I was on the road this morning when, all unbidden, the memory of my daughter's birth flashed in front of me.

I simultaneously smiled and wept.

I'd looked forward to her birth, as much to met her as to prove my own feminine strength by experiencing labor. I knew I could do it. I knew that I wouldn't need drugs. I was absolutely certain that during labor, I would be able to reach down deep, into the lodge of my soul, to grunt, push, scream, and bring life into this world in turbulent beauty.

Her official due date was December the 10th. We went in for a checkup that day. I'd had some false starts at labor, but I wasn't showing any sign of going soon. The checkup showed that I'd gone from 50% effacement to only about 10%. My midwife couldn't swear that she felt the Little Miss' head in my pelvis.

Long story short, the fabulous Wee Bean was breech. The Ob/Gyn and midwife tried external version, but at 40 weeks gestation, and with a nigh nine pound baby in there...the Miss didn't budge.

She was delivered by Cesarean the next day, and I don't think I've ever cried so hard in my entire life. Don't misunderstand me -- the wait was over, and I finally got to hold her, (AT LAST!) but I was disappointed to be denied the Goddess' challenge. Also, my worst fear was realized -- I was doped up when she was delivered. I'd never wanted that. I wanted to greet her clear-eyed and centered.

What's more, I never labored, so my milk never really got started. Sure, I was on Pitocin after the C-section to shrink my uterus, but something never clicked. At the height of my production, it would take two days to produce four ounces of breast milk. She went on formula almost immediately while I took herbs like brewer's yeast, and faithfully pumped every two hours. Without going into the dreary details, I tried everything. My lactation consultant was at a loss as well. I just wasn't producing milk, which just added insult to the surgical scar.

Really, it wasn't my fault that my baby was breech. That wasn't anything I'd done. However, the inability to feed her with my own body did feel like a betrayal. Then, when she developed reflux-related colic, I blamed myself, thinking that maybe she wouldn't have to go through that if I'd just been able to breastfeed her.

That was grief and joy comingled. My joy was her. My maternal joy is absolutely and forevermore in the delight I take in my daughter, and how she has grown from a fussy, colicy infant to a brilliant, chirpy, vital and interested toddler. My joy is in the way my marriage has grown and changed over the last nineteen months and how, even through some relatively dark days, we've both been too committed to our love for each other to do anything other than work it out and shoulder on, hand in hand.

My joy is in my man, and how he has become such a confident and good-humored father. He loves me. It may be that no man has never loved a woman as much as he loves me. I am not sure he can ever know how much I love, admire, and respect him.

But the inability to breastfeed was a little death for me.

Speaking of death, my grandfather's fading has not been serene. He has lingered for years now, suffering stroke after stroke, so dissolved by multi-infarc dementia that he no longer even remembers my grandmother -- the woman who, in life, was his sole passion.

It's tragic. He swiftly approaches his century. When I stop to consider everything this man has seen, and everything he has boggles the mind. He saw WWI. He fought in WWII. He served stateside, an engineer, and in the Marine Corps, during Korea, and sent his only child to Viet Nam. He immigrated to America in his boyhood. He loved and served this land because he chose to. He never once took Liberty for granted. He knew all to well what the other side was like.

After my father's divorce from my birth mother, I lived with my grandparents for a year or two. My grandfather was wise, witty, funny. He could do anything with his hands. He built me a treehouse that fell down only five years ago. Somewhere in storage, I still have the doll cradle and chest he made for me. I was always his "Princess". He used to draw me into his lap and tell me stories. Honest to Gods, I thought the assassination of Austria-Hungary's Prince Franz Ferdinand was just a sad fairy story until I got to third grade and started studying history for real.

All the moments of his life are washing away, one grain at a time, with his impending passing. Once he is gone, those pearls will only live on because his children remember the lessons he taught. It is a hard going -- he doesn't let go easily. But then, 'tenacity' describes my family's personality well.

But it is through him that I am here, and The Miss.

Some people pithily say that we begin dying the minute we're born. If this is so, then his long, fruitful dying has inexorably led to my daughter's life.

Life/death. It's all a cycle. Like the seasons. And what goes out does return. That which was, shall be again. We just have to gather the pearls of memory together, and keep them in trust for the next generation.

posted by Linda on July 21, 2004 06:06 PM

There's not much that I can say automatically brings lump to throat.

That did.

I know somewhat how you feel, watching him waste away like that and feeling helpless to do anything about it.  I wish there was something I could do to help.

Bless you, Linda.  And cheers to you for your little one, and to the two of you for sticking it out.  I just hope that the Lady Spatula & I prove to have that much fortitude.

Hat tip. :-)

Posted by: Lord Spatula I, King & Tyrant at July 21, 2004 07:13 PM

I am very pleased to see the turn your writing has taken. It is a joy to read your posts. Thanks for sharing your life and your thoughts with us.

Keep it up.

Posted by: David at July 30, 2004 10:27 AM