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Divine Labor: The Role of the Jewish Birthing Coach

by Chana Luba Ertel

  

Library » Life Cycle » Birth » The Laws | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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It is written in Torah about the Hebrew women in Egypt, "For they are like midwives, before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth."1 Although this might be true occasionally for some women even today, it is also written, "I will greatly increase your suffering and your pregnancy, in pain shall you bear children."2   According to Jewish mysticism as explained by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg, the rectification for the sin, which caused pain in childbirth, is JOY.

How can women today provide themselves with an atmosphere during birth that will lend itself to increased joy? A return to the ways of Shifra and Pua, the supportive, comforting touch and instinctual calming demeanor of trained labor support professionals (a doula), allow women to find their own inner strenth during birth.

In accessing their inner strength to complete a challenge as great and awesome as childbirth, women increase personal joy. Finding and utilizing personal strength and G-dly intentions during birth can decrease the sensations of pain. The scope of professional labor support to Jewish women addresses their unique needs. Every woman in labor is deserving of the valuable and precious support of a doula, enabling them to fulfil G-d's will with Joy.

The exuberance of a woman who has given birth to a healthy baby with joy is invaluable!
Most labor support professionals help educate women about their birthing choices. They help devise a birth plan, advocate with and for them during their labor and provide loving support, both emotionally and physically. The purpose of labor support to Jewish women encompasses the above, as well as the spiritual and ritual aspects of birth, protecting modesty and assisting in the relationship between husband and wife.

Implementing all of these supportive measures help ensure that each woman will be as relaxed and comfortable as possible so she may have a blessed and joyous birth experience. The exuberance of a woman who has given birth to a healthy baby with joy is invaluable!

Labor assistants serve as a bridge between husband and wife, especially when the couple is Orthodox and the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Purity) are being observed. According to Jewish Law, whenever a woman's womb is open, she and her husband do not have marital relations nor any physical contact.

After her bleeding has ceased and after the proper preparations, she has immersed in a Kosher Mikvah (ritual bath), the couple is reunited in physical, marital harmony. These laws set the rhythms of a Jewish marriage. Labor support is important to every birthing woman, but it is vital for the those adhering to the  laws of Taharat Hamishpacha who are without the physical support of their spouse.

Religious men honor and value the work of labor assistants. They feel secure knowing that their wives will have the additional emotional support and the closeness of physical contact that they themselves cannot provide at this time. A professional labor assistant provides instructions, information and direction to expectant fathers as well. Her professional behavior helps ease any anxiety or insecurity many men may have about the birthing experience and the safety and well being of their wife and child.

Women do not feel alone or abandoned, aware that their labor assistant is there to support them one hundred percent. The family unit is not split due to separation, but linked with respect by the labor assistant.

Labor assistants act as advocates and protectors for women in labor. At times this advocacy is with the hospital staff, where her experience is of valuable assistance. At other times she helps communicating with family members, protecting both the wishes and modesty of the Orthodox woman during this special time.

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 1:19.
  • 2. Genesis 3:16.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.