The Mormon people have gotten speculation, criticism, and even, on occasion, praise, for their lifestyle. While much of it seems like a closed-door society filled with secret and strange beliefs and customs, childbirth is relatively normal for the most part. What we consider normal, however, is not necessarily what they consider to be normal and there are some things that make us scratch our heads and go, "wait, what?" It's a unique society with strict rules and an even stricter religion, but there are reasons for everything in a Mormon community.
Some things are harshly condemned while others are welcomed, and some...Well, some are just between couples and their God. Childbirth is a unique experience but also one that has religion centered in every aspect of it, as well as in the time leading up to and after giving birth. Some of these points may not surprise you and some may be appalling to those of us who aren't familiar with the lifestyle, but it's a straight way of life for Mormons. Everyone has seen the Mormon lifestyle depicted in reality shows on television, but we've got the facts for the world on how a lot of Mormon women really live their lives and have experienced motherhood.
15 Large Families Come With The Territory
Many people come from large families and it's not uncommon for families out of the baby boomer generation to be huge, what with women having stayed at home and taking care of said families. This is still very much a reality for Mormon women, and one of the beliefs lies solely in reproduction.
It's a woman's duty to bear children and bring life into this world, therefore many Mormon families are massive. According to mormonwomen.org, it's a couple's "Biblical command" to "supply and replenish the earth".
That may sound old-world and outdated, but to the Mormon society, this is a role they take very seriously. Interestingly enough, despite their strict religious nature, many Mormons will turn to fertility treatments if they find that they're having difficulty conceiving. This is not frowned upon as it is their job in life to provide new life keep the human race going. Adoption and fostering are also options for parents who find that they can't conceive their own child. Of course, abstinence is mandatory in Mormon society until after marriage and even then, intimate relations are for procreating first, showing intimacy and devotion second. There aren't too many ways around this if you're apart of a Mormon society, families are life...Literally.
14 A Baby Will Be Born, No Matter What's Wrong With It
What happens to a baby if doctors find something genetically wrong with it at an early stage in the pregnancy? Absolutely nothing, Mormons say.
Genetic testing of the baby is left up to its parents, but if something does come back, no matter how bad it is, many Mormons will choose to carry on through the pregnancy regardless.
This is obviously a very personal decision and solely between the parents of the child, and many parents make decisions based on the quality of the child's life post-birth and if they can even have any quality of life given the birth defect. In the Mormon culture, not having a child is not an option and they believe the baby should be given a body on this earth. More specifically, they believe that each child is a "spirit child of the Heavenly Father" and will need that body to progress through life as still symbolizes a "new soul coming to the earth" according to mormonwomen.org. Whether it's right or wrong is not the issue and the Mormon community instead focuses on spiritually and mentally preparing the parents to take on the task of raising a child with birth defects. They turn to prayer and their faith to prepare them for the task at hand and ultimately ask for strength and guidance to get through the difficulties they'll face; prayer is their only option.
13 The Priesthood Blessing
Yes, blessings are done in the hospital at birth. Mormons don't believe in baptizing infants which is something we'll go into, but they do fully believe in the Priesthood Blessing.
This is something done for parents and/or children who are sickly and in need of healing (similar to other religions, only this is specific to post-birth).
In the case of a sick child or mother, two men, often the father and husband of the mother or a congregation leader or member, will place their hands on the head of the sick. If medically possible given no restraints are in place, oil will be anointed with a blessing from the two men -- This is indicative of their society being highly Patriarchal. The blessing consists of whatever feels right for them to say and whatever comes to their mind; it's not a prayer per say, but considered just a "blessing". This is done in conjunction with whatever medical attention and treatment is needed for those who are ill or injured, and is a common custom for women who have just given birth to sick or ill children. While this is seen in other religions as well, it's very specific to the lives and customs of the Latter Day Saints.
12 Religion Is The Law And The School
To break down the structure behind a Mormon household around the time of childbirth even further, it's first important to understand why it's so important for childbearing to be the number one goal. Followers of the Church of Christ, also known as the Latter Day Saints, is important because of their beliefs about what a child actually is.
For Mormons, there's a direct link between the spiritual children of God and our mortal forms on earth, and in Mormon society, Latter Day Saints offer a sanctuary devoted to spiritual connection and religion for those children.
A new child is considered a "spirit" and it's the goal of Mormons to welcome as many "spirits" as possible into their lives and homes, in order to bring about religious security and right to their children. Because of this, their religion is at the very root, from beginning to end, of their society. The Mormon community is founded on the beliefs of the church and as such is translated by parents to their children, thus ensuring a future for more Latter Day Saints. The church is in every aspect of life and teachings are continued throughout pregnancy and parents spiritually and mentally prepare to teach their children about the lifestyle that they've been brought up to know.
11 The Word Of Wisdom Health Code
In most societies, this is something that mothers just naturally abstain from. Occasionally, a pregnant mother will indulge in a glass of red wine but other than that will stay far away from smoking and all other vices. For Latter Day Saints, this is absolute law, or in their words, The Word of Wisdom. We don't just mean that pregnant Mormons follow this health code, an entire Mormon society does. This ensures that women are already as healthy as they can be whilst never having smoked, drank, or done any kind of recreational drug usage, but also ensures that they won't be exposed to it either.
