Swaddled

Big, big exhalation. How long have I been holding my breath? About nine months and three weeks, the exact length of time it took for my grandson to grow large enough to come into the world and for me to get out there to meet him.

Amid all the fun of watching my daughter grow huge with child and seeing she and her husband prepare to be parents,  I struggled mightily on the inside  with becoming a grandparent. I held an incessant  nine month inner dialogue that went something like this:

(Read to self quickly, then repeat. For a more realistic experience, read at 4:00 A.M.)

How can I be a grandmother I don’t know how to be a grandmother all I know is what my mother did which was come over every day for weeks and weeks and wash the clothes and cook and clean  and help with the baby and sometimes she brought her sisters for reinforcement and there C. and E. are out there in California with no relatives, well they know some people but not that many why haven’t I retired what if she needs help and I’m not there it’s not like I can just get in a plane and fly over there anytime stop overwhelming yourself and what will I do when I miss the baby that is going to be intolerable it hurts my stomach right now and I don’t even know what to be called all I know is nothing countryfied, like, not Meemaw or Mawmaw or no undignified baby talk words like MooMoo or PooPoo you’ll eventually be called something  yes but  when I do go out there how can I get all the cleaning and cooking and baby stuff done so they will be all caught up by the time we leave so she won’t need me after we’ve gone and so nothing will upset or depress her the way I always was postpartum oh groan it was so awful that would be unacceptable I’ll just have to get everything done that’s all and what if I’m not good with the baby I never thought I was good with babies and what if I can’t do anything with him that would be a disaster  I haven’t taken care of a baby in twenty seven years but they’ll EXPECT me to be good with soothing  upset babies because that is what grandmothers know how to do and I am going to be declared one, but how can I be a grandmother?

Got it?

As with most unknowns, there was nothing to do but wait, and to be sure, one day before his due date Micah was born. Without me. We already had our dates planned to come out, according to  the way my daughter and son in law wanted things to be, in case anyone wonders why we didn’t charter the first plane out of Memphis.

Waiting for the unknown.

Waiting for the unknown.

Finally we met our baby. When I held him, I felt a deep, peaceful  knowing, as if reconnected to an old soul. I know you, I thought, and you are mine. I rushed headlong  into baby love.

We meet baby Micah.

We meet baby Micah.

What about my worries? About soothing the baby, the best news ever was this little invention, the swaddler,  which did not exist in my day. The blanket like garment soothes a fractious baby and makes him feel warm, safe and secure. The old fashioned…uh… grandmother in me was skeptical at first but soon I was won over when Micah, bundled, relaxed immediately in my arms.

Micah in his swaddler.

Micah in his swaddler.

What about the sleep deprived parents? It turns out that these people know how to take naps, something I was never able to do. When we arrived each morning from our nearby motel we relieved whichever parent was awake to retreat to bed. The parents would say they were tired, but they seemed pretty sane to me. They were wearing clothes, for example, and seemed to be taking showers. I saw them reading sometimes.

The new parents are holding their own.

The new parents are holding their own.

What about being helpful? Within the first few minutes of our arrival, my daughter said to me, “Thanks for holding the baby so I can have an adult conversation.” Aaaah, we were already helping! And speaking of helping, Micah’s grandfather turned out to be the most effective baby whisperer in the house. Whenever he wasn’t doing some manual labor for my daughter, such as hanging pictures, he could be found with Micah in his arms.

IMG_2813

But what about my daughter’s mood? SHE WAS FINE!!!!!!! Her focus was on baby’s well being, not seeming a bit overwhelmed, just taking things moment by moment.  I did have to make some changes in the eating arena. One can only choke down so many dry turkey sandwiches. Though the meals I fixed were often consumed more hurriedly than in the past, hopefully they made the new parents feel nurtured.

I wanted them to have fresh, delicious food.

I wanted them to have fresh, delicious food.

And about the cleaning, my daughter did allow me to clean her kitchen floor on my hands and knees. Pregnant ladies can’t see their own feet, let alone a floor. She was very appreciative that I had done it, but the good news was that had I not gotten around to it, it wouldn’t have bothered her a bit. Finally the memories of myself as a new mother, feeling sad and defeated because my house was so cluttered, faded in my mind. Actually, I had been the one in disarray, not the house.Thankfully, my daughter does not have those burdens.

As the days went by we settled into an easy routine of baby care. It came to me that we were all pitching in to take care of the baby, the parents, and their home. Why had I thought all the emotional responsibility was going to fall only on me? I found I could relax and just be a grandmother!

This is the tree I'm planning to climb with Micah.

This is the tree I’m planning to climb with Micah.

All too soon it was time to leave. I came to Pasadena in hypervigilant mode, ready to do whatever battles were necessary for my people. I anticipated it to be hard. Yes, I did work all day and retire each night to sleep as hard as a brick bat, but it was fun, joyous and fulfilling.

The Saga Motor Inn, where my husband and I retired each night, opened the shutters to let in the cool evening air, and read our books in complete silence before we crashed.

The Saga Motor Inn, where my husband and I returned each night, opened the shutters of our room to let in the cool evening air, and read our books in complete, delightful silence before we crashed.

