birthing and dying

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Any woman who has been pregnant has probably experienced at least a few moments like this. Even in the most uncomplicated and easy birth, there are moments where one realizes just how close she is to the divide between life and death. Men and women both live out the consequences of original sin with sorrow and toil in their daily lives. One is not superior to the other.
A few of my midwife friends have also done hospice work. They all tell me there is an amazing similarity between preparing someone to give birth and/or to die well. As Catholic Christians, we are called to pray for a 'good death' but what we mean by that is very different from euthanasia (which literally translates to 'good death'). The good death in Catholic tradition is one in which the Sacraments are present, the person has had time to prepare for the journey, and any suffering has been offered up in union with the suffering of Christ on the cross. Hopefully, the person dying will be surrounded by family and friends all saying the Prayers for the Dying.
Those of you who are cradle Catholics - are there any specific prayers for a women in childbirth? I know that there were prayers of thanksgiving after birth (the so-called 'Churching of Women"). I know that during some of my labors I simply clung to the verse of Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me".
St Gerard, St Gianna, pray for all pregnant women, especially those now laboring to give birth.
St Joseph, pray for us that we be given the grace of a happy death.


Thank you for posting the link to this wonderful essay. At 33 weeks with my first pregnancy I am beginning to feel a mixture of fear and joy already, perhaps like what one ought to feel in the face of death.

thanks for this. my last labour was 37 hours of pure pain. i would never had endured it without the image of the cross before me. and i do feel more prepared for death. still frightened, though.

sorry bout the lower-case. nak-ing.

When I was 7 years old I discovered my mothers books on childbirth. I was fascinated. I thought at the time that there would be no greater honor than to help a couple give birth, and decided to become a midwife. Well, I have yet to realize that dream. But I have worked with a number of hospice patients and their families. I have found the same honor in helping families through the death process. I think you are right about the connection. Thank you for the essay.

After the homebirth of our 6th child (and first homebirth), I read a book that made a reference to the Celtic tradition of "thin places"... moments or places where the barrier between the temporal and spiritual is most thin. I could relate that to my feelings during birth and, in fact, also to the room where our baby was born.

I had to go read the post. If you have time, read my comment.

Around Easter we will have our newest little guy around, and the birth will be over with. It is funny how even a midwife can not exactly look forward to the labor process- but I do look forward to it being over!

I don't mind the pushing part, but part of me wishes it wouldn't burn and sting quite so much. And I don't like the fundal massage after the placenta, nor the cramping (thank goodness for Motrin!). Those snuggly little babies are so worth it though, and we are reminded of it especially when they are big enough to hug and kiss you back!

The dying comes with the living, and it starts with giving up comfort for the discomforts of pregnancy and the pains of labor...

I hope to look back one day and find out that we've done ok.


We still do have prayers for the Churching of the woman/mother. Traditionally they are done 40 days after birth- not sure why off the top of my head.

We have them in the Eastern Rite as part of the Baptism/Chrismation/Holy Eucharist ceremony (so it can be either before or after 40 days, depending on timing).

I do have some prayers for mothers...they are packed up in boxes at the moment though. Remind me and I will send some off to you when I have a chance

Here is a blessing I found.

"Lord God, Creator of the human race, your Son, through the working of the Holy Spirit, was born of a woman, so that he might pay the age-old debt of sin and save us by his redemption.

Receive with kindness the prayer of your servant as she asks for the birth of a healthy child. Grant that she may safely deliver a son or a daughter to serve you in all things, and to gain eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Here's another:

God has broght gladness and light to the world through the Virgin Mary's delivery of her child. May Christ fill your heart with His holy joy and keep you and your baby safe from harm. In the name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I found some more:

Prayer for a Happy Delivery
(To St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, and the Blessed Virgin Mary)
St. Elizabeth, through the great blessing which, at the birth of your son John, you received from God, I beseech you to obtain for me the grace that I may be preserved from all danger, and happily bring my child into the world! Amen.
Venerable mother, St. Anne, obtain for me, through your ever blesssed child, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that no accident may befall me, but that my child may come safe and sound into the world. Amen.
O Mary, Mother of my Redeemer, through your high prerogative and your only Son, I pray you to abtain for me the help and blessing of God, that I may happily survive the pains of delivery, and that my child may receive the grace of holy Baptism! Amen.

Here is one for "One in Childbirth"

Hail, O Queen of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, Consolation of life, and Joy of them that love you! To you do we cry for the poor sufferer. In your maternal goodness, take pity on her. Abandon her not in her pains, since she reposes a childlike confidence in you. Through your own blessed delivery and your Divine Son, stand by her and rejoice her with a happy delivery, that she may gratefully praise your mercy! In all our troubles and necessities, we fly to you for help, O Blessed Virgin Mary. Amen.

Prayer to Jesus Christ
O Good Savior, we implore You, by Your most blessed Mother, by her most pure and immaculate viginity, by all the merits that she acquired as Mother and Virgin help this poor sufferer, relieve her pains, and console her with a happy delivery. Grant her this grace for Your own honor, O You Who are eternally gracious and merciful, and Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever and ever! Amen.


Thank you for this post. I'm going in tomorrow morning for a c-section - my third. (The last one was less than 13 mos ago, so no chance for a VBAC).

I've never had a natural birth, though I sure tried for one the first time. So my experience has been a bit different than the essay describes. With a caesarian, you do most of the suffering in the weeks *afterward*, while trying to heal from major abdominal surgery. But suffering is suffering, and can still be offered up. Even if it's not natural - not exactly how God intended birth to be - it's still suffering for the sake of bringing new life into the world, so I have to believe it has some value. Thanks again and God bless.

In Jesu et Maria,

I'll hold you and your family in prayer tomorrow.
I think that the suffering from a cesarean has got to be worse than labor - at least with labor you get a reward at the end, and with the cesarean you are holding your reward but are still in pain.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on January 29, 2005 10:05 AM.

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