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The Greatest Birth Story Ever Told


What Pregnant Women Can Learn from Jesus’ Birth


It may seem odd for a Muslim doula to be writing about the birth of Jesus, but believe it or not, Muslims share the Christian belief that Jesus was born to a virgin mother.  In fact, Mary is one of the most beloved women in history for Muslims.  


At this time of year, I think it’s very interesting to reflect on Mary’s birth experience and what modern birthing women can learn from it.  In surah Maryam in the Qu’ran, the story of Mary’s labor is reported as:


“[22-26] Accordingly, Mary conceived the child, and with it she went away to a distant place. Then the throes of childbirth urged her to take shelter under a date palm. There she began to cry, “Oh! would that I had died before this and sunk into oblivion.” At this the angel at the foot of her bed consoled her, saying, “Grieve not at all, for your Lord has set a spring under you; as for your food, shake the trunk of this tree and fresh, ripe dates will fall down for you; so eat and drink and refresh your eyes; and if you see a man, say to him, `As I have vowed to observe the fast (of silence) for the sake of the Merciful, I will not speak to anyone today.”


Whether you believe Jesus was born in a manger or beneath a date tree, the concept of taking shelter, finding a safe, private birth space, remains the same.  In order for oxytocin (the hormone of birth, breastfeeding, love, and trust) and endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) to work most effectively, they require a sense of privacy and security.  


How powerful to know that even the most revered mother in human history cried out in pain while bringing her baby into the world!  In Birthing from Within classes we talk about how pain, doubt, and fear are a normal part of the journey and that in times of struggle, moms can connect with the 300,000 other women around the world who are giving birth at the same time – in hospitals, birth centers, houses, woods, fields, cars, and mangers.  


Modern mothers share the struggle of succumbing to transformation so profound and shattering that it bring them to a place of surrender…of crying out in pain, moaning, resisting and then letting go, of doing whatever it takes to give birth…with all of the women who came before them, including this beautiful, amazing soul specially chosen by her Lord.  


My favorite part of this story as a doula is that Mary was told to eat and drink during labor.  Not only was it nourishment for her body to fuel her through the process, it was also presented in response to her labor pains.  Staying hydrated and fed during labor helps to ease the intensity of contractions.  


While we can’t all have an angel speaking to us on God’s behalf during labor, I think we all have some version of that in our intuition.  Women were created differently from men in body and mind.  We all have deep rooted God-given knowledge that goes back to the time of Eve.  Tuning in to that inner voice can help us navigate our way through labor – telling us what to eat, how to move, and what needs to be done next to get through each threshold in our journeys.  


Finally, Mary’s vow of silence on that day.  Many women partially or completely lose the ability to communicate as they move into slower brain waves that take them into a deeper mindspace.  It speaks to the importance of a woman’s support people attuning themselves to her needs and cues instead of relying on her to give directions on the kind of help she needs.  


These few sentences about Jesus’ birth provide us with so much helpful information as mothers.  Eat and drink during labor, know that you are not alone in your struggle, listen to your intuition, find a birth space that makes you feel safe and protected, and surround yourself with people who understand your needs.  And if you are a person of faith, thank God for the wisdom imparted through His scriptures.  



Nikki Shaheed CD(DONA)                                                                                                                                                      Certified Birthing from Within Mentor


  1. Ruth Castillo on December 21, 2014 at 2:34 am

    I never realized that Mary/Maryam's birth story was expanded in the Muslim tradition! Knowing that she, too, struggled with the throes of labor, and that she benefited from the advice/permission to labor of another wise source, makes her more real, more human. That makes me so happy.

  2. Jamie Mossay on December 21, 2014 at 4:34 am

    What a beautiful translation of ancient wisdom guiding us in modern birth. Thank you so much sharing it with us!

  3. Nikki Shaheed on December 21, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Thanks Jamie! When you fall in love with Hero's Journey you see it all over the place. 🙂

  4. Nikki Shaheed on December 21, 2014 at 6:10 am

    It's pretty awesome how many shared stories and themes there are between the major world religions.

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