Becoming a grandparent

22 Oct

On October 18th, the date of my maternal grandmother’s birthday, I became a grandmother myself.  It was a bit sudden, since the baby wasn’t due until December, but my daughter had developed preeclampsia.  The days leading up to the birth were stressful.  She’s a diabetic who has battled complications for years, and her own health was fragile enough to cause any medical professional (or parent) plenty of worry without a pregnancy at all.  I knew she knew the risks, I also knew how badly she wanted this baby.  As her mom, I felt it was impossible to do anything but support her decision, no matter how much I was worrying silently.

The preeclampsia wasn’t the complications that everyone had worried about.  That was one of those random but “normal” things that happen, and first time mothers are especially high risk for that particular issue.  I know…I had suffered from the same thing when I was pregnant with her, nearly 30 years before.  Treatment has changed considerably, but the cure remains the same.  The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery.

My daughter tried to deliver vaginally, and they induced labor twice, but in round two, she started developing fluid on her lungs.  The swelling in her lower body had already passed the painful point long since.  She was miserable, and of course, I was worrying about everything, and saying nothing.  As much as I wanted her to have a baby, I most of all wanted HER to be healthy and safe too.  I didn’t even think about the baby, other in terms of how it would affect her if anything was wrong with the baby.

Am I weird? I don’t think so.  I think most moms are like that about their daughters.  At least until they see their grandchild, they remain focused on the child they had given birth to, raised, cuddled, coddled, fussed over, disciplined, and sent out into the world as an adult.  No matter how old she was, she was still my baby girl.

But now, the dynamics have changed.  I get to be a grandmother.  I think about my own mother’s influence, which was probably even greater since I was a single parent.  To my daughter, her grandmother was a second parent, even if her role was somewhat different than that of her mom.  To her, it was what a normal family was like.

Grandmothers get the good stuff, I remember thinking about that even when my daughter was a baby.  Grandmothers get the coos and smiles and giggles, and moms get the dirty diapers, baths, and rules.  Now, its my turn for the “good stuff.”

I look at the tiny baby, who despite her early arrival via emergency c-section, is perfectly proportioned and weighed in at 4 lbs. 5 oz.  She has dark hair, and I’m told she looks like me by my daughter.  I shake my head and admit only that it appears that she has eyebrows shaped like mine.  I know that the dark hair may or may not stay, as that baby hair will likely fall out and can grow back in a completely different color.  Her mother’s didn’t–her mother was born with platinum blond hair on top, with mousy brown hair on the sides and back of her head, and to this day, it grows that way, although the transition isn’t as defined as it was at birth.

She has a feeding tube, which I gather is a standard treatment at this stage of her development, and is likely to remain in place for about two weeks.  That seems strange, as my son was about the same amount of time premature as she is, but that was twenty years ago.  When he finally began taking food by mouth, it was a bottle, even though it was a very small bottle and nipple.  My granddaughter is doing well, having already adapted to breathing on her own and standard room air as well.  The steroid shots that her mother received had done their work of accelerating her (the baby’s)  lung development.  I was with my daughter when she got to feed her the first time…a whole 10 cc meal of formula, which went down the tube via gravity.  Just like any baby, she fussed from her hunger, and then was relieved after having had her meal.

She does have a lot of wires, as her body is continually monitored in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to ensure that everything is going right for her.  She’s also very tiny, and her mother can’t hold her long before she starts to chill and needs returned to the isolette that keeps her warm, with its tiny cradle-like dish covered by a receiving blanket.  I remember that portion from my own stint as the mother of a baby in NICU so very long ago, and find myself often comparing this NICU to the one I had once haunted, and there are many similarities, while there are obvious differences.

Four pounds is a very tiny baby, but I look up at GM and smile.  Once upon a time, a long time ago, he was a one pound six ounce baby without much chance of survival, and his mother had signed papers granting permission for an experimental machine to be used to try to save him.  If a baby as small as he was could make it that long ago, my granddaughter had it made in the shade, as the saying goes.

