If I were asked to make a list of my most “life-changing experiences” there would be many that would fit the bill: my first job, getting married, or moving from one country to another are a few examples. However, the birth of my children may very well be at the top of that list, and for good reason—pregnancy and childbirth are truly miraculous.
Even though the entire experience is all at once joyous and terrifying, and the responsibilities a baby brings to its parents are certainly new and overwhelming; I would argue that what most qualify pregnancy and childbirth as “life changing” are the lessons we, mothers and fathers alike, can learn from them.
Pregnancy is one of Allah’s signs to His creation and is mentioned in the Qur’an in numerous places.
“And in the creation of yourselves and the fact that animals are scattered (through the earth), are Signs for those of assured Faith” (Qur’an45:4).
For nine months a woman’s body becomes a vessel, carrying, by Allah’s will, another life, and providing for it the sustenance to form everything characteristic of a human being.
Arguably, one of the most obvious lessons learned from this experience is about love—the love parents have for the child they are expecting, the love spouses have for one another, and the love we must have for our own mothers, for pregnancy reminds us of the enormous sacrifices our own mothers endured to bring us, by Allah’s will, into the world.
A Unique Experience
But what other lessons make this experience so unique, so life changing? Through this single experience we learn about both our strength and vulnerability—for women, the strength to withstand the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of labor, and our vulnerability as we face the trials of doing so.
In addition, this lesson applies to men, who are becoming more and more involved in their wives’ pregnancies and who often themselves coaching their wives through their deliveries. We are encouraged by the fact that so many before us have gone through this process, and are somehow united with them by this common bond.
However, we are also daunted by the fact that this experience, no matter how much we hear about it from others, will be our own, inimitable, just like the unique baby it produces. Thus both mother and father wait patiently in anticipation of something no one can fully prepare them for, and that patience helps strengthen them all the more.
Secondly, the creation of a human being is amazingly complex, and undoubtedly pregnancy teaches us to never take anything for granted. So many intricate steps must take place in precise order for a baby to form, and if one small detail, even just one gene, is altered, the results can be dramatic. And moreover, all of these steps are occurring in a way that is totally beyond our control—in a world unseen. As Allah says:
“He created you (all) from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate…He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness. such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher” (Qur’an: 39:6).
Only Allah ultimately knows the result of each pregnancy and we should never feel self-assured that we are in control. This lesson is applicable in all aspects of our life, but pregnancy makes it very tangible. Even something as simple as “boy or girl” is ultimately in the hands of Allah alone:
“He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan)” (Qur’an: 42:49).
Keep Your Reliance on Allah
Pregnancy also teaches us very clearly that we must have reliance (tawakkul) on Allah, especially in a world where medical interventions during pregnancy and labor are very much on the rise.
Doctors observe, run tests, make predictions, and plan procedures, but in the end we must remember that they are only means that Allah provides for us. The results are always by the Grace and Will of Allah and we should keep our hearts attached to Him as the only source of our success.
That being said, we should do everything in our ability to make sure our pregnancies are healthy and take all the measures toward that end. However while doing so our trust, our tawakkul, should be in Allah. We do as He commands us and then remove all doubt, suspicion and regret from our hearts.
One of the last things pregnancy teaches us is that everything in our life happens for a reason, and this is especially important to remember when things in our pregnancies or deliveries don’t go according to our plans.
Some pregnancies don’t carry to term, while others turn high risk and require women to remain on bed rest for months at a time. And of course, despite all our planning, no one can predict the exact moment when (or where) a baby will arrive, and more often than not, babies pay no mind to the due date which has been assigned to them! So although we may sometimes be disappointed or upset when things don’t as we had thought they would, we may simply be reminded that Allah is the best of planners. He knows that which we do not know.
Not surprisingly, Allah specifically connects the concept of His complete Knowledge to the topic of pregnancy and childbirth.
“He bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren whom He will: for He is full of Knowledge and Power” (Qur’an: 42:50).
In addition to this, Allah promises us He is the Most Merciful toward us. Again this concept is connected to the topic of pregnancy in a hadith where the Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us that indeed, Allah is more merciful towards His servants than a mother is to her own child.
Umar Ibn al-Khattab (ra) relates that some prisoners were brought before Allah’s Messenger (saw) and amongst them was a woman who was frantically searching for someone in the crowd. When she found a baby amongst the prisoners, she took it in her arms, cradled it next to her chest and suckled it. So Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: “Do you think that this woman would ever throw her child into the fire?” We said: ‘By Allah, Never!’ So he said: “Allah is more merciful to His believing servants than that mother could ever be to her child.” [Bukhari (10/426) & Muslim (18/80)].
Therefore, when things don’t go as we expect, or when we are afflicted by trials during our pregnancies or after our babies are born, we should do our best to trust that even though we might not understand the wisdom or reason behind certain events, they are surely for the best.
The lessons we can learn from pregnancy and childbirth are numerous and manifold, and although a short article could not encompass them entirely, they all reinforce the Greatness of Allah and the importance of fulfilling our duties to Him. If we can come away from our pregnancies with a stronger relationship to Allah swt, then our lives will be richer in meaning because of them, and will truly be changed for the better.
First published: May 2014