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Friday, October 01, 2010

The Curse of Eve From A Different Perspective

Thankfully, since my last post, I've returned home (much to the relief of my children) but I'm still confined to my bed. I hope I can stay here for awhile, but just going to the doctors office for a check up makes my blood pressure rise, so we'll see.

As I lay here I've had quite a bit of time to reflect upon this whole 'mystical' journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Even though I'm a seasoned pro by modern standards I continue to be amazed at the movement I feel from the child inside of me, and apprehensive at the thought of delivering said child. Labor and delivery has always gone easy for me, so I've always managed to avoid all drugs. Many times, the attending doctors and nurses don't believe me when I tell them the baby is coming because I've barely arrived at the hospital and I'm not screaming for an epidural. I know my experience is unusual and I know many women have reasons for choosing to rely on pain medication during childbirth. However, a conversation with a close friend a few months back helped me to find new value in the suffering of pregnancy, and especially childbirth, and to see 'the pain of Eve' as an under appreciated gift of sorts. Seriously, hear me out.

Nowadays, we as a culture avoid all pain and suffering. With the bevy of drugs available to us, why should anyone be burdened by pain? Alleviating the pain of childbirth is a natural extension of this mindset. Interestingly, there are those who feel the pain of childbirth is the result of years of women being conditioned by society or the Church to feel pain during childbirth and with proper coaching, we should be able to have pain free childbirth -like animals. (Experts words, not mine.) If we had never been told that a painful childbirth was the curse of Eve, it would never had occurred to us to experience pain during delivery. Then there is the more widely held belief that child birth is painful, just because IT IS and that masking the pain with drugs is preferable to experiencing that pain.

Now, if you hold the belief that childbirth is painful, you have two options, ignore the pain (and in some cases, whatever else you body is trying to tell you during childbirth) through artificial means or accept that pain is a part of childbirth, and see it as a means to increase in holiness. Perhaps, God 'cursed' Eve with pain in childbirth so that she, and all her daughters, would have a a great and unique means to achieving holiness. As Catholics, we know that our suffering in this world can be lifted up for many intentions. As a woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, I wish I would have thought about offering up those hours for departed family members, for the conversion of sinners or any number of problems facing my family or society at large. Can you imagine the power if all women embraced even a small part of the suffering of childbirth and offered it up for a good cause? So often we find ourselves in challenging situations and we forget to offer up our troubles, but with childbirth, you have months to plan and usually months of the discomforts of pregnancy in addition.

Given my difficult pregnancy this time around, I've already been thinking what I can focus my suffering towards. Certainly, there's times I'm laying here feeling sorry for myself and NOT about how my experience can help other souls. But it's a goal and in those moments between contractions which I know are only a few weeks away I hope I can remember the specific intention I've selected on which to direct my suffering and less on the pain of the moment.

I'm certainly not superwoman, and many women admittedly tell me they reach for the drugs ASAP because they're wimps in the delivery room. I won't argue with them but I hope that at least the idea that the pain of childbirth can be a GOOD thing, eternally speaking, will give women pause before asking for any drug.

Maybe God didn't curse Eve with painful childbirth after all. Maybe, knowing the strength of our characters as mothers when asked to do the ultimate-carry and bring life into this world- He designed a process to extend the wonder to the spiritual world too. We have the opportunity to unite our suffering, and ultimately joyful birth, with the pain of Christ crucified and His promise of eternal life for all.

"27. Saint Paul speaks of such joy in the Letter to the Colossians: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake"(88). A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly, but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others, and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person "completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the Cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ's sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption. In that "cosmic" struggle between the spiritual powers of good and evil, spoken of in the Letter to the Ephesians(89), human sufferings, united to the redemptive suffering of Christ, constitute a special support for the powers of good, and open the way to the victory of these salvific powers. "