As I have been struggling through the first trimester of this pregnancy (perhaps more than the previous pregnancy?), I was desperate for an uplifting, Biblical perspective on the sufferings I was undergoing. Certainly, they are not as bad as the suffering of infertility (for my sufferings are short in time and have a good end ahead), chronic illness, or so many other forms of suffering. But these truths do not negate the difficulties that one does indeed face, going through the nausea, the deep-down exhaustion, the struggle with caring for one's family in the midst of these challenges. That I am not suffering in the worst possible way does not negate that I am suffering as a pregnant woman, suffering in order to bring life into the world.
The suffering of pregnancy and childbirth is so significant that the Apostle Paul wrote about it in Romans 8 as a metaphor for the Christian life this side of heaven: "22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies" (NIV).
I have been struggling greatly with my attitude as well. I've been feeling sorry for myself and in sore need of perspective. In the midst of this struggle, I found myself searching the Christian pregnancy books on Amazon.com. The most intriguing title was Sarah Jobe's Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy (Paraclete Press).
Jobe had my attention right away when, in the prologue, she described her best friend, Holly, who couldn't wait to get her maternity clothes out of storage for yet another pregnancy. Holly loved pregnancy. But Jobe lets us know, "I love Holly. But I think you should know, right from the start, that I'm not that type of pregnant woman....I won't say that I hated pregnancy. But I can't say that I loved it either. Pregnancy was the most difficult endeavor I have ever undertaken." Jobe says this in spite of two uncomplicated pregnancies. It was simply the mundane miseries of being pregnant that were so difficult for her. I read this and thought, "Here is someone I can relate to!" Jobe has the added benefit of serving as a Baptist minister; I can also relate to her on the level of a woman in ministry (but her book would be beneficial for any Christian woman).
This book provided numerous insights from the Scriptures on how to deal with the indignities and sufferings of pregnancy. Jobe writes, "This book is about naming. But it's not about naming our babies. It's more about naming ourselves. In this book, I will muster up the courage of Eve, the courage that motherhood has given me, to make some bold and joyous proclamations. I will name the work of pregnancy as the work of God. I will name the pregnant women around me as the image of Christ. I will call the pains of pregnancy 'spiritual disciplines.'" So often the nausea, pain, tears, and exhaustion seem so pointless--especially before you can feel the baby move. The pregnancy seems theoretical; though you know you are growing a child in your womb, you have nothing but negative symptoms to tell you this. How good it is to know that it is not for nothing! God is seeking to bring spiritual growth in our lives in this time, in addition to the physical growth of our babies.
One of the most important areas of spiritual growth is learning to rest in God. Rather than frenetically doing and going, a pregnant woman must rest. Jobe writes, "We can try to work even when our bodies cry for us to do otherwise. Or we can rest like God does in Genesis. We can learn a Sabbath rest that God calls blessed and holy." Viewed this way, even the exhaustion of pregnancy is an opportunity, not a burden.
One of my favorite insights from the book was Jobe's point that the way a mother feeds her baby, both while the child is in the womb and through breastfeeding is a powerful metaphor for how Christ feeds us spiritually through communion. Just as Jesus said to us that His body is real food and His blood is real drink, so our bodies too become food and drink for our babies. This provides a very human connection point to understand one of the most challenging doctrines of the church and to understand it experientially.
There are many other powerful insights in this book. I found it extremely helpful in weathering the physical challenges of pregnancy and finding meaning in them. I also appreciated Jobe's conversational tone that was very accessible to any young mother. If there is any caution I would offer, it would be to be aware that there are female metaphors for God in this book. I did not, however, find them objectionable because each one was well supported from Scripture. There are times when Jobe uses female pronouns for God, which is not my preference, but because she was dealing with female-oriented metaphors each time she did this, I was able to follow her. She does not exclusively use female pronouns for God, which I found important. I hope this aspect will not keep women away from this book, however. There are so many insights Jobe provides that it is worth weathering a difference in terminology. I also trust Jobe's writing because it is solidly based in Scripture.
4.5 stars. Highly Recommended.