects of pregnancy care and how our faith might inform our approach to testing and delivery decisions. It is an Australian book, so the information about options for giving birth will differ in other countries. The book is not aiming to be an exhaustive guide to these matters and it usefully lists other resources. Questions for discussion and reflection also helpfully conclude each chapter. At times in the book the tension between being a healthcare provider and a Christian are evident. While McIver makes clear her biblically informed opinion on issues such as pregnancy termination, she stresses the choice of the individual.

I’m very thankful for the publication of Bringing Forth Life. It speaks to matters which those becoming mothers might not otherwise consider. It’s a perfect first read for Christians of both sexes who are beginning their journey of becoming parents. It would make a lovely gift on the occasion of a pregnancy announcement. As someone whose childbearing days are behind her, I found it encouraging to reflect on the ways in which our pregnancies and births can be a beautiful part of God’s bigger purposes.

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