Coming into Grandparenthood
Lucky me! Both of my adult daughters were pregnant at the same time—now only one is! A week ago, Tuesday night, my oldest daughter called me to tell me that she was in labor, exactly on her due date. I caught the red eye to New York and arrived in Brooklyn at 8:30 a.m. She was in labor, but still at home. I wanted to be there to help my daughter and her husband. My wife planned to come two weeks after the baby was born to provide assistance.
Maya labored intensely for 8 hours before we went to the hospital. We thought she was ready to deliver, but unfortunately, despite heavy contractions, her cervix had not sufficiently dilated. She was exhausted after 24 hours of intense labor. She received an epidural in order to get some rest. She needed medical intervention to help her labor progress, and it did. At 12:52 am, Layla Helene was born—a perfect 10!
I missed the final act—having gone to my hotel after being up for 36 hours straight. But when I met Layla in the morning, tears of joy streamed down my face. My baby had a baby! It was a wonderful moment. Maya’s little sister, herself 7 months pregnant, was there to help deliver her niece.
The following four days, at the hospital, bringing Layla home, were a blur of intense family bonding and celebrating the arrival of a new person into this world. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and I was able to be a “go for” for my daughter and her husband (getting food and other stuff, holding the baby, etc.) and a fly on the wall watching these new parents find their footing.
For me, it was a peak experience as I am sure it is for all new grandparents. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Like all of us new to the grandparent club, I learned a few things too.
Being a grandparent is largely a spectator sport. There were several moments when I wanted to intervene and open my big mouth (as in “Don’t you think we’re overdue to go to the hospital!”). But I realized that this was not my show—my wife and I had already been responsible for raising two little girls, making decisions all along the way, and hoping for the best. This was their time to make those big and little judgments. This was my time to step back and simply do what I was told and provide an extra set of hands.
Of course, some grandparents get to do a lot more depending on their children’s circumstances. I always felt very fortunate that my grandmother lived with us for much of my childhood. She was far more than an extra pair of hands, although she was that too.
It takes a small village to raise a child. When our kids were little, we didn’t have much help from our parents. We did most everything on our own and it was hard. We didn’t have the kind of relationship with our parents that we have with our kids. We are much closer and more connected. But I can see the value of extended family living in close proximity. We benefit from having each other close at hand to provide both practical and emotional support.
From generation to generation... Sitting around the living room, with Layla sound asleep in her bassinet, I got to chat with my daughter, now a mom. She was overwhelmed with a sense of awe—at her creation, her intense bond and her feeling of responsibility.
I looked across the living room and simply stated an age-old truth—“Now you know how your mom and I feel about you”.
Both of our eyes filled with tears. It was a sweet moment for an old Dad and a new Mom.