The other day, I received a comment which really struck a cord with me. "I find the idea of pregnancy and childbirth terrifying," - it stated, - "I may be misled, but I have never known anyone who went through a 'normal' pregnancy and birth." The commenter then proceeded by saying that if birth control and abortion were made illegal, she would choose to remain celibate for the rest of her life.
I don't know the age of the lady in question, but if you belong to my generation, if you are a single, college-educated young woman, it's no wonder you are terrified of pregnancy and childbirth! A few weeks ago, my husband forwarded to me the summary of a university lecture about pregnancy and childbirth, given at medical school, which portrayed pregnancy as something very near to an abnormal, pathological process in a woman's body. As I sat there, shaking my head in disbelief and reading about every possible nasty complication I might have experienced by this stage of pregnancy, I felt exceedingly sorry for the young childless women who listened to this lecture. Undoubtedly, they were shuddering with horror by the end of it, just at the thought of ever becoming pregnant. I know I would be exceedingly terrified of pregnancy if it was ever presented to me in such a way.
Am I saying nothing can ever go wrong during pregnancy and birth? No. Am I saying medical schools are not to teach about different problems that may arise? Again, no. But here's the catch: you'll never know the majority of pregnancies and births are routine, healthy and normal, if you don't have the chance to get to know more than a few pregnant women and mothers of little children - and that's unlikely to happen on a college campus. In an age where pregnancy is a rare phenomenon, childbirth is an artificially controlled surgical procedure, and the few babies and children are locked away in daycare, fertility simply isn't seen as a normal part of our life cycle anymore.
Even I, as much as I hoped and prayed for a baby, was at a bit of a loss when I became pregnant. I don't recall seeing too many pregnant women growing up - I'm an only child, and most of my friends had one sibling at best. None of us, growing up, had the experience of holding, cuddling, or rocking a baby. Not that long ago, when our baby niece was born and very matter-of-factly placed in my arms for the first time, I hardly knew how to hold her!
The pathological fear of childbirth, as I found out, is known by the name of tokophobia. According to this article, "one woman in six is so terrified of giving birth that she induces a miscarriage or avoids becoming pregnant altogether, even though she desperately wants children." While I'm not sure whether to believe these numbers, I know: the fear of pregnancy and childbirth is there. Many of the young women I know, while not pathologically terrified, find the thought of pregnancy, birth and motherhood disturbing, and say that they will do everything to obtain a very limited, fully controlled experience of the above (one child, elective c-section, no intention to breastfeed).
I think part of the problem is the degree of separation between sex and motherhood our culture teaches. From a very young age we are encouraged to have "safe" sex, but at the same time avoid having a baby for the next 10, 15, 20 years, because "it will ruin your life". We are encouraged to pursue teenage bodies and teenage desires; mature, adult motherhood, with its challenges and sacrifices, is something we are supposed to avoid as long as possible. So how will we welcome a baby into our life without fear?
When I became pregnant, I later realized that I - mostly due to lack of knowledge than anything else - was subconsciously preparing myself for nine months of being completely unfunctional. I had no idea how my body would work, and was delighted to find out that, despite a few weeks of nausea and some general weakness here and there, I'm still able to lead a very normal life - nurturing my marriage, spending time with friends and family, settling in our new home, cooking, baking, reading, studying - while delighting in the joys and wonders of a tiny baby growing inside me. This is how most women I know describe their pregnancies. We live in a place where you'll see women with tummies at various degrees of roundness whenever you're out and about, and they all look perfectly cheerful and healthy.
Of course, I still have before me roughly four months of pregnancy and the delivery of a baby, but now I'm able to face these prospects without irrationally fearful expectations. I know this is what God designed my body for, and therefore a normal outcome is the rule, not some rare, miraculous exception.