This review is a stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life.
It’s called The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth. It’s a compilation of essays by Felice Austin, CHt; Lani Axman; Heather Farrell, CD(DONA); Robyn Allgood, AAHCC; and Sheridan Ripley, HCHI; all Latter-Day Saint women who have made pregnancy and birth an important part of their lives in one way or another. It’s also a collection of birth stories from other LDS women (and one man!) through the lens of their faith. At its most basic, it’s about how pregnancy and birth are essential to God’s plan for us, and how birth can and should be a sacred event.
But The Gift of Giving Life is so much more than that. It could have been a compilation of saccharine stories about perfect, pain-free home births and essays full of platitudes and worn out doctrines. Instead, it is a well-thought-out collection of historical records, relevant research, and examples–both scriptural and modern–of how giving birth is a sacred experience, even when the surrounding circumstances are not ideal.
There are stories of women who experienced fertility struggles, multiple miscarriages, abandonment, and abortion. One story was by a birth mother who gave her child up for adoption; another was from an adoptive mother’s perspective. The stories are written by women who gave births in hospitals and homes, with and without drugs, vaginally or by C-section, exactly as they had planned or under wildly unpredictable circumstances. Their experiences are vastly different from one another, yet the common thread throughout is the faith that sustained each new mother. Prayers were offered and answered. Priesthood blessings were asked for and received. The Holy Ghost provided direction, strength, comfort, and healing, and angels were in attendance as tiny new lives were brought into the world.
Much as I love a good birth story, though, the essays were the highlight of the book for me. They are grouped into topics that you might find in any other book about pregnancy and birth, like “Preparation,” “Fear,” and “The Fourth Trimester,” as well as subjects more likely to be found in a Sunday School manual, such as “Personal Revelation” and “The Atonement.” Where other books would give pregnancy-specific advice and share worst-case scenarios, these essays focus on how giving birth and living the gospel go hand in hand.
Heather Farrell delves into the history and legacy of midwifery in the church. Felice Austin discusses the importance of meditation, specifically during pregnancy but with suggestions that would be beneficial for anyone seeking clarity and communion with the Spirit. Robyn Allgood talks of choice and accountability, explaining that the better informed a woman is, the more prepared she will be to both make good choices and respond well to the choices of others or the uncontrollable circumstances she might face. My favorite essay, ‘Two Veils” by Heather Farrell, draws some fascinating parallels between the two trees in the Garden of Eden, the “two veils” we all cross through birth and death, and the different but equally divine stewardships of women and men.
Something that struck me was how frequently the Savior is mentioned. As mentioned above, an entire chapter is devoted to the Atonement, but references to it are scattered throughout the book. The authors frequently make connections between bodily sacrifices a mother makes and the literal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As I read, the parallels seemed so obvious that I couldn’t believe I’d never realized many of them before. For me it signified that all things truly do testify of Christ, and I appreciated the gentle reminder.
Because each section is short–usually only a few pages–it makes for an easy read. Honestly, there were a few sections I might have skipped over had I not been trying to be thorough, but that’s the beauty of a book like this. It is structured so that you don’t have to read it cover to cover, but can jump around as you find topics or stories that are more relevant to your situation or interests.
Despite its obvious focus, The Gift of Giving Life is about more than just the “divine nature of pregnancy and birth.” It’s about the divinity of womanhood in general. It reaffirmed my conviction that our Heavenly Father is mindful of all His children, and that we as His daughters have an especially powerful and divine destiny.
Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.
Seguallah readers can use a coupon code for 10% off a copy of The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and after you add the book to your cart use this coupon code. GWFWXR3F This code is good until Father’s Day 2012.