My son-in-law’s feet rooted him to my daughter’s side, but I paced Os and 8s around the delivery room waiting for my first grandchild to be born. Hours in, I realized my daughter’s labor was costing her — wounding her — far more than my three children had required of me.
I finally grasped the significance of my mother’s words, confided almost thirty years earlier, a handful of days after she witnessed my firstborn’s first breaths: “When I said I left for water and the restroom, it was only partly true. Seeing you in that much pain … I had to step away so I wouldn’t lose my composure in front of you.”
Now I too resolved not to cry. Not here. Not now. I’d not let tears for my daughter dampen her self-confidence or drain her reservoir. “I’ll be right back, sweetheart,” I said, addressing my son-in-law almost as much as my daughter. “Just stepping into the restroom for a minute.” To cry. And to pray.
My daughter’s exertion and exhaustion extended through three hospital shift changes, exceeding my definitions of labor — an apt though inadequate word. She endured dozens of contractions every two to three minutes; sweat and tears mingled on her face. She pleaded, “Mom, how much worse will this hurt?”
She needed reassurance but wanted honesty.
After too ponderous a pause, I brushed damp hair from her forehead. “Honey, you’ll be willing to push the baby out.” The words felt like sunbaked stones bouncing from my tongue as I spooned ice chips onto hers.
My daughter’s body suffered. Her face and limbs and torso shed water as electrolytes streamed from pores and amniotic fluid poured away. My body ached in sympathy (and memory) as my arms supported her back.
My daughter’s blood ran — so much blood. How could she shed such quantities of crimson for her daughter’s sake and yet live herself? How could I look on as she of my flesh and blood suffered so? Blood drained from my face — I wanted to flee, to forsake this time, this place.
My daughter’s spirit all but broke in the pains and depletions and traumas of giving birth; my own soul, bystander that I was, bent and bruised in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
But then …
Delivery! — an apt though inadequate word. Two souls delivered: One, from heavy travail through the valley (where threatened the Shadow) into the world of motherhood. The other, from the womb’s confinement (and a world of Light) into this world of contrasts where welcomed the adoring caresses of parents oh-so-kind and oh-so-dear.
My granddaughter’s tiny, gray body pinkened. The breath of life bathed and infused her blood, bringing her old-soul spirit into this new life.
The next day, at my son-in-law and daughter’s request, church brothers tiptoed into the hospital room clad in an air of reverence. They carried a zippered baggie with three pinches of bread and a trio of tiny cups. Kneeling in their Sunday best on the hard, polished floor, they spoke the sacred words of blessing I’ve heard almost every weekend since my own birth.
I heard these words now as if never before —
— mingled with others I’d studied countless times:
“This do in remembrance of me … born of the flesh … born of the Spirit … born of water and of the Spirit … ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ … a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”
Born of blood and water, body and spirit. My Savior’s sacrifice and my salvation.
In the sacred sweetness surrounding my new, sleeping granddaughter, born of my daughter’s blood and water, body and spirit, I placed the bread upon my tongue. I pressed the cup to my lips, tipping its Life inside me, remembering, reflecting, revering — rejoicing!