How sad that the strongest force that shapes our world is so remarkably constant, so everyday, that it is casually dismissed and underestimated. How many women have in mind only that they will not turn into their mothers? How many times a day is the exclamation, “Oh Mom!” uttered? Because she is so good at what she does, smooshing lizards before they have a chance to grow into dragons, her contributions and capabilities are easily underrated. This has been going on from the beginning, from the moment our First Mother on earth bit that fruit. I know it took a few years to come around myself.
At 18 I peered, big-eyed, into my future. Pristine and shining, as the future always is, it promised EVERYTHING—“everything” meaning college and career. My voice would be heard by more than a couple of children who’d have my nose, my decisions shaping things much bigger than “just” my home. The world was so different than twenty years earlier, when my mother married and settled into the role of housewife. Mom’s choices would not be mine. Just think of everything else she could have done had she not confined herself to the home.
The next year Mom died. She was 41, I was 19. Mom’s dying shook my world and threw me off for a couple of years, but I steadily maintained my intention of sidestepping her life by making different,” “better” choices. Never mind that the moment he was home from his mission I stepped into the arms of the boy she had hoped I’d love and marry, though I hadn’t been interested in him before his mission. He loved her too, called her “Aunt.” We were sealed just three months after he got home. Night after night I lay in his arms, and soon, in spite of myself, the lack of pregnancy forced me to ask how much I cared about being a mother. (Spoiler—turns out I cared A LOT.) And so I lay in his arms still, as we struggled to become parents. So many days I cried in those arms--when I wasn’t pregnant and had hoped to be; when I was suddenly no longer pregnant after a few short weeks; when Heavenly Father answered, not yet time after time after time when we asked Him about adoption. And yet, though I wanted children desperately, I was still determined to do more, to be more than “just” a Mom.
Studying the Christian “creation myth” in college, it was a given for most of my classmates that the story is a fable, representing the paradigm of male domination and female subservience. A self-described “pagan Goddess worshipper and practicing witch” in the corner pointed out that the true heroine of this ancient tale is Lilith, who had strength and completeness absent husband and children. One of the few “backward” Christians in the class who actually believed Adam and Eve were real people, glowered in the direction of the goddess worshipper, but concurred, “Eve screwed it up for all of us. She couldn’t obey God, her husband couldn’t control her. If she hadn’t been so stupid none of us would be suffering.” These two diametric opposites were united in disgust for Mother Eve. Reactively I jumped to her defense, “If Eve hadn’t made the choice she did, none of us would be.”
Finally, here I am in a future so fantastical I could not have imagined it. My voice is heard, listened to avidly by five small boys. My deep twin desires to give birth and to adopt were fulfilled. My decisions carry the weight and shape the futures of--leaders, teachers, missionaries, fathers-- in training. I lay, not in the arms of my lover on this night--he is out working himself silly to keep food in seven bellies—but forehead to forehead with a considerably smaller male, my arms wrapped protectively around him. He’s five and blond and loves spaceships. I close my eyes to still my pounding head, and am soothed, almost hearing the soft dream-breathing of my four younger children from their bedroom down the hall. It is because of the pounding head my big boy is next to me; I’m sick with whatever little bug he and his brothers have been tossing back and forth for the past few weeks, and just don’t have the strength to insist that he go to bed. The giant couch almost swallows us. I feel the minutes slow as they do during peaceful nights, and sense I am in a Blessed Moment.
He wonders aloud if there were dinosaurs in Eden. He asks what kind of fruit was on that magical tree, and why Adam didn’t just eat an apple if he was hungry. I answer as best I can, finding the dinosaur question easier than the one that followed, “Because Eve ate the other fruit and Heavenly Father had to send her away from the garden to protect her. If Adam had just eaten an apple he’d have been all alone without his wife, so he ate the other fruit instead.” A serious Primary-goer, he gets to the point, “But why did Eve eat the bad fruit if Heavenly Father said no?”
And here, now, everything clicks into place. On a big couch, deep in the night, I understand my earthly mother, and, I believe, my First Mother, Eve. As I search for words he’ll understand, I see Mom’s face. What if she had taken another path? Chosen a career instead of motherhood, or had only one child instead of four? Why did she continue to stay at home, even when money was tight and she must have longed for more adult contact? Why did she fight so long and so hard to bring her children into this world, and why did I do the same years later, driven by a force that would not let me rest until my children were here, safely in my home? It hurt so much at times. Was it worth it?
Every cell in my being knows the answer to that question, and clearly imagines Eve struggling first, millennia ago. “Oh yes.” I whisper aloud, fervently answering my own query, and then answer his, gazing into eyes and a heart that will absolutely accept whatever I tell him, “Because Heavenly Father also commanded her to have children, and she couldn’t unless she ate the fruit. Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve a choice of which instruction they would follow. The only way we could be born was for her to eat the fruit and have to leave the garden. She did it for us, so we could come to earth and be a family. So she could be a Mommy, and so I could be your mommy, too.”
For centuries Mother Eve has been underestimated and dismissed as a docile, colorless character who required ruling in order to safely cross from one end of the garden to another. A woman whose lack of any sense of self rendered her as helplessly vulnerable and bound to obey the suggestions of any passing snake as she was those of the man sent to command her. Is this really the one God would choose to be the essence and example of what His daughters are? To be The Mother of All Living? Oh no. Looking deeper I see in her the ruthless sacrifice and terrible strength of Woman--Spiritual sensitivity and intellect that ponders Father’s instructions--the fearless integrity to obey and act on behalf of, and for the sake of, her children. She had Paradise, perfect health, unsurpassed Peace and Beauty, a face-to-face relationship with her creator, and yet this was not enough. How wide must that hole inside have been to push her into mortality, sorrow, grief, pain and the totality of human torment? But her children could not fulfill the measure of their creation; we were trapped in Heaven, and she in Paradise. Knowing no misery, she also knew no joy. (2 Nephi 2:23)
Did her arms move restlessly, holding babies who weren’t there? Did she turn her head sharply, hearing a phantom cry? I know, as any parent does, that I would move heaven and earth, give up any comfort or safety for the sake of my children. What could my mother have been, had she chosen another path? What could Mother Eve have been, had she not chosen to eat the fruit? Whatever it is it pales in the face of maternal ferocity. In quiet moments we who are mothers may feel the same soul-drenching conviction—that we would leap through fire for our children. I honor our First Mother, and all those who have followed her example and made the world we have today, and, proudly, I too would choose no other life. Adam fell that men might be. Adam fell because Eve leapt.