Since bearing children is the main goal in Mormon society, they famously abstain from anything that could interfere with that and their religious mission. All cultures will vary as far as this goes, but for the most part, Mormons will not partake in anything they believe could hurt or harm them physically.
If it poses a risk to childbirth further down the line then it's a big no-no, which cements this society as completely straight-edge. In addition to those three things, the health code may also specify that regular physical activity (exercise) and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet are mandatory.
10 Just Like Everyone Else, Many Choose Hospitals
Hospitals are not a foreign concept to Mormon parents. In fact, many are encouraged to lead as normal a pregnancy as possible to absolutely ensure that the little life about to be born is completely healthy. What differs is what happens in those hospitals and what parents may choose, or not choose, to use as far as medical practices go.
Some Mormon couples believe that things like epidurals take away from the beauty and experience of a natural childbirth, and are overly cautious when it comes to what medications their wives are put on to control the pain.
The idea of a natural childbirth keeps them in-line with the notion that their job on this earth is to keep life going, and by doing so, it should be as natural as possible. Other Mormon societies are not as strict and allow the couple to choose to give birth how they want -- Whether it's in a hospital setting, with a midwife at home, and with or without the pain management of their choosing. Often after a child is born, Mormon couples are allowed to decide on the proper medical care for their child given something goes wrong as well. In the event that further medical action is needed, Mormons are encouraged to let doctors do their job to benefit the newborn as much as possible and ensure their very new life here on earth.
9 Infant Baptism Does Not Exist
For a society that is so rooted in religion, it's almost shocking the Mormons don't believe in baptisms at birth or shortly after.
In fact, the baptism of a child doesn't happen until the child is at least eight years of age. The reasoning for this lies in the perfection and innocent of a newborn child in Mormon society.
To the Latter Day Saints, children are already born perfect and without any sin whatsoever. Young children are seen as being without anything to be saved from, and therefore do not need the ritual cleansing that baptism offers in other religions and cultures. For many of us, baptisms are something that takes place shortly after a child is born in order to ensure them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. In Mormon society, the belief remains that children already have entrance and don't need further blessings or cleansings on top of that, since they are born innocent and perfect. Therefore, baptisms happen at a much later date when children are much older. Mormon children are, of course, raised to have an elevated understanding of their religion and by the time they're baptized have already been well-educated to follow the Mormon teachings.
8 Do You Want Your Baby Bag?
From a scientific standpoint, yes -- The placenta is extremely important. Mormons take that to another level entirely, though, and view it as being spiritually important as well. The placenta can have different meanings for every mother and couple throughout childbirth. It's not a strict custom in Mormon culture to take home the placenta and bury it, but it is an option.
In other cultures, especially those who choose hospital settings, keeping the baby bag is the furthest thing from our minds. For Latter Day Saints, the act of bringing it home and burying it deep in the earth can hold significant spiritual meaning.
This isn't just seen in Mormon culture, as it's done in tribal cultures such as those found in New Zealand as well with the Maori tribe. The burying of the placenta signifies closure to the mother who just spent nine months carrying the baby attached to it, as well as a connection between the earth and the baby themselves. For the Mormons, this act is presumedly more spiritual than not and signifies a connection between the child and becoming a new soul on earth. Whether you find it disturbing or beautiful, it's an option that Latter Day Saints consider when having a child and one that reinforces a woman's life devoted to motherhood.
7 Post-Birth Is A Vacation From The Routine
Just because it's a woman's job to bear children doesn't mean that she needs to run the household and take on all the chores herself, either. After giving birth, it's common for women to be devoted solely to their child and instead allow extended families and members of their church to come in and help them maintain the household. A mother's part in what would normally be her routine pre-baby is completely different than what she comes home to postpartum while the baby is still nursing and in his or her infant stages. Being a mother is the ultimate "job" and position a woman holds in Mormon society, and welcoming a child into the community is viewed as a beautiful and magnificent thing.
It's celebrated by giving the Latter Day Saint mother a break from her household duties and much-needed time that is spent on herself and her child.
Mormons are also encouraged to breastfeed their children which further deepens the bonding between mother and child and by being relieved from household chores, she's able to do so. Being relieved from her household duties also means a temporary reprieve from taking care of the older siblings of the newborn, if any, which makes extended family and church members a crucial part of a Mormon woman's support system.
6 Contraceptives Are Between Your Partner And God
Surprisingly, there is no spoken rule against using contraceptives in the Mormon society...If you've already had children, that is. While it is recommended that parents complete school and have a home a stable environment to raise children in first, they are always expected to bear children. Since bringing child "spirits" into the world is what they aim for, it's expected of married couples (and only married couples) to reproduce.
The idea of birth control will vary from culture to culture as with any society, but for most, the use of contraceptives is a way to keep from bringing any more children into the world rather than not having them at all.
