I've already written about Eve before the fall with hopes of redeeming her reputation in Daughters of Eve Parts One & Two, but now with that done I thought it also necessary to write about her after that fateful day. After all, that day did change the future lives of all of Eve's daughters.
In Genesis 3:16, Eve receives her curse from the L-rd. He says, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and He shall rule over you." In other translations, it says "increase your pain in childbirth" so I'm not sure if the curse was to make childbirth painful, or just to make it more painful. If you think about it, it seems unlikely that it could be without any pain, but I do know women who attest to painless deliveries (and frankly, I would like to be one of them!). Regardless of exactly what it is saying here, childbirth has become a very painful experience and unfortunately, some of our modern day medical 'advances' make it more painful than it was meant to be, i.e. inducing labor, falsely stimulating contractions, and requiring a laboring woman to lie on her back in a hospital bed to name a few. The New King James translation above makes me think that this curse had more to do with than just labor and delivery. That would actually be fairly mild of G-d because most labors last about 12-24 hours, which is nothing in comparison to a woman's lifetime. The verse also mentions 'sorrow' and 'conception.' This coupled with the fact that I am a woman, I would venture to say that our curse involves our entire reproductive system. Not to be too graphic, but do you think that Eve would have had a menstrual cycle before the fall, living happily naked in the garden with her husband? I think not. Nor do I think that G-d created Eve barren, and biologically we know that in most cases at least, it is necessary to have a menstrual cycle in order to conceive a child. It is possible (as anything is with G-d) that Eve was able to conceive without this cycle. So does that mean that our monthly 'visitor' was part of the curse? I don't know (but I'm certainly willing to say yes because it sometimes feels like a curse, doesn't it?). Thanks to Eve (but I still forgive her), we have painful monthly cycles, difficulty conceiving or barrenness, complicated pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths, and pain in labor and delivery. It doesn't end here, however.
As commentator Matthew Henry suggests, "The sorrows of child-bearing are multiplied; for they include, not only the travailing throes, but the indispositions before (it is sorrow from the conception), and the nursing toils and vexations after; and after all, if the children prove wicked and foolish, they are, more than ever, the heaviness of her that bore them. Thus are the sorrows multiplied; as one grief is over, another succeeds in this world". In thinking about Eve's curse, this is where my mind went also. What about when the babies and children grow up? Through their disobedience, rebellion, and bad choices, their mothers continue to feel the consequences of the curse (G-d knows what I put my mother through during my teenage years!). Thus far, experiencing pregnancy, delivery, and the first ten months of my daughter's life, my potential for joy has increased drastically: so too my potential for sorrow. Any pain, physical or emotional, she has caused me is multiplied greatly because she is my child. As she develops a mind of her own, she is already discovering her power and her independence to make choices, like refusing to eat what is offered to her or continuing to do things that I tell her not to. And it is this point in her life that has brought me to continue this series on Eve because the curse is already being felt in my heart. Perhaps every young mother goes over these scenarios in their minds: how will I handle it when she starts to say 'no'?; what will I feel the first time she slams the door in my face or tells me "I hate you"?; will she be embarrassed by me?; will she make the same mistakes I did?; will she grow up to be a godly person? Of course, they are some of the milder side effects of the curse. I couldn't imagine the pain of losing a child or not being able to have biological children at all. I refuse to even get a dog now because I can't commit to caring for it as a member of the family. I have had dogs in the past that have passed away because I couldn't afford to take them to the vet or I was too busy for them. That pain is enough for me, but I'm sure it is nothing compared to losing a child. Imagine that one of your children takes the life of another of your children. Eve could tell us what that feels like. We don't hear much about her after Cain murders Abel in Scripture besides the account of her other children, but surely she dealt with the resulting pain for the rest of her life.
I'm not trying to be pessimistic (although this is a serious subject to deal with). By faith, I don't expect my little girl or any subsequent children of mine (B"H) to reject me, be rebellious, or grow up resisting the faith and values that I will work hard to instill in them. In this fallen world, it is a known fact that children cause their mothers a great deal of pain, and vice versa. I guess in my mind I am expecting the best, but trying to prepare myself for the worst. For now, I will just continue to enjoy my precious little gift who cannot really speak yet, and pray for HaShem's wisdom and guidance to bring her up to revere and love Him, and in turn revere and love me and my husband.
Unfortunately, the curse doesn't end here. If it did, it would only affect women of child-bearing age and mothers. It continues, "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. I've mentioned earlier that many believe this verse to be dealing with a woman's desire to be in control and to rule over her husband although G-d had given spiritual dominion to men. Henry sums it up like this: " If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; and, if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness; and then the dominion would have been no grievance: but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy. If Eve had not eaten forbidden fruit herself, and tempted her husband to eat it, she would never have complained of her subjection; therefore it ought never to be complained of, though harsh; but sin must be complained of, that made it so. Those wives who not only despise and disobey their husbands, but domineer over them, do not consider that they not only violate a divine law, but thwart a divine sentence." In this sinful world, where two imperfect people get married, it is commonplace that a man will try to control (even abuse) every aspect of his wife's existence, and a woman will disrespect (even despise)and nag her husband to the point that he wished he didn't exist. If we are both submissive to G-d and His word, however, our marriages will not follow this pattern. I spoke about a woman's most dangerous weapon (her mouth) in my post, "Do you drip?" so I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that women sometimes feel a need to be in control of every situation, and this is most certainly a result of the fall. This aspect of the curse also seems to affect a limited amount of women: those who are married. What about the rest of womankind?
If you have not read parts one and two of Daughters of Eve, I invite you to read them now. There I speak of what Eve teaches us about all women: our longing to be loved, to be beautiful, to be accepted, to be pursued...
The curse of Eve affects us all as we strive to fill the voids and the holes in our hearts with anything other than our Creator himself. Without Him, we are lost and indeed continue to be cursed. But with Him, we are magnificently loved, fully accepted, exceptionally beautiful, and constantly pursued...
To be a mother, a wife, a follower of G-d: the sorrows will come, but the unspeakable joys make the journey well worth it.