I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
When I was much younger, I thought this multiplied pain referred primarily to childbirth. No doubt it includes that, but having observed the pregnancies of several friends and now experiencing my own first hand, that perspective has changed. That multiplied pain must include nausea and fatigue, riding the emotional roller coaster, being tossed on the waves of a sea of uncontrollable hormones, stretching skin, and perhaps even those frequent trips to the bathroom that disrupt my sleep.
It started out slow, but gradually the nausea I've experienced has increased. Last week in particular was brutal -- I experienced profound nausea during every waking hour (and unlike the flu, no amount of throwing up will ease the discomfort). I was incredibly tired. As soon as I was off of work, I went home and curled up my limp body on the couch. I've also experienced this nauseated feeling accompanied by a terrible stomachache and heartburn.
Multiplied pain, indeed.
And then I found something. Almost daily, I scour the web for images and information about my exact stage of pregnancy. In the course of my search yesterday, I found a website called the Endowment for Human Development. There were in utero pictures and videos of even the earliest stages of pregnancy and detailed information about every phase of development. On the home page, a streaming video shows a little one at 7 weeks and 4 days of development (I'm currently at 7 weeks and 6 days) lifting his hand to his little mouth and responding to the touch. I felt tears prick my eyes. I know and have believed this whole time that every pain and sacrifice is worth it, but this brought that thought into greater fullness. That hand-kissing embryo could just as be my little one.
Somehow that made it easier for a time. I looked for more pictures, and felt my heart lighten. But the feeling was temporary -- the nausea continued to get worse. I was already wondering if I could do this (have a child) more than once. I know I can expect these sensations to abate by the second trimester, which is about 6 weeks away. It might as well be about 60 years for how long that sounds.
I was thinking about these two things, holding the curse in one hand and the wonder of this little life growing inside of me on the other. I cannot separate the experiences of these two, really. I've got this miraculous little life growing inside of me and at the same time, I'm constantly subject to these terrible sensations. I cannot separate the two.
I couldn't help but think how the rest of life is just like this. We all experience our share of pain and happiness, of loss and abundance, of anguish and joy. There are births and funerals, job losses and promotions, marriages and shattered friendships. While some seem to have the scale skewed one way or the other, I know no one whose life is exclusively happy or exclusively ridden with agony. The beautiful and the terrible are always, to some extent, tightly woven and meshed together in such a way that we cannot separate them.
God said He would greatly multiply Eve's pain in childbearing. But he didn't do away with childbearing completely, which I imagine He could have done -- He still used her to knit together the sons and daughters that gave birth to the human race, which is no small miracle. Evil entered the world with the fall, but it did not take over completely. Elements of the Divine still pervaded and continue to pervade our world.
And I wonder if Eve, in holding her children, thought what a terrible and beautiful thing it all was: the exquisite pain in bringing forth the delicate little life she held. I wonder if she looked at those little babes and thought in spite of the all the discomfort and pain that would be fresh in her memory: beauty still triumphs.
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Post-Script: I wanted to amend this piece to add that I have since found a safe and effective remedy for the nausea I've been experiencing that *almost* allows me to function at my full capacity. Just one of the many advantages to having so many friends who have walked this path ahead of me ...