Book Review: Redeeming Childbirth

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It took me a little while, but I finally finished Redeeming Childbirth by Angie Tolpin.  I posted briefly about it before (see comments) and I feel that my thoughts are only slightly more concrete now after completing the book.  Bear with me as I try to type things up and keep it a reasonable length.  😉

Would I recommend this book?  Yes and no.

Yes, because it is definitely thought-provoking and challenging.  I have never heard anyone speak about birth in this way.  “We need to be careful not to compartmentalize birth out of our spiritual lives, but instead glorify Him by how we birth our children.”  (page 89) “This is the foundation of this book – to encourage you to surrender control and your will to the Lord in regard to childbirth.” (pg 221)  Sure, I have heard people say that if you are a Christian, all things fall under His jurisdiction.  But I have never heard anyone talk about birth specifically being submitted to Christ….or how to submit that birth experience to Christ.

Throughout the book, Angie covers topics like fears in pregnancy, who to invite to your birth, how to go about making decisions for your birth, etc.  Each topic is discussed in relation to completely surrendering to God.

One of her main points was that the church needs to come together on the matter of birth.  There ought not be this huge divide over “hospital births” vs. “home births.”  In the church, we are all part of the same Body, we are all sisters in Christ.  There should be no judgment.  God can just as well be present at a birth in the hospital as He can at home….not at all as God’s “second choice” but because God’s plans for each woman and each birth are different.  At first I was somewhat surprised by how she talked about this divide in church.  I didn’t see it to be anywhere near as big a problem as she seemed to.  But as I went through the book I saw more and more how much  judgment there is between the two sides.  People who are pro hospital judge the other side, because they are hippies, or not willing to take advantage of medical advances, or risking their lives or their babies lives.  People who are pro home birth judge the other side because they are just following a system or risking their lives or their babies lives.  There are many assumptions made on both sides and many judgments.  This ought not be.

(Side note: I loved how she talked about the home birth vs. hospital debate.  In her section on fears, she covered the question of where you should decide to give birth.  She asked the question, “Are you making your decision out of fear?”  Are you afraid to give birth at home for x, y, or z reason?  Are you afraid to give birth at a hospital for x, y or z reason?  She then talked about how Jesus died to free us from fears and we should never be making decisions and living in bondage to any fear.  That decision is made through seeking God, looking at your situation, and educating yourself on the issues at hand.)

Another main focus was that on Titus 2 mentoring.  Angie feels so deeply that God has beautiful plans and purposes for birth…plans and purposes that are so rarely seen and talked about…that it is her passion to show women how birth can look so that they in turn can show others.  Birth is about honoring God.  It is about proclaiming Him and His design for our bodies, for our parenting, and for our eternal heritage.

On the other hand, however, part of me would not recommend this book.  I must state that there were quite a few typos and grammatical errors, which I know does not necessarily detract from any truth in the book.  It was very distracting at times, however.  In many cases, she was also quite repetitive.  Topics that seemed to be covered pretty well in depth were re-addressed later, not seeming (to me) to add much more to the thought.  But putting those minor distractions aside, there were also several instances where I had to pause and think about some of her Scripture references.  I do believe that several times verses were taken out of context.  On a few occasions, it also seemed that the author was becoming more “touchy feely” about Who God is and how He acts.

A few times she talked about pain in childbirth as if it was a sin to cry out during painful contractions.  While I agree with her points that pain is compounded when you focus on it, and if your mind is focused on things above, it can’t very well be focused on things on the earth…I do not believe that it is wrong to have intense intense pain during birth.  Or that it is wrong to cry out or scream.  (I’m not entirely sure that she was saying it was a sin…but I was definitely confused by what she was saying.)  I guess the question is…where does your mind go during that pain?  After that pain?  Is it concentrating on how terrible it was?  Is it telling you the lie that you can’t go on?  Or are you rejoicing in God’s mercy that it is over and you are one step closer to meeting your child?

Personally, I was very challenged by several things.  Through her book, I was able to really work through some things…such as releasing my desire to have a midwife (which…might be a whole post in and of itself), letting go of specific fears I have, asking God’s forgiveness for my judgmental heart toward our doctor and nurses, and really seeking Him in regard to our birth plan.  I realized how much I was trying to wrap my hands around “my birth.”  I wanted to control.  Some things really scared me and I wanted to make sure that the scary things didn’t happen to me.  I came to realize two things.  A) This is not my birth.  This birth and the whole experience belongs to God.  He is the One who gave us this child and He is the One who will bring me through labor and delivery.  B) I can’t control.  God is in charge.  God has a perfect plan.  I can plan all I want, but it must be surrendered to His will.

Bottom line: Several of the sections were absolutely amazing for me to read.  Several sections….I struggled with.  I debated almost the whole way through if I would keep the book after I finished reading.  I have decided to keep it, as the sections that were helpful were REALLY helpful.  But it is not a book that I would recommend to just anyone.  I think there would be a select few that I would recommend the book to, and those would be people that I know would read very carefully, truly holding it up to the light of Scripture.

This book has given me so much peace about birth.  I am excited to experience labor and delivery, even though I know that it will likely be way more painful that I can even imagine.  And I really look forward to sharing what I have learned with others.  This IS such an important issue and I want to see God glorified…in my birth and in my friend’s births!

-Bonnie

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One thought on “Book Review: Redeeming Childbirth

  1. Interesting thoughts. I agree that we shouldn’t judge others for home/hospital birth choices – I’ve done both now, for different reasons, and have many friends who’ve done both, and I know it’s a personal choice that is made for a variety of reasons. You have to decide what is best for you and your baby. As for crying out during labour… well, Ina May Gaskin recommends yelling, I believe, because it opens your mouth and that helps open your cervix. 🙂 On the other hand, I think it’s Pam England who says your birth will reflect your personality; if you are an outgoing, boisterous person usually, you’ll be loud during labour; if you’re a quiet, introverted person, you’ll be quiet during labour (that’s me, for the most part). And if I’ve learned anything after three labours – it’s that you can’t control it. 🙂 I’d also find the typos annoying, but I’m a grammar geek. Thanks for sharing your review. 🙂

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