And then, I became a mom.
My doula told me beforehand that I would find it spiritually empowering. I thought that was just goofy talk, so I nodded politely as she described how that sense of empowerment would spill over into all other dimensions of personal and professional life. I couldn't see how giving birth would make me a better theologian.
That was beforeI gave birth.
Many people have written and remarked on the role of their children or grandchildren in bringing them to a realization of the arbitrary limitations of gender within our churches. But that's not what I want to write about. Giving birth didn't teach me the absurdity of gender injustice within the kingdom of God--I was already aware. Giving birth taught me how to love being a woman, a lesson I didn't yet know I hadn't actually learned.
It's not that I ever wanted to be a man. It's just that, till then, being a woman was somehow always framed in the negative. And it was so normal that I didn't even realize it. I--still--didn't think of myself primarily as a woman, except for those instances when I was forced to, in recognition of the limitations of my gender. I still on some level thought of myself as a person, or a student, something generic--"man" in that grammatical universal sense supposedly divorced from actual gender. Female embodiment was sort of accidental, a historical and genetic contingency, and sort of irrelevant. I did, after all, spend a lot of time living in my head.
Pregnancy rewrote my concepts of woman and embodiment. Being a woman was suddenly revelatory, life-giving, positive, superlative, something other but also more than generic "man." I loved my body in a way I never had before; I bought tubs and tubs of cocoa butter not so much out of fear of stretch marks but for the sheer joy of rubbing my growing belly. I reveled in the compliments, which seemed to grow in proportion to my midsection. I had never before felt so beautiful, so at home in my own skin.
Birth rewrote my concepts of spirituality and materiality: who could have known that the most holy moment of my life would occur amid water and blood and shit? Or rather, how could I have missed that messy, bodily, out-of-bounds birthing is at the very center of Christian faith? That birth and rebirth are a privileged metaphor of the spiritual life within Christianity?
Maria was right: it has made me a better theologian.
I don't want to claim that this experience is necessary for a "true" understanding of Christian faith. Not everyone gets to have this experience of birthing: obviously, men do not, but neither do all women. But this is my story. This was my road to wholeness: the birth of my daughter, which rebirthed me, not as the false generic "man," but as a woman. Finally.