This blog post was originally given as the second half of a talk for the women at the New Eve Maternity Home in Winchester, VA.
Women were supposed to experience pregnancy without pain or suffering, but because of the fall of man, that is no longer the case. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world, and they had to accept the consequences of their actions. Both men and women were punished in a way that touched the very core of who they were as male and female. Men were punished with toil and struggle to provide for their families and for themselves. Women, on the other hand, were punished with pain and suffering during childbirth. As Genesis 3:16 says, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Yet your urge will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
While weight gain and bodily changes would have been part of the pregnancy experience from the beginning, many elements of pregnancy and childbirth that we experience today are effects of the fall. Today, pregnant women might experience varicose veins, swollen ankles, soreness and discomfort, morning sickness, and countless other things. Childbirth is often painful, long, and sometimes complicated.
Luckily for us, even after the fall of man, God didn’t abandon His children. Instead, He gives them the special graces to endure the sufferings they face. Women often have a high tolerance for pain and strong endurance. They often have a strong willingness to suffer for those they love. Women often aren’t discouraged from giving birth multiple times, regardless of how painful childbirth might be.
In addition to the physical suffering associated with pregnancy and childbirth, women also endure psychological suffering related to childbirth. Some women experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy, and many experience it post-partum. That being said, we are not meant to suffer alone, and these experiences are opportunities to admit to our own vulnerability and neediness to ask for help.
As we all know, the fall was not the end of the story of mankind. We have also been saved. We live in a fallen world that has been redeemed. Sin entered the world through the actions of one woman, and salvation came through the actions of another. All women, with the exception of one, have been punished for Eve’s sin in their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, but salvation also entered the world through another woman’s pregnancy and childbirth- Mary’s.
Mary reversed the situation, and for this reason, she is called the New Eve, just as Jesus is the New Adam. Where Eve chose her own will, Mary prayed that God’s will be done. Where Eve said “no” to God, Mary said “yes.” Mary redeemed motherhood when she became pregnant with and gave birth to the Son of God.
All mankind was redeemed through the motherhood of one woman, Mary. Jesus Christ, our Savior, was carried in Mary’s womb and then in her arms. He could have entered this world in any fashion, but He chose to be born of a woman. But that’s not it. Woman are redeemed through motherhood in another way.
St. Paul’s letter to Timothy says that women will be saved through childbearing (2:15). The punishment for our sin has become our personal road to salvation. Our salvation was established beginning with the motherhood of the Virgin Mary, but it continues with our own motherhood. As St. Paul writes, we must all “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.” Women work out their salvation in a uniquely feminine way- through motherhood.
The suffering we endure during pregnancy and childbirth can be offered up for our own salvation and in expiation for the sins of others. We can unite that suffering with that of Jesus on the cross. When we give birth and our children are later baptized, we are adding new members to the Church, the Body of Christ.
We also work out our salvation in our daily lives as mothers. The most important job we have is doing everything in our power to help our children get to heaven. This includes regularly praying for our children, raising them in the faith, and setting a good example for them. When we are living out our daily lives as mothers, not only are we working out our own salvation, but we are contributing to the Church’s salvific work- bringing the Gospel message to the whole world, beginning with our own children. What more important work is there?!