We were all bound by our love for Micah, and enjoyed seeing one another enjoy him. The arrival of this precious little fellow had changed all our previous, familiar configurations. Wife to mother. Husband to father. Mother to grandmother. Father to grandfather. We all revolved, gracefully, I thought, around our new sun.

I marveled at my son in law’s transformation into a Daddy. He has won my heart over and over with his devotion and thoughtfulness.

Showing Micah Mommy's artwork.

Showing Micah Mommy’s artwork.

My sweet son in law. Now he's a Daddy.

My sweet son in law. Now he’s a Daddy.

I beamed at seeing my daughter in action as a Mother.

She's a natural!

She’s a natural!

IMG_2825I marveled at this this couple, reassured at their priorities and partnership.

The happy new family.

The happy new family.

I treasured seeing  Grandaddy gaze at the baby.DSC_0058

I drank in each moment with Micah, just as I had hoped to do. I have memorized him now.IMG_2867

Families are all more than the sum of their parts, but now we have more parts in the mix, and it’s glorious. More relationships. More ties. More moments to savor now and memories to plan for the future.IMG_2865

I was not ready to leave, but I did so with a heart that was  full and peaceful.

Swaddled, really.

29 thoughts on “Swaddled

  1. Congratulations to your new, beautiful experiences. And good to hear, too, that baby and mom are doing well. We take it for granted, these days, but it isn’t. So good to hear, that it’s the case here.

    • Thank you so much, Fran! I agree we cannot take the week being of Mama and baby for granted. New mothers need lots of support. Since I can’t be there every day, I was very relieved to see how well they were all doing.

  2. I love this! Such a sweet tribute. You captured the seemingly traumatic…but actually effortless transition to grandmother hood perfectly!

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  3. Thank you for another beautiful post. The photos of baby bonding are wonderful. I cannot wait for my own chance to meet Micah. And let me add that in my experience, you always know what to do! Quit worrying. 🙂

  4. The pictures of you and David as G’parents ( you never told us your given name ) warms my heart. What a wonderful story of love for all. Congratulations on the new addition to your sweet family!

  5. This is so sweet and wonderful I can’t stop reading it! I had no idea you felt any stress at all, and was just so happy to have you here! The meals were wonderful, and it was so much fun to share our little precious with you. You are a wonderful grandmother, and Micah loves his Emmy! Think of all the fun we are going to have together:)

  6. Sweet times! Love how you write! Being a Grandma is wonderful even far away. My grand boy is in Colorado. Wish we all lived closer.

  7. Lovely…wish we had talked….I could have told you (though you might not have believed) what a natural you would be a this grandma gig.

  8. Hi, Mary Beth! That was the most beautiful thing I have read! And OF COURSE, Cameron is a natural! She was the best baby sitter we had! I am so proud of her, and so happy that she is starting her own family. You have raised a wonderful and amazing daughter, and I was so lucky to get to know her! Wish I could see you more! (since I only live across the street). We need to catch up. Anyway, congratulations! Roann

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Roann. Sometimes I can’t believe this wonderful young woman is my daughter; someone must have done something right! let’s do catch up; maybe when it cools off we could walk?

  9. The wordsmith in me likes that you were in the Saga Motor Inn….and so this saga begins! Congratulations! And the post reminds me of my own thoughts about when I became a father. Equally nerve wracking, except that I only knew what I DIDN’T want to do

  10. Yes, I never thought of the “Saga” aspect but you are exactly right! Thank you so much for your kind words. new beginnings are hard when we have no template. My mother was an excellent grandmother but she lived 20 minutes away from me, unlike my long distance from my daughter. Now that I’ve made one visit out there I have a lot more confidence!

  11. Funny how the more frantic our mental states become the more punctuation goes out the window!

    This was a really beautiful post. I’m not normally a sappy guy when it comes to family stuff, but you totally melted me with this. I can tell from your perspective that you were a fantastic parent and that you will be an excellent grandparent.

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful moments with us.

    • Brantley, that was so sweet! I am so thrilled I could melt your totally not sappy young enough to be my own son heart. I hesitated about how much to share, out of respect for the baby’s and parents’ privacy, but then I decided, what the heck. This is MY blog. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  12. Oh, that last line got me!! And those swaddlers are LIFESAVERS! One of the best baby inventions ever. What a sweet little boy he is. And those grandpas…I swear there is something about a grandpa that can soothe a baby. My dad has long been known as a “baby hog,” and babies love him.

    So happy to finally had your trip out there and everyone is doing so well! You’re a natural, Grandma!

  13. This is SO SWEET! I want to hold that perfect, handsome baby SO BAD. I want to be swaddled myself … in that exact swaddler but a little bigger. I want to climb that tree BAD. Oh goodness, how blessed you are with this little peanut and whole experience. SO SORRY I’m just getting over here. Triple love this post! 🙂

  14. That is exactly it! We NEED these swaddlers; surely they would not be too hard to make? All are welcome to meet me at the tree after our naps for climbing. Sure, the tree is on the Cal Tech campus, but they’re used to nerds over there. And don’t apologize for arriving late; I have an annoying self imposed rule that I cannot catch up on others’ posts until I write my own post. Totally unfair. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  15. Pingback: Gratitude And The Children’s Hour | mindfulmagpie

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