New Life (Pregnancy)
It is profound to consider the myriad of processes that take place in the womb. Consider how many cells must multiply to get from two cells joining together to an infant at birth. We marvel at these incredible concepts. When we introduce our faith into this, we have even greater reason to stand in awe. Psalm 139 tells us:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Whilst we can’t see the God of creation at work in the womb, we see the evidence in everyone. God is knitting these lives together. He is active in the womb. He is not only interested in people when they can contribute towards his mission. He is interested and involved with every life, since conception. Every child, every infant, every cell multiplication is sustained by him. Every little life is in his eyes. The unborn child is not tissue, not a collation of atoms and molecules. No, he or she is ‘wonderfully made’ and ‘woven together’ by the author of life. He is right there in the womb.
Every pregnancy is unique
Each pregnancy has a story and each mother different experiences as she conceives her child. She starts a journey of becoming a new person, a new role, a new identity. Each mother will reflect on this with a range of emotions from utter joy and excitement to fear and dread. For some this is a much-anticipated transition: a long awaited for pregnancy; for others the pregnancy has many challenges, risks and is shrouded with fear and loss. There may be health complications; for others this pregnancy is unplanned, unexpected and an “inconvenience” or interruption to life and relational strain with family and community. Wherever mom finds herself, she needs emotional support during this journey – whether from friends or family.
Fathers have questions, too
Mom is going through the most changes in this season, but dad is also grappling and asking questions. There may be fears around how baby will impact the marriage, how the finances will work out, how he will protect and provide, whether he has capacity in this new season of life. This can feel overwhelming to dad. These are natural concerns but should not be overlooked. It is common that people move towards mom with support during pregnancy and dad does not feel like he has any role during this season. This can reinforce a message that dad has limited or no role in this season.
As baby is being woven together in her womb, mom is going through a range of changes. There is no ‘textbook pregnancy’ experience, allowing us to copy and paste our interactions for every mom. This means we need to listen, engage and lean in to truly understand and learn as we seek to serve mom. Every pregnant woman needs emotional support during her pregnancy.
You have a part to play
In this series of resources, we state that every mom and dad need to have care, support, to ‘be seen’ and belong within a loving community that can surround them as they journey through these new seasons. Read our post on responsive care for more information.
As an individual Christ-follower, what can you do to be part of this community of support? Firstly, it is about having the right posture towards mom and dad. You are firstly a friend, a confidant, a supporter, a cheerleader, a connector. You are not trying to be a doctor, midwife, doula or nurse or fountain of advice. So, keep treating them like normal human beings. Don’t make every conversation about pregnancy, baby or all the changes that are coming. Affirm and include mom and dad, inviting them into the normal social engagements that you had with them before. Affirm mom that she is key and her health is important.
Encourage mom to identify her support, like friends, family, community services and seek out help. Your support is through love and kindness. Encourage mom to seek out a mom’s group or antenatal group/class or other supportive groups spaces. Encourage mom to LEAN IN to her supportive structures whatever they are: family, friends, church. She need not do this on her own, she can and should ask for help and tap into her support systems in her journey into motherhood. Pray with mom and dad for baby, for the birth and for all the things that lie ahead. You may want to talk through what Bible devotionals or reading plans can be used in this season to prepare spiritually for the next stage of life.
Refer mom and dad to various services that are needed at this time. If you don’t know what is needed, feel free to invite in a more experienced mom or dad to share some what resources they used in their pregnancy(ies). This isn’t about instructing parents but connecting dots and helping them feel like there is someone that is supportive, caring and engaged. You may encourage them around the importance of their role as parents and how some priorities may need to shift to make that happen. Affirm them that they will grow into the role of parent; the season is intense and hard, but there are people to support and journey with them. The investment in baby now will bear fruit now and for years into the future.
If you have not yet had a child, or if you are uncertain how to make conversation with mom, here is a light-hearted look at what NOT to say. If you are looking for what kind of comments you can be saying, read this inspiring piece. These two resources can help to remove unhelpful comments from your vocabulary and add others that can be more helpful and upbuilding to expecting couples. Your tone should be encouraging and affirming, and avoiding shaming, judging and isolating at all costs. Best thing you can say is “You are pregnant! Congratulations!”
Practically, based on your context and the family, it may be helpful to offer lifts to antenatal classes, clinic check-ups and so on. Consider what practical things you can offer to help mom access as many necessary services as possible.
Avoid giving advice – there are mountains of information out there – don’t burden parents with every opinion you have. Rather affirm their own abilities to be great parents for their child. As they feel supported, they can confidently ask for input from others and search through other resources for what answers they are needing at that point.
Join with others to care and support
Wonderfully, Christian community is a naturally existing web of support that can be shaped around expecting couples.
When a couple announces that they are expecting a child, gather other believers around them to pray for them. Don’t wait until birth to engage: pray right then and there. As the birth day draws nearer, gather believers again to pray. Help mom and dad feel like they are seen in this season and can ask for support from a range of people.
You may want to host a baby shower for mom and dad. There are different cultural practices around this type of event and it is wise to check first what will be most appreciated. You could organize a small group of people to write hand-written letters for mom and dad in advance, to be opened within a few days of birth. This is a powerfully way of affirming mom and dad. You could also ask older men in the community to take dad out to share wisdom with him, to help prepare him.
Affirm mom and dad that they are still part of the community. Invite them to all the regular community events and involve them as usual.
Lean in, love and encourage
The season of pregnancy is a whirlwind of changes for mom and dad. Journeying with the family unity during this time is essential to prepare them for the changes that are coming – many of which are not predictable. Proverbs 15:22 reminds us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”. These advisers take the shape of ordinary, faithful believers who ‘lean in’ and encourage, support, love and ‘see’ moms and dads. As they surround them in loving community, they are better set up to flourish in this season. Who do you know that is in the season of pregnancy, who you can journey with?
Want to find out more? Read ‘How to care for families during pregnancy‘ – which includes a recording of a Sikunye Lunchtime Conversation. It contains tips, ideas and additional links. View it here.