Uplifting Motherhood in India and the Church


In India, the reality of motherhood stands in stark contrast to the societal ideals placed upon it. While there’s societal pressure for mothers to appear joyful, the harsh social and material conditions many endure often make genuine happiness elusive. Studies show that 59% of urban women in Delhi awaiting childbirth suffered from antepartum depression, and 41% experienced postpartum depression after delivery. Mental health challenges like anxiety and depression afflict mothers at alarming rates, impacting their emotional wellbeing and ability to nurture their children.

From the staggering 11.8 million pregnancies among adolescents under 18 between 2000-2013, to the 4.5 million girls aged 15-16 who were already mothers in 2015-16, Indian women confront a litany of stressors detrimental to maternal and child wellbeing. The preference for sons puts women at risk of having multiple pregnancies until a male child is born. Access to quality healthcare, nutrition, and reproductive services remains inequitable, with marginalized groups like tribal communities faring worse – a cross-sectional study in Jharkhand and Odisha linked maternal psychological distress to increased risks of infant deaths and pregnancy complications.

Even in India’s capital, the gaps between the rich and poor in maternal care are unreasonably wide. Only 19% of pregnant women in Delhi’s slums likely receive skilled birth attendance, compared to 99% among the urban rich. Just 56% of children in slums get measles vaccinations, while 27% of pregnant women miss crucial prenatal visits.

Amidst these sobering realities, the Indian Church has a profound calling to uplift mothers and honour the sacred vocation of motherhood. Scripture reveals that from the very beginning, motherhood reflects God’s glory – women’s unique ability to nurture new life mirrors the generative love of our Creator (Genesis 1:28).

Throughout the biblical narrative, mothers play pivotal roles in furthering God’s purposes. From Eve, the “mother of all living,” to Jochebed protecting infant Moses, to Hannah’s fervent prayers birthing the prophet Samuel – mothers’ courage, faith, and selflessness shape the divine story of redemption. Pre-eminently, God chose a humble young woman, Mary of Nazareth, to bear the Christ child – her body becoming the vessel for the Incarnate Word who would redeem humanity (Luke 1:38).

Motherhood is not peripheral, but the very means by which God brought redemption to the world. By celebrating motherhood, the Church honours its indispensable role in God’s story of redemption. As the Scriptures testify, mothers manifest the Lord’s ongoing work of making all things new through their selfless, often unseen sacrifices of body, soul, and spirit (Colossians 1:20).

The Church is called to celebrate, empower, and advocate for mothers in their high and demanding calling – recognizing that in doing so, it participates in the ongoing work of Christ. Creating support networks, ensuring affordable maternal care, confronting unjust societal pressures, and empowering informed choices should be priorities aligning with Jesus’ heart for the marginalized and vulnerable.

The Church can reshape cultural narratives, combating unrealistic expectations and providing safe spaces for mothers to share authentic joys and struggles without judgment – reflecting the radically inclusive community exemplified by the early church (Acts 2:44-47). In communities where mothers face intersecting injustices, the Church’s prophetic witness echoes Christ’s mission to uplift the downtrodden and oppressed. Ultimately, the Church honours mothers by embodying the heart of God – the embodiment of redemptive, life-giving love. As Indian mothers embrace this high calling with resilience, may the Church in India uplift them, celebrating their strength and empowering them to nurture abundant life for their children and families – bearing witness to the Kingdom that has come and is yet to come in full.

Rev. Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India