Back at the beginning of her people’s history, Caela’s ancestors were bred according to parameters not interested in reproduction. This genetic weapons project had to be closely controlled. There was no room for rogue breeding. These human weapons were not produced sexually, but technologically. To make sure they were fed chemicals that prevented sexual viability.
Once they became free to live as human beings, they discovered issues with natural methods of achieving parenthood. For many it was difficult or even impossible to conceive. In their captivity both women and men were used to lives of hard work, service, not subject to childcare responsibilities; in freedom they tended toward producing as a community small numbers of children who were cherished by all. Over time these people assimilated with the greater population and took on the more normalized nuclear family patterns. Still a large percentage of these families were career couples without children. Even if a couple were fertile, women who decided they were not ready to take on a pregnancy had the ability to convince the newly forming life to dislodge before any sentience became a possibility. When that embryonic sentience did emerge, the gestating mother found herself suddenly a pair-bond, in total empathy with her developing child.
Caela had assisted with difficult births, calming mother and child as she helped them to separate. It wasn’t until she experienced pregnancy with Felicity that she was able to understand, finally and too late, the answer to her mother Letta’s undoing.
You are Letta. You have known all your life that you have an exceptionally strong sensitivity, even among people for whom hyper-sensitivity to others’ emotions is the norm. You have learned a kind of control, an ability to use reason and rules developed of experience to make of this what had sometimes seemed a curse a gift. You have made a good career for yourself as an admired and respected healer. You have made a good marriage with a man you love and respect who loves and respects you. You have a wonderful, adorable little child and another on the way.
You are forced from your happy secure home into total chaos. You are forced to endure months of hardship when physical hardship is something you had never known. You are afraid; the fetus is terrified. You try to find calm, but instead the terror keeps escalating in perpetual feedback. There is terror all around, within and without. This goes on and on as if it will never change. When it does change, it is a tragedy. The baby dies, despairingly panicked mom trying desperately to protect, give comfort, to that little dying life falls down, down, beyond recall. The march is over. She doesn’t notice. Life is over. There is nothing left of her to return. Some physical form that was once Letta goes through what to her have become arcane motions, when bidden. She swallows food, processes air and nutrients, doesn’t actually sleep because she is no longer actually awake. It’s not that she meant to desert her loving daughter, sever that bond. It’s just that there’s nothing left of her to bond with. There are wounds that never heal, never even have the consciousness to try.
By the time Caela has found this understanding, she is so joyfully in love with the child growing in her womb that the realization she had so long sought comes as mere information, not some holy treasure at the conclusion of a quest.