“The Mother of all Living” by Al Young

It has been nearly two years, but I still remember distinctly a series of nights when I lay awake deep in the night thinking about the new life growing inside me, wondering how I was going to manage two children when I sometimes felt I could barely manage one. I was miserable, uncomfortable, and the nausea had begun. I was on a beautiful Hawaiian vacation, and all I could think about was how the smell of sand made me want to vomit. There was also a part of me that was afraid something was wrong, and even though I have pretty much come to accept that just about any weird symptom qualifies as “normal” for pregnancy, I couldn’t escape my worry.

I lay awake feeling worried and afraid and alone and a little pathetic.

I don’t remember how the thought came to me, but I began to think of Eve. I imagined her beginning her life in the Garden of Eden, without a worry or a pain. I imagined her cast from the Garden of Eden, learning to take care of the animals and the fields. I imagined her experiencing her first period, getting pregnant, going into labor, giving birth. Who could she have relied on to tell her what was normal, what to expect? What little she knew I imagine she must have learned from taking care of the sheep or the rabbits or the goats.

And which of those animals could have given her any idea of how long her own pregnancy would last? Which could have explained to her that the nasty, metallic taste she got in her mouth was, indeed, completely normal? Or her sudden aversion to lilacs? Who would comfort her that millions of women had done this before her (no one had) and that—despite how it feels—everyone does go into labor eventually? No one is pregnant forever.

She must have been courageous. Any fear or doubt she may have felt—for that matter, simply all the questions she couldn’t possibly have answers to yet—she overcame them all. With her husband to attend her, she went through it all. Periods, pregnancy, labor, healing, nursing, raising children, and doing it all over again.

Lying in bed, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all I had. Starting, quite frankly, with knowing what was going on, why I was feeling so horrible. Sudden, terrible disease? (I imagine Eve briefly wondering this.) Nope; little test I took says I’m pregnant. How long? Longer than sheep (who are pregnant four to five months—imagine how overdue you would feel at nine!). Along with such basic knowledge, I had healthcare providers like (later) my wonderful midwife Susan and birth attendant Lori, who had much knowledge and skill. I had their shiny, technologically advanced instruments in case of unlikely complications. I had the comfort of a warm home, a furnace, a good hot water heater for that really long shower during labor. I had the internet so that every time I felt a new weird symptom, I could join the rest of the world in wondering if a sore throat was an early sign of pregnancy (yes), and I could research it ad nauseam.

I was surrounded by information and support and help, but I felt scared and alone. Eve, on the other hand, despite having only one man there to help her, knew she wasn’t alone. She knew she would have God’s help.

Eve began her life in the Garden of Eden. She knew what it was to have no pain, no hunger, no struggle. And then she left that Garden to bear children and to bless the earth with her seed. At first glance, I would think, “Wow, I bet she missed Eden (especially during hour #16 of labor).” I think we often believe the state in the Garden was better, nicer, happier. And yet, do you know what she testified?

And Eve, [Adam’s] wife … was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. (Moses 5:11–12)
She knew them both. She knew the Garden and she knew mortality. And she preferred mortality. She blessed God for giving it to her. And in doing so, she blessed all of us. Eve’s gift is more than just the life she gave her posterity. Eve’s gift is the joy she found in doing so. It is her example of courage in the face of the unknown. It is a testimony that, even when life is hard (and it so often is), mortality is a gift so great that she rejoiced in it and praised God.

This knowledge—well, it doesn’t solve everything. It doesn’t suddenly make it easier to find the patience to tell the same story for the seventeenth time that day or clean up another spill. It isn’t always easy to remember that these things are blessings, not curses. But in quiet moments, I think the gift of Eve can give us the strength to journey forward.

Jeanna Stay is a full-time mom of two beautiful daughters who keep her busy, barely sane, and always learning something (like how to get peanut butter out of hair and silly putty out of sweaters). She is sure she has the most fantastic husband in the world. He is a great support in the ups and downs of parenting, and he reminds her that, like Eve, we are never alone. In their “spare” time, they keep an exceedingly random blog at stayfoo.blogspot.com. Jeanna’s not-so-secret ambition is to someday publish young adult novels.

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