National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Starting Point
Issue Date:  July 30, 2004

Starting Point


I asked my sons to wait until I was 50. They did … just barely. I’m a grandma.

I was the privileged witness of her birth. Phil and my new daughter, Krystle, asked me to be with them when their baby was born. I was touched, but suspected I would be of very little use.

Birthing babies is a lot of hurry up and wait. Eleven weeks before the due date, it was clear that Krystle was in serious distress and she was transferred to a hospital 60 miles away. We lived there -- impatient, yet hoping the birth could be delayed as long as possible.

On Day Three, my husband and I needed a break. We took a walk, assured it would be hours. Ten minutes later my cell rang: “It’s happening now!”

I made it just after the first real contractions. Krystle had started labor exhausted and she was giving up. Then I knew my role. When the next contraction came, I leaned in and started babbling: “You can do anything. You’re a great cook! You can change a tire! You will do this!” (She said later she couldn’t have done it without me. She’s a generous young woman.)

When I first saw her, I gasped at her fragility. I could see all her bones, her heart through her chest. But the nurses who took her to the warming table called me over: “Come on, Grandma, you can touch her.” And, seeing her through their eyes, I trusted and placed my hand on Sakura Michelle’s two-and-a-half pound body. My hand completely covered her and I prayed -- her first blessing.

In the hospital nursery, all I could see were tubes and wires, but again the nurses showed her to me. They treated her like all women treat babies, talking to her in that itsy-bitsy-pooh voice. Sakura came into focus -- a perfectly formed, beautiful blossom of a baby girl, which is what Sakura means in Japanese: Cherry Blossom.

Some women collect figurines or books or old roses. I collect transfiguration stories. Now I have two more. These two children of mine are revealed to be loving, caring, competent parents. And this fragile new life is my granddaughter. What a lovely juxtaposition of words -- Grand Daughter. Welcome to the world, Sakura Michelle.

Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.

National Catholic Reporter, July 30, 2004

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