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Monday, November 29, 2010

Mormons-Eve-and childbirth

I just read an old blog post that was discussing why Mormon women might prefer natural childbirth over a more medicalized view. It was over a year ago so I didn't leave a comment but decided to blog about it here and place it under my LDS birth culture series. While I have never done any research on this I have talked to numerous LDS women about their birth choices and this post will reflect those discussions as well as my own believes.

There are two things that I hear other women bring up when they talk about LDS birth culture...eve's curse and the dominate male hierarchy. I am going to discuss both of these from what LDS women are taught now and my own experiences as well as experiences of other women that I have discussed this with. While both of these are brought up as reasons for Mormon women's childbirth choices it has been my experience that most Mormon women base their choices off of the prevalent American culture more than their religion.

Another thing I have seen is that those who conscientiously make their choices(whether for a more medicalized birth or not) do so on the assumption that life is sacred-that their bodies are sacred-and that the process of birth and motherhood should be sacred. From what I have seen these assumptions form more a part of their choices than eve's curse or a male hierarchy. That said I don't pretend to speak for all LDS women. This blog is just based off of my own observations and beliefs.

A prevailing thought hundreds of years ago among the Christian world is that the pain of childbirth was given to women as a curse for disobedience and therefore she should suffer pain. In fact there was a lot of debate about whether women should be offered medication during birth because of this. As I was looking through talks and scriptures I couldn't find a specific doctrine that said women must experience pain during childbirth. Of course there is the scripture in Genesis that talks about how Eve will bear children in sorrow and Adam would have to work by the sweat of his brow (See Genesis 3). But there is nothing that says that those pains and sorrows should not be alleviated. They are more a consequence of mortality. What is notable about how the Mormon religion teaches the Fall is that it not seen as something bad. It was seen as something necessary and ultimately good. Therefore what Eve did was good and she is never berated in the LDS religion for making the choice to partake of the fruit and enter mortality. (For a good article on how Mormons view the Fall go here).

Dallin H. Oaks makes this statement in regards to how Mormons view Eve and her role in mortality:

"It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25). UAdd a Note

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,”Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (inJournal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith,Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).

The question then is...if what eve did brought about mortality and pain in childbirth...then should women be made to suffer in childbirth? Or is it ok to us our knowledge and understanding to help women during birth?

In my own view all pains and trials are a consequence of the fall. Therefore if we believe that the pain of childbirth should not be alleviated then the pain of any sickness should not be alleviated. That said some LDS women may hold to the belief that women are supposed to suffer during childbirth and that we shouldn't try and alleviate their discomforts. It's not something that I have ever heard anyone tell me myself though. It's certainly not something I believe. It seems to me that it's a matter of interpretation.

Here's a few threads that have discussed this concept. It kind of gives an idea of what others of the LDS faith belief in regards to Eve and childbirth. These are not doctrinal(meaning they are not taught as scripture) and are just various members thoughts/ideas.

And here is an interesting thought I found from this blog:

"Did God curse Eve? We know that the ground was cursed for the sake of Adam and Eve—is this a cursing of Adam and Eve? In the teachings of the LDS Church, we do not believe that that was a curse meant to punish them—it was a curse meant to start that law of opposites that undergirds agency: virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, light and darkness, truth and lies (2 Ne 2:11-13). Eve was told she would labor in childbirth—was this a cursing of Eve? Again, from the LDS perspective, absolutely not. To have children, to be able to fully give the gift of Eve, is one of the most soul-satisfying parts of a woman’s life that she will either experience here or in the hereafter if circumstances have prohibited it here."

My own thoughts on Eve's curse...I don't believe it was a curse. It was a condition of mortality that helps us learn and grow. I absolutely believe that nurturing life and giving birth has stretched me to be a much better person and mother. I believe that my natural births have done the same. But I also acknowledge that those who have medicated births have also grown from the process. I find no problem with helping women achieve a more satisfying birth-whether by medication or other means of relieving pain. I actually think that helping to do so is a part of the whole equation.

I'll post in my next blog about patriarchy(man I'm getting controversial:)) and the role that might or might not play in how Mormon women view birth.

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Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.