First time her name crossed my lips, a Pacific breeze followed me up the hill that leads away from the ocean in Redondo Beach, California. As I climbed, the night sky hovered above me like an upside-down bowl, a hint of powdered sugar dusting its bottom.
I saw it then. The flash. Just as I spoke her name. Layla Grace.
The November sky lit up and my eyes shot toward the upturned, twinkling basin. There was my sign—a shooting star brighter than any I’ve ever seen. It etched a bright, backward C into the night as if chastising, “Cyndie? No backward, negative thinking!” Then it faded like fairy dust into a black, velvety-caked sky, and I knew.
Layla Grace was going to be fine.
I was blessed to be in the room when she, my sweet granddaughter, was born into this strong family of women. It took my daughter, Jessie, a whole lot of labor and three pushes to bring Layla into the world. When Layla didn’t show on the second push, Jessie said, “I thought I was a bigger beast than that.”
And she, Jessie, is a beast. She’s been uprooted three times for her husband’s occupation. Left good jobs behind knowing she would be forced to start from scratch somewhere else. And start over she did. All three times she succeeded beyond measure, working two jobs most of the time.
Now she takes yet another job. The hardest of all. Motherhood. It comes at a cost most women don’t first recognize, yet would be willing to pay even if they did. That price is sacrifice.
Admitting you must sacrifice for your children is hard for a mother. But not for a grandmother. Because now your baby is making those sacrifices.
Sometime after Layla’s arrival, I realized the gravity of the sacrifice most of us women make for our children. The life changes they command. Now we wake up in the morning and think, “What does my child need today?” “Where do I have to take her?” “What do I feed her?” We rise, do what we have to do, and ask for no thanks. We may, in an occasional weak moment, blow up and tell everyone they’re selfish. But for the most part, we don’t mind the doing, the giving.
Because we have each other.
The sacrifices we women make bind us together. Give us an I-understand comradery men don’t share and a hand to hold on to as we tread water in that ocean—like the one in Redondo Beach. Our strength rises and falls with the waves. We swim along together, flap our feet, find shallow spots, deep holes. Sometimes we plummet toward the bottom and kick up rock and stone, then forcefully make our way back to the top. To breath.
My mother passed away thirteen years before Layla came to be with us. She was our family’s matriarch. A giver. Faithfull servant. The memory of her standing stoically beside my father’s casket is forever framed in my mind. She had a strength I do not have, and yet, I have strengths that escaped her. And my daughters have strengths that elude me. So we lean on each other.
The sisterhood of women, which my sweet little Layla Grace has been born into, produces a mighty adrenaline.
I’m old now—my mother’s age when Jessie was born, but I don’t feel old. Or wise. Like people say I should feel. The day Layla was born, I felt young. Fragile and scared. They whisked her off to the NICU shortly after her birth because Jessie—my baby—had a fever. They started antibiotics to treat possible bacterial infections in both of them.
My toes sank toward the bottom of the ocean as my mind traveled back in time thirty-two years. To a different neonatal unit far away. To my beautiful little daughter, Jackie, who only lived fifteen hours.
When Jessie asked me to go to the neonatal unit with her to see Layla, I thought of Jackie, and I swear I felt my feet imbed in the ocean’s bottom. Yet, I leaned on Jessie. Her confidence. She was sure she and Layla would be fine. I grabbed hold of her hand and she lifted me up.
Isn’t that what we women do? Pull the sinking women around us back up to the top?
My good friend, Carol, and Jessie’s strength guided me through the forty-eight hours we waited for their tests to come back normal. To most people, it would have been nothing. But to me? After burying my little Jackie years ago? My entire life passed before my eyes.
Sometimes we women are strong and sometimes we crumble. But we love—always. And we support. And we keep on swimming through the waves and the current, reaching for each other’s firm grip and watching the skies for shooting stars.
And as for my shooting star? I am grateful and honored and blessed to say Layla Grace is fine and healthy and, of course, strong.
To all those women, who have hollered “keep swimming” to me or lent me a hand over the years, thank you. Some of you have done that in the past few weeks and some of you have done that at other times in my life when I needed you most. I promise to be there for you, when you are searching for your shooting star.
I may not have a sister to talk to, but I have good—no, great—friends, a mother and little angel looking down on me from heaven, and two strong daughters who will have each other to rely on long after I am gone, and now? Now I have Layla Grace.
And, so far in my life, loving Layla Grace has been the easiest of all my motherly tasks.