My daughter Erin had a beautiful baby girl - Gwendolyn Ruth on Dec. 20th. Please forgive me for not writing - I have not forgotten you - but have been in baby land. As I write this I hold so tenderly in my heart those of you who have had grandchildren die, or children die taking away your chance of having grandchildren. I understand if you don't want to read this - or if you read it and are pissed off at me - or sad - or happy - or a complex confusion of emotions. Every time I hold this tiny little girl with an elfin face I think of life and I think of death. It's how my new world works.
I haven't written because before her birth I was waiting - spending time with my daughter - happy and stressed. Then we were in the hospital where Erin did a good job with labor and I did a good job being amazed and grateful and also giving NYC attitude to some staff that wasn't helpful. Kudos to Amanda the nurse who cheered Erin on - yelling Go Go Go! and Dr. Pollack who didn't believe Erin was about to give birth when Amanda went to fetch him - walked into the room after 3 am and went - oh - OH! - and when he saw Gwendolyn's heartbeat was slowing down pulled her out with great calmness and skill so that she is a happy healthy baby. Thank you to the doula (someone who helps with birthing) who knew what to do so I didn't have to. Special praise for my daughter who went through the pain with intention and bravery and less cursing than we though! Since the birth I have been doing night duty so that my daughter can get some sleep so I have been tired and overwhelmed.
When I hold Gwendolyn I feel a circle of love. I feel that my daughter, a single parent, and her daughter and myself (and if Erin read this she would want me to add her dog Lilly) are a family of strong women. I wish that circle of love that we build around Gwendolyn could protect her forever. I wish as we grew up we could turn that circle of love into a permanent shell so we wouldn't experience pain and cruelty. I wish all children could have that circle of love. I wish all parents could have their children living to give that circle of love to. When Gwendolyn's heart beat started to slow (her cord wasn't around her neck but was across her shoulder) before she was born I prayed - and I am not someone who prays - for a live birth. We were lucky to have one.
I met my beloved husband Artie when Erin was about 12. They cared for each other in some ways but weren't close. Erin has been very supportive of me since my husband died but she thinks of this baby as a Cullen (her last name) not a Warner. When she leaves the room and I am alone with Gwendolyn I tell her stories about Grandpa Artie. I know he loves her and is with us - but I think of how much he would have loved to have held her himself. He always cared most for those who were defenseless and needed protection. I'm not delusional. He hated to travel - and if he were alive - I probably would be yelling at him for making me come to Seattle alone. Yet, I would be sharing everything with him and planning to bring Erin and the baby down to that house in Carmel where other people live now - so he could meet his granddaughter.
I can tell Gwendolyn as many Artie stories as I want. She hasn't heard them before - and now - as long as I use my loving talk to baby voice she doesn't even know what I am talking about. I did tell Erin that Gwendolyn may be a Cullen not a Warner but she will know about her Grandpa Artie.
I love holding this new little life, watching her facial expressions, listening to her coos and squeaks and cries. Sometimes as I hold her I think that once again I am the "holder" - the person who held me is dead. In my life no one took care of me until Artie. My parents did their best (kinda) but they weren't kind to me (although my mother loved Erin and was a good grandmother - Gwendolyn Ruth - Ruth is my mother's name). I love my daughter but it was my job - is my job - to take care of her. Artie truly was the first person to take care of me. I loved it when he held me. I rested in his arms and in his eyes in ways I never could before and never can since.
It is what I always talk about - my acceptance of the emotional blend. I am doing it. I am filling my life with wonderful memories while at the same time grieving for my husband. I lean on him, I laugh at my good memories with him, have regrets at ways we failed each other, and I love him. He was the empty space in the delivery room. He is the empty space everywhere I go. An empty space full of his love - but empty all the same because he isn't holding me as I hold my granddaughter. i am even thinking of asking a photographer friend to photoshop a hospital photo of Erin, me and Gwendolyn so that Artie is in it - smiling over his girls. Do in imagination what I can't do in real life.
I am amazed and touched by the beauty of this new life. I look forward to watching her grow and learn. I also pull the past with me. I was wearing Artie's Yankee Jacket in the delivery room and the first time I held Gwendolyn. Of course I was.
Hoping you have life in your life to bring you joy. We need that joy to balance our sorrows. Wishing you a circle of love surrounding you to give you warmth and comfort. I'm a Granny - thank goodness I decided to stay alive. As much as I want to be with my husband, I'm so glad I stayed here on earth to meet my granddaughter and be part of my new family. xo
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