Book Review: Holy Labor

Last summer I wrote a lot about HypnoBirthing and other birth methods and books (you can read that here, here, and here), and while in the end there were useful things gleaned from all the books I’ve read on birth, overall I was left with a sense of having to piece together my own “method” to practice and prepare for a natural, God-centered birth.

But I knew this book, “Holy Labor,” by Aubry G. Smith, was coming out and was so sad it wouldn’t be out until after Ellie was born. My parents gave it to me this year for Mothers’ Day and I devoured it pretty quickly and wanted to review it on my blog because of the way I ended my posts on HypnoBirthing so dissatisfied with birth books.

Summary
Holy Labor is a theology of childbirth: what scripture says about it (is there really a curse on women? Does Genesis 3 mean labor has to be painful?), how we should approach it because of who God is, and how it changes who we are.
She talks about relaxation in labor and some about the fear/pain connection.
Each chapter ends with spiritual disciplines and exercises to help apply what was talked about and prepare for labor and facilitate further, deeper worship of God, in and out of childbirth.
There is a lot of focus on natural childbirth, but I felt that she handled it well so that someone who didn’t have or didn’t want a natural birth wouldn’t feel judged (but I don’t have that experience so may not be the best person to speak on that).

While not designed to be a week-by-week labor preparation guide, I do plan on using it in the first part of the third trimester if we have another baby.

What I didn’t like
I didn’t fully agree with all her theology, but overall there wasn’t anything major I disagreed with, only the way she phrased some things or a rare paragraph. The biggest place this was an issue was in her chapter on justice and birth, but in reading the exercises part after the chapter I think it was more of an issue of wording than actual theology.

I wish it had included thoughts on more of pregnancy (morning sickness, for example) and postpartum (PPD), but it is about LABOR. I also wish it had been more, shorter chapters to make it easier to use across a trimester of pregnancy.
Those are the only ways I felt it was lacking anything talked about in Redeeming Childbirth (further comparison in the next section), along with that I really liked the emphasis in Redeeming Childbirth about building a God-centered birth culture and mentoring others in that (implied in Holy Labor, but not explicitly discussed).

What I liked
SO MUCH. 😉
I feel like overall it contained a lot of the same thoughts as Redeeming Childbirth but in a way that was more concise and theologically grounded, drawing from scripture more than personal experience and encouraging further study and worship, again, from scripture more than personal experience.
Holy Labor grew my understanding of both the physical and spiritual side of childbirth, and I know that if I were pregnant the exercises would have been so helpful to me in dealing with fears, body image, changing seasons, etc. by bringing me to God in prayer and worship, meeting those struggles with His character.

Highly, highly recommended!

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