If a woman does not have children within a reasonable amount of time, it's bound to bring on many questions and inferences because it's just not the custom for Latter Day Saints, especially women, not to want to have children. Therefore, while contraception isn't profoundly forbidden and spoken out against, it's discouraged in the instance of a couple who has not yet had children. Many Mormons may not even want doctors to mention it as an option to a mother post-childbirth just in case they're not finishing creating a family but other than that, they leave the decision up to the couple as it's between them and God, who they're expected to pray to about it.
5 Eve's Curse
You knew the Bible had to come in at some point since we are talking about a society that is literally based on the premise of religion and the church.
Eve's Curse is the pain that a mother goes through during childbirth. Many call it a curse because of Eve and the forbidden fruit and view painful childbirth as her punishment for having eaten the apple. Many Mormons have varying views on this, but many do believe that the pain is something that women must endure to go through the most natural birth possible.
This has brought on the debate on whether or not women should be allowed to have pain management during childbirth, because if it's a punishment for disobedience, then doctors would just be disobeying that. Thankfully, many Mormons leave pain management up to their wives. Interestingly enough, Mormons don't view the story of Adam and Eve the way that most people do -- For Latter Day Saints, Eve isn't seen as someone who disobeyed, but rather as someone who did what was necessary and accepted the consequences of mortality. The fact that childbirth is painful is not just a scientific explanation for a tiny human the size of a watermelon being squeezed out of your uterus, but for a Mormon, it's a result of something Biblical and damning at the time.
4 If You Don't Want Babies, You Must Be Doing It Wrong
We've already established pretty solidly that Mormons are meant to bring children into the world. But what happens if you're a Mormon woman and you don't want to do that? The problem begins with unmarried women. From the time that a woman is eligible to marry (once she is over 18), she is absolutely expected to and even encouraged to find an eligible man to marry. In one account from a Huffington Post article titled, "What It's Like To Be A Mormon Woman", one woman recounts her experience being a part of a Mormon society.
She goes on to say of women who do not bear children, "The idea that a married Mormon woman might choose not to have children is honestly so strange within Mormonism that infertility is assumed even when it is not the case."
It's highly uncommon for a Mormon woman to not bear children and is, in fact, the custom of society, so much so that women are prodded and questioned to no end. This Mormon woman then goes on to explain how there is a "great deal of pity" for women who can't bear children, but a severe lack of it for women who intentionally choose not to.
3 Mother Someone Else's Child If You Don't Want Your Own
There aren't too many options for Latter Day Saint women if they're not interested in becoming a mother.
Judgment and criticisms come from other women in a Mormon society if a woman who is married and eligible for childbirth chooses not to do so, and the only thing left to do is make up for it somehow.
By not bearing children of her own, a woman may elect to help raise another family's children. Either way, there must be some kind of motherhood offering because not having a child in a Mormon society, barring extenuating circumstances, is simply not the way of life. It comes off as a bit of a double-edged standard in a Patriarchal society, and the lines become very easily blurred between who the equals are in the community. Men are free and able to serve within their church whether they have had children or not, meanwhile, the hammer comes down on women who choose not to bear their own children. This means that men are not looked down at if they have not become a father yet, but their wives will fall victim to assumption have they not chosen motherhood over any other means of adding to the culture.
2 Feeling Like An Outsider
After having established that during the postpartum time after giving birth, a mother is relieved of all of her household chores and duties, it's obviously seen as somewhat of an unusual event if a woman is too busy. It's highly discouraged that women choose to work and have jobs since their main job is seen as being a mother and helping to raise a family while upholding the standards of the church.
Some Mormon women have made mention of feeling almost invisible because of their hard and fast roles that are pre-determined in Mormon society, and the thirst for wanting so much more than that.
Latter Day Saints believe that it's a woman's purpose in life to remain committed to raising a family which in turn restricts her ability to actually go out and do things separate from that. This creates somewhat of a double standard, as one Mormon woman recounts hearing in her society hearing male leaders tell women that they're simply doing "enough" by raising children and working with the church. In stark contrast to that, women who are working in and outside of the house while raising children and claim they don't want any more to do, often feel as though they're living on the outside and not developing a deep enough connection to God and the church. Women like this are considered "feminist Mormon women" and because they gain satisfaction out of what they're currently taking on, end up feeling disconnected in other ways.
1 Pain Is The Process
No one truly understands the pain of childbirth until they have been in the position of giving birth to a child. This should be common sense, but to many Mormon husbands, it does not occur. Based on several threads from the LDS Freedom Forum, Mormon husbands often seek others' advice for their wives should they choose to have an epidural or something else to lessen the pain of childbirth. Many people will resort to the negative statistics associated with dulling the pain of childbirth, while others bring their faith into it and basically implore couples to leave childbirth in God's hands and go the natural route.
By having a child naturally, one man states that he wants his wife to have the most natural birth possible and to have "the greatest experience". The only conclusion we can draw from this is that he has clearly never heard a woman screaming in pain as she's bearing her way through raw and excruciating contractions.
While it's not up to the husband and future father as to whether his wife gets an epidural or not, in Mormon societies, they often have quite a big say. As with any Patriarch-based society, unfortunately, men always have an opinion including with matters that include parts they don't actually possess.