A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. – John 16:21
Every time a baby is born, eternity comes down to our world. We feel joy in the arrival of a new human being and know that, in receiving an innocent soul, we have received something from the hand of the Creator himself – a life of unknown length in which, as the poet Philip Britts writes, "a new note will be sounded, a new color revealed."
No matter how difficult the circumstances of a birth, a baby's trusting gaze reminds us of God's love and tenderness. It is as if he or she is surrounded by the pure air of heaven. We can only marvel at the miracle of birth, and at the fact that a unique and original new life has been given by God.
But our modern, technologically oriented way of looking at things can quickly destroy this sense of wonder. For example, many people see birth as a merely biological process, and the new baby as a "product" of conception. But isn't there more to life than that? We are reminded of God's role in the mystery of new life every time a childless couple – after being told that they are infertile – leave their longing in God's hands and are then surprised by an unexpected pregnancy.
Dorothy Day writes that "even the most hardened, the most irreverent, is awed by the stupendous fact of creation. No matter how cynically or casually the worldly may treat the birth of a child, it remains spiritually and physically a tremendous event."
This attitude of awe and reverence should stay with us as we raise our children. Ultimately, our children do not belong to us — they are gifts entrusted to us by God. And if we hold on to this truth, we will want to bring them up in His stead.
Before I married, I had seen and held many babies. Each time it was a special moment. To see joy in the eyes of other new parents is wonderful, but to experience the arrival of your own child is something quite different. Nothing can prepare you for the moment when you hold your own baby in your arms – to realize, all of a sudden, that this is your baby, and that it belongs to no one else. The responsibility to raise a child is now on your shoulders.
After a birth, the mother should receive special congratulations. It is simply a fact that she is the one who has done all the hard work – the one who has carried the baby for many long months, and endured the agony and fears of labor. Too often, we fathers do not appreciate what our wives have done.
A mother's life is in danger every time she gives birth. Years ago, it was commonly said that a woman in labor has one foot in the grave, and this remains true even today, despite doctors' assurances that childbirth is a "normal process".
Therefore if a birth goes well, a special prayer should be said to thank God that the lives of both mother and child have been protected. When our first child arrived and the three of us were together for the first time, we lit a candle and thanked God – right in the hospital, with the nurses and the doctors who had helped us.
From Why Children Matter by Johann Christoph Arnold.