In August 1959, my mother was born in Battambang, Cambodia. Technically, she is not my grandmother’s first born: my grandmother lost four children before she had my mother. It is unclear what the causes were; I only know that my grandmother had to experience seeing each of her first four babies die before they reached a year of life.
My grandmother went to temple to ask the monks why her babies kept dying. They told her that there was something harmful in her karma and that she must have someone else take her next child immediately after birth until the child reached a year of age, and only by doing this would it live.
So, soon after my mother came into the world, my great aunt took her from my grandmother for an entire year. And she lived.
I wonder how it is that every child after my mother, my four uncles and my aunt, was able to live with my grandmother immediately after birth while she was not.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like for my grandmother to lose her four babies, to have lived with that kind of fear, to have had to miss her daughter’s first year of life.
This is only one example of the strength of the women in my family.