Laurel wrote this article while eagerly anticipating the birth of her first grandson. She has been a registered nurse since 1969. She earned her BA in Cognitive Science from SUNY Buffalo in 2002. She lives in East Amherst, NY, is a mother of three. And, now grandmother of Aidan, born February 2nd.
"We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came, And go round and round and round in the circle game.”
My first grown up job was as a Pediatric nurse. Along with the very sick children, I saw a number of neglected and hurt kids. While I longed for children of my own, having lost my first two pregnancies, I found it hard to believe that I would have the blessing of being a mom. So those unwanted little ones really broke my heart. It seemed that having babies came easiest to those least able to understand how precious those babies are. In those days my best friend worked in Labor and Delivery. I used to visit her whenever I could just to see the babies.
In those days, I lived with sadness and jealousy.
But, like many others, I kept hoping and trying. On a misty early morning in July of 1976, my miraculous daughter was born. Unlike most new babies, she didn’t cry. Her eyes, wide open and searching, seemed to be taking in this new experience as if to say, “Hmmm, just what is this now?” Besides being the hands-down most beautiful porcelain-skinned perfect little creature, she was more than I thought I could ever produce. As she grew, like the proverbial fairy tale princess, she became more beautiful and graceful. And, like that princess, she is not only beautiful but also talented, kind, generous and loving. But like real princesses she is also smart, savvy, tough and capable.
If we take the time to watch and listen, our kids teach us way more than we ever teach them. Watching my daughter grow into a woman has, at time, left me speechless with wonder. I admire her more than I can say. Being her mom has been a rare gift.
Now we are about to come full circle. Any minute she is going to be a mommy. Because I know who she is, I know she will be an amazing parent. My kid wraps her heart around every thing she does. For her there is no half way. She is the kind of woman who, seeing a need, does what she can to fill it. She is a giver. She sees suffering and tries to alleviate it. She keeps ancient stuffed toys so, if they possibly have feelings, those feelings will not be hurt. She has been to Sri Lanka after the tsunami, down the Amazon to vaccinate indigenous children, to East Timor to help the Timorese to claim their future. She has unending patience for her beloved but somewhat badly-behaved beagle. I have never know her to intentionally unkind.
When she was little, and until she left for college, I daily thanked her for being my kid. Since then the ritual has changed as we negotiate how to be grown-up together. I remind her that I really don’t know how to be the parent of a grown-up and that I require her patience, understanding and honesty as we figure it out together. Sadly, much of this work has had to be long-distance, but I think we are doing pretty well nevertheless.
Now it’s time to re-tune the process for the very best of reasons.
The20 week ultrasound shows that it’s a boy! He has his mom’s profile. Unlike 30 years ago, technology has given us the opportunity to give this little fellow a face and a name long before he appears. We have been experimenting with his likes and dislikes for months now and have a pretty good start in figuring out who he is.
Yes, I would have liked a girl because my experience says that first born girls are pretty incredible creatures. So a boy means more learning on my part, taking less for granted. A boy means that I’ll have to be more sensitive to who he is instead of his more obvious gender. I like to think that this is an added benefit of living in the 21st century. I like to think that we are coming to a time when who is more important than what.
Human beings are the only species in which the women live beyond their reproductive years. We experience menopause. Research seems to indicate that we do so in order to be free to give our time and energy to our daughters to give them a reproductive edge. We survive, biologically speaking, to spoil our grandchildren.
There are two problems with this. One is the obvious scattering of families so that our grandchildren, in many cases, are hundreds of miles away. The other is that most of us becoming grandparents now are baby boomers. We like to fix things, change things, dabble in things. We like to re-invent the wheel. It’s very difficult for us to let someone else be in charge. If we are to be grandparents, we need to be a different kind of grandparent than there has ever been. We need to be the acme of grandparents. We need to DO something.
I’ve rediscovered knitting. I’m not a great knitter mind you, but for Aidan I’m more than willing to try to be better. He is not going to care much about the quality of my work for some time anyway. In the beginning he will only care if he is warm, dry, loved, and exposed to cool new things.
I’ve been making baby slings. Some clever people have finally discovered what the moms of emerging nations have always known. Babies like to be attached to their caregivers. They experience greater mental and physical stimulation in a sling than in those plastic seats. For anyone with the most basic sewing skills, good directions for a number of different sling systems can be found online. For those less crafty, ready made slings are available in retail stores and online.
I’ve been haunting the bookstores again. I believe that every child needs to have his/her own books. Every parent (or other who loves the child) needs to read as soon and as often as they can to the child. Some of my favorite memories are of the hours spent cuddling with my own kids, reading favorite stories. It is truly one of the great rewards of parenting. It doesn’t matter how silly you think you sound. Kids are very forgiving audiences.
I can’t wait until I can read with Aidan.
Yes, what we are doing now is waiting. Waiting give you lots of time to think. Here is what I find myself thinking:
I want him to be born in the way his parents choose. His dad, who has paramedic training, hopes to be the first person to actually touch him. His mom is more than ready for the challenge of labor and delivery, having studied hypnosis for birthing. They have earth-friendly diapers, healthy baby products and sensible plans for the future.
I want to be there to at least think I'm supporting their efforts. I'm just about dying to see my baby cuddling her baby. I know someone she truly loves will benefit from all her experience and education. My grandson. The little boy who will carry my DNA into the future.
As much as I believe that his mom is what the world needs now, I trust that he will be the master of a world I might not live to see or understand. Aidan is my hope for the future. I find myself thinking more about what I can do to make his world cleaner, safer and more peaceful. Suddenly, this has become far more important.
Please share your thoughts and experiences below.