The Labor of Faith, Hope and Love: A Birth Worker's Reflection

A single mom, and immigrant from Peru, was greatly helped during her first birth by Tara Garner's support and advocacy.

A single mom, and immigrant from Peru, was greatly helped during her first birth by Tara Garner's support and advocacy.

Assisting women in childbirth is a profound responsibility. The art of midwifery is a sacred occupation which requires a midwife's faith at absolutely every single birth. It is not her faith in the birth process, in the woman’s laboring body, or in the baby’s instincts to do its part that is so paramount. Rather, it is her faith in God, the Creator of all three; partnering with the author of life and breath itself makes her responsibility profound.

Birth is a normal physiological process, and yet it can present unpredictable circumstances at any given moment. No matter how seasoned or skilled a midwife or obstetrician is, neither can predict a baby’s sudden presentation or position change, an umbilical cord wrapped three times around a baby’s neck, a baby who will need assistance to breathe after its born, or how much blood a mother might lose after she gives birth.

The moments surrounding birth are some of life’s most delicate matters to be handled with the greatest of care and, again, with faith! Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things NOT seen (Heb. 11:1). Such a God-orchestrated mystery demands the response of faith because if fear becomes the response, the birthing mom and baby will likely suffer negative consequences.

Elise Buckner, a NOVA doula and childbirth educator, assisted with prenatal care and in the process of labor with indigenous midwives in El Salvador.

Elise Buckner, a NOVA doula and childbirth educator, assisted with prenatal care and in the process of labor with indigenous midwives in El Salvador.

So then, love also becomes a crucial component in assisting women in birth because God’s Word tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. When love abounds, it’s easier to act without fear (1 John 4:18). As birth attendants, we can be the catalysts for such love, helping birthing mothers to even connect with God during the greatest work of her life. Often whatever fills our heart and mind transpires directly to the mother we are serving.

Several years ago, I attended the birth of a young, single mother whose language I could barely speak. She had no support system whatsoever and consequently, was one of the most petrified moms I’d ever seen in birth. With each contraction, her eyes bulged open and her entire body shuddered in terror. All she could do was clutch my neck, or sometimes my entire body, with all her might and weep. This continued for hours.

Megan Fleeman, a NOVA doula and childbirth educator, helped serve this mother and child throughout the birth process while she was studying abroad in Uganda. The smile on the mother's face expresses NOVA's goal for the humanization of mother and baby: this is supposed to be a happy day.

Megan Fleeman, a NOVA doula and childbirth educator, helped serve this mother and child throughout the birth process while she was studying abroad in Uganda. The smile on the mother's face expresses NOVA's goal for the humanization of mother and baby: this is supposed to be a happy day.

At one point, we were both just exhausted. Fear does that to people. When I realized my presence and words weren’t enough to comfort her, I started singing. It was either sing or cry right along with her. I chose faith. I chose to sing. This was a big deal for me because I am not a singer, especially in public! But I knew I had to do something more to demonstrate the kind of love that would cast out her fear. I knew that the baby was not going to come out well with so much fear surrounding it. I sang the only song I knew in her language, a song about God’s great and incomparable faithfulness. As I sang, I could feel the atmosphere in the room change - from heavy to light, chaos to peace. Looking back now, it seems I needed that song as much as she did - to remember God would be faithful to see this precious girl through, to remember that He was with us in that room, to remember that faith, hope, and love were the answer to help squelch the fear.

Many midwives around the world who are trying to serve, even save the lives of women in need around them, are put in positions where they must have faith in God amidst broken health and maternity care systems. Systems are regulated (if that’s what we can call it) by corrupt governments that place a higher value on monetary gain than the lives of women and children. Often, they put their resources in corporate infrastructure instead of the medical system intended to save lives, leaving their hospitals understaffed, under-equipped and overwhelmed with need.

Mothers literally risk their lives to give birth in these environments, because their malnourished bodies cannot handle the natural life-giving process. So, the unnatural circumstances that poverty brings to the situation can introduce dozens of complications to an otherwise safe and natural birth. Due to systemic issues of poverty that are imbedded into the day-to-day lives of women (and not the birth process itself), women suffer through what should be a most beautiful moment in their lives.

Unfortunately, many aid organizations are implementing "solutions" that aren't beneficial for these vulnerable mothers: many offer to take away the birth process from mothers by sterilizing them, or teach them that unnecessary, voluntary interventions such as c-sections are healthy alternatives. Amidst all of this, they utilize media and other enculturation devices to cause mothers to fear the process of bringing forth life.

As birth workers, we are training up doulas and midwives of faith who, in the most hopeless situations, choose to demonstrate faith and love. We will be servants who can enter the most dire environment with mother and baby and, along with the presence of God, change the atmosphere and bring with us an air of peace and security.

1 Thessalonians 1:3We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.