Tasha Genck Morton is married to Adam Morton and serves as Associate Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA. They are due in July.

Adam: I have a confession to make: I have read exactly zero pregnancy or baby books. Occasionally I will pick one up from its resting place somewhere near the living room couch, flip through, and set it down again. Tasha, who is due to give birth to our first some time next month, has done more than her share of reading. I am not utterly ignorant–I did attend some classes with her, and can correctly pick out the top end of a baby–but I do not share my wife’s tendency to over-prepare in these matters.

So you have, if you will, a legalist and a would-be antinomian (if such could exist) with respect to the commandment Thou Shalt Prepare for Baby. Both of us, in our own ways, feel the pressure of this mandate. We can’t help but notice the claims that resources for impending parenthood subject us to. In light of that, Tasha thought it would be worthwhile to examine baby and pregnancy books, classes and such from a husband and wife perspective. Or at least from my perspective and her perspective, particular as they are.26326-36630_BabyRegistryPOV

Tasha: When we were first trying to get pregnant I would walk by the baby section in Target and feel depressed because here were all our unrealized dreams in consumer form in neat and tidy shopping aisles. Then, when we got pregnant the section still scared and depressed me. With it came all sorts of questions about what kind of parents we would be before we were even parents. What kind of breast pump matches your lifestyle? What does your nursery theme say about who you want your child to grow up to be? What are the best toys to give your child a leg up on brain development so he/she can go to an Ivy League school? What does this diaper rash ointment say about what kind of parent I am? Registering was terrifying because of the underlying message that this stuff mattered. What my baby plays with could determine his future.

Adam: Well, I hate to break it to you, but we’re the kind of parents who register at Target (slogan: Our Statistical Models Know You’re Pregnant Before You Do™). So you can cross “elite” off your list of prospects for the boy.

Tasha: That’s actually a relief.


Adam: It’s just as well I didn’t help you with the registry. We own some enormous new heaps of plastic, several of which I assembled, and I can hardly identify any of them. I’m getting pretty tired of being asked if I’m ready, since I really don’t know what that entails. People keep asking, “Have you painted yet?” Didn’t know that was a thing. Was I supposed to do that? Babies love fresh paint? Every additional question makes me feel more oblivious. It’s sort of like finding out that someone you’ve never heard of is “famous,” except that a human being’s life is at stake.

I’m really no good with these baby “lifestyle” questions. Everything seemed easier when I was a child, but then, I was a child. I’m 36 and the world has passed me by. Carl Fredricksen is my spirit animal. You asked me to research “cloth diapering” and I got nervous. Even the grammar was strange. I understand what a cloth diaper is, but that’s a physical object. “Cloth diapering” sounds like an activity, a concept, something Important, not a thing you defecate in. If it’s not obvious, I’m really not prepared for this. The law weighs heavy.

carl-fredricksen-la-haut-03Tasha: As a student and disciple of Law/Gospel theology since my days in seminary I’m pretty good at identifying the law. I knew that as life changed I would be faced with it in new ways. However, even though  plenty of friends have had children before me and I led a moms group at my former congregation I had no idea how hard the law of baby preparedness would hit. Particularly with the books.

Two books I received free of charge from health care resources. Those focused more on the medical aspects of pregnancy. Eat lots of folic acid rich foods and take your vitamins because it helps brain development. Exercise is good for both you and baby. Fine. I was ready for that kind of law. I was not ready for the third book. The first chapter talks about birth as long-term memory. It explains that you’ll carry memories from the birth long after your child is born and encourages the reader to make sure they have a “satisfying” experience. This also means you could have an unsatisfying birth experience. And since birth is a long-term memory  you could still feel guilt and shame around your birth experience years from now.  I was dumbfounded. Was I supposed to have a picture of a satisfying birth in my head beyond a healthy baby and mother? It hadn’t even registered that I could or should feel lingering guilt over how our baby was born. But it sowed the tiniest seed of doubt.

Adam: See, that’s interesting. Perhaps because I don’t read the books, I feel fairly impervious to that kind of doubt. Instead I respond by feeling superior to other people– everyone who disagrees with me is a crazy hippie or an aspiring helicopter parent. I get angry and defiant. My vast training in obstetrics and child development (I saw Knocked Up twice) leads me to conclude that these weirdos with titles I don’t understand and letters after their names are just wrong. I am right. The only law that applies is the one in my own conscience, which says, “Ignore these books. You’re smarter than they are.”

I also remember them talking about a “satisfying birth experience” in our childbirth class, which struck me as absurd.


Tasha:  I had a conflicted relationship with the classes.  I appreciated information about the specific practices of the hospital where I will give birth.  But I also had to listen as our presenter tried to make us not feel guilty about our decisions  for the birth and beyond. “We really recommend breastfeeding because it’s really the best but we understand if you choose not to.”  At the end of one class we passed around a sheet to sign up for a meeting with an anesthesiologist to arrange for an epidural.  I politely refused.  However, I was struck with the urge to tell my classmate and fellow mother-to-be who had just written her name and number on the sheet, “I promise, I’m not judging you for getting an epidural.  I know you’re doing what is best for you.  I promise I don’t think you’re weak.” It felt like something from the Onion.

Adam: What got to me were the videos. Never mind my already low appetite for watching very round naked strangers grunt. The expectations for the men in the videos were sky high. Instructions to fathers seemed designed to combat anxiety that they might have little to no role in the birth, but if anything pushed too far in the opposite direction. There’s this weird sense that if I don’t fulfill my role properly the baby might fail to be born at all. Every few minutes I was reminded that a “support person” needs to be at hand, offering helpful suggestions, modelling breathing and saying supportive things through the entirety of labor. We were handed a sheet with forty or so suggested affirmations on it. I doubt I could say many of those lines with a straight face: “You have such beautiful energy right now.”  Maybe they’re designed to calm the mother, but they seem to have an opposite effect on the father.

After that class ended I called up a pastor friend in Minnesota. He told me about a congregation member who dropped off his laboring wife at the hospital then drove a few hours away to buy a tractor. It was on sale, so that made sense. That story was the most reassuring thing I’d heard in months. I don’t need to hear how everything depends on me– I need to hear that even if I don’t radiate support and love at all times, the kid will probably end up outside of my wife, both of them are likely to be fine, and I have a solid chance to be a modestly successful father. I’m already afraid of what my emotional makeup will mean for the kid. I’m worried about my intensity, my short fuse, and my family history with depression and addiction. I need real grace, forgiveness for my mistakes and assurance that the clueless and the neurotic have done just fine at this for milennia. The baby-industrial complex offers none of that.

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Tasha:  To be fair, I found the affirming quotes as ridiculous as you.  Whenever we were told to practice them we instead quoted movies to each other: “That’s a bingo!”

I’ve learned from all this preparation craziness that the law is just as unforgiving in birth preparation as it is everywhere else.  It offers no solace, no pat on the back, not even any pre-written, insincere affirmations.  We can’t escape from it by trying to ignore it.  It says that no matter how much we do or how hard we try we should always do more, buy more, read more, and prep more.

In this assault I cling to the only thing I can: the grace of God through the cross.  I cling to the reminder that everything is a gift from God, including this little life that likes to kick me in the middle of my sermons. I cling to the promise that even if I eat more gummy bears and ice cream than I should that God loves me and I am not an awful mother.  I cling to the promise that God does not judge me based on what kind of teethers I buy.  I cling to the promise that even if there are complications and health issues that God has still claimed this child as God’s own.