In Love With A Granddaughter

Susan Page
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Wednesday - February 27, 2008
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I’ve just learned what my friends who are already grandmothers have long known about a first granddaughter: It is the first baby ever born. Never mind defying facts like past and present civilization, Adam and Eve, and that my daughter had to be born first for this new child to occur.

What I know (and what mothers of daughters who become mothers know) is that with the birth of this wee creature weighing less than my purse, an alternate universe was created in which she is at once the sun, moon, planets and stars. What’s old is new again. Words like perfect and absolutely perfect are repeated often. Normal is persistent staring to catch tiny lips curling into an “O,” a surprise yawn, a unintentional shaka by miniature fingers, or eyebrows that abruptly rise like the “church lady.” I dote and double dote.

Mind you, I consider each of the seven grandchildren I blessedly inherited through marriage to my husband to be mine. To them I am “Grammy” and I love them deeply. I carry their pictures and brag on them to tolerant friends.

So what is so different, so transformational about this baby?

I’ve concluded that it must be because she is the daughter of my daughter. Over three and a half decades ago my daughter was also the first baby ever born. Two weeks ago, just after arriving in Arlington, Va., a few days before the birth, memories and long-shuttered emotions of that cherished experience began to inch forward to my present. At one point, I swear I was feeling contractions. Questions, like “Mom, how long were you in labor with me?” and “Was Dad helping you with your breathing?” triggered a deluge. Medical details, the private kind, came clear. I was reliving through her the biggest and best moment of my existence.

In the labor room, my daughter allowed me to witness the birth, provided I take no pictures, as I’d been doing like a crazy paparazzi. Her husband was a gentle coach, her rock ... and patient. If he or she wished last minute that I’d been banished to a waiting room, they never let on, even when I banged into the instrument tray drawing a stern rebuke from the midwife. If there was a rule posted, I seemed to break it. And, unfortunately, there are many hospital maternity ward rules now thanks to crazy baby thieves and sue happy videographers. Even looking at rows of babies through the glass, comparing them to yours has been banned.

Despite my deja vu moments, I was reminded of how far baby birthings have come.

“Mom,” my daughter told me, “they never let you go more than a week past your due date. It’s not good for the baby.”

No wonder her two-week-late brother had skin that peeled and looked like wrinkled pajamas. High tech has also entered labor rooms. Nurses are now computer whizzes with monitoring devices hooked up to the mom’s belly which transmit every gurgle, heartbeat, and contraction right to the nurses station. It’s so much better than screaming at the top of my lungs, “Hey, I need a doctor in here now, I’m ready!”

Aside from her husband, my daughter was surrounded by females: nurses and a midwife, most moms themselves, chatting as women do about all sorts of things, but especially the sleet storm that was wreaking havoc during the evening commute out of D.C. Some had been stranded, some had weathered ramp closings and wrecks, all had stories. It was hard to impart to them that the very first baby ever was about to enter the world and they’d better get serious (and maybe bow down). But, while their chatter annoyed Grandma, I think the normalcy of conversation - women being women - relaxed my daughter. That and the epidural.

My mind couldn’t help but flash to scenes of Africa and some of the women I’ve met who’ve given birth to baby after baby on the floor of mud huts. I love it that even in a sterile, high-tech hospital setting, pregnant mothers aren’t treated like they’re sick anymore, just being guided safely through a perfectly natural process.

That I could witness the process with my daughter is a blessing far beyond my limited imagination. That she allowed me the chance to be reborn into baby Emma’s new universe has allowed me to see the promise of the future.

Her present discloses my past and inspires my future, merging sweet memories with all the hope and possibilities new life brings.

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