That means I get to start making plans.  I am going to be an obnoxious grandmother, you know the sort.  They inflict you with pictures of their darlings while you wait in line in the grocery store, sit in the waiting room at the tire shop, or try to see a doctor.  The parents of the darlings cringe when the announcement that Grandmother is coming to visit is made-it means weeks of dealing with tantrums after the impossibly indulgent spoiling has been done.  Holidays and birthdays equate obnoxious noisy and messy gifts that she stays and waits to ensure the darling enjoys torturing their parents with it.

What is it all about?


Yep, all those times that caused my gray hair.  Like when the police brought her home after drinking, or the time I caught her and she was intoxicated beyond my dumbfounded comprehension.  The boyfriends that I despised, like the one we nicknamed “the animated beer can” or the one that told racist jokes and failed to stop even when he was met with utter silent stares of shock.  The times I looked up from cooking to see her standing on the back of the chair trying to reach something…or saw her standing on her bouncing horse and bounding on it (no hands, mom!) across the living room.  The day I saw the horse toss her off…and she wasn’t wearing her helmet.  The day she tied her toddler brother’s hands behind his back…or talked him into mooning people as a elementary school student.  Her fixation on Marilyn Manson and goth  makeup.  First grade and changing her name every five minutes and refusing to answer her teacher unless the new name was used.  When she was learning to cook and I was sure we were all going to be poisoned.  Our fighting over nothing.  When she was diagnosed as a diabetic with a blood sugar of 2200 (normal is 75-130 or so).  The calls when she was sick and needed to go to the hospital again.  The middle of the night calls when the doctors had put her on a drug cocktail that was inducing some psychotic behavior.  Her tears when relationships failed.  The horror when I discovered her eating petrified dog poop from the neighbor’s yard as a toddler.  The day she drank her own urine as a toddler.  The time she tried to poison her grandma with a denture cleansing tablet shoved in her grandma’s mouth while she was asleep.  The time she tried to cut off her grandma’s leg with a steak knife.  The morning she hugged several new chicks to death and having to explain that chicks don’t like hugs.  The time she fed the fish aquarium her cereal.  The morning she managed to spill most of a five gallon jug of vegetable oil on the kitchen floor.

My revenge?

Chocolate pudding.  She taught me long ago how much fun it is to finger paint with chocolate pudding.  it also makes a great skin moisturizer (according to an 18 month old baby anyhow.)

Spaghetti and sauce.  You never cut it up, especially for 9 month old babies that are just at that perfect age to learn to feed themselves.  Its a lot of fun to try and master those long noodles.

Yogurt.  Long long ago, when it was she that was the baby, she called it “Ice creamy.”  I kept it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, and because she battled being too thin, it was a “free food.”  If she wanted some, she’d announce it with great glee as she pointed to the desired item.  It was also the perfect texture to be used as a skin moisturizer too.  She loved experimenting with creamy textured foods on her skin.  I’m sure her daughter will too!

Blueberries.  Long ago, they were one of my daughter’s favorite foods.  I’d give her a half dozen of the frozen unsweetened orbs on her high chair tray, and she was going to be occupied for a good fifteen minutes, and the hot weather where we lived in Arizona meant that icy foods were usually great fun.

Mud.  My daughter loved the mud, and played in it as often as possible.  I’m sure my granddaughter will also appreciate the opportunity.  Frequently.  After all, we live on the Gulf Coast, where rain can be measured in feet per year.  Mud is no stranger around here!

The word no.  Babies are so much fun when they learn to say that word.  At that moment, they are able to voice their opinions.  My daughter had very well defined opinions even before then, but when she learned the word no, she was able to voice them much more quickly and clearly.  I definitely will encourage my granddaughter to learn the word no as soon as possible.

Yep, being a grandmother will be a LOT of fun.  I remember one thing quite well, when they smell bad, are  completely filthy, get tired and cranky, that’s the moment you hand them back to their parents.  It’s perfect.  Grandmothers get the good stuff.


One Response to “Becoming a grandparent”

  1. lwayswright October 22, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    I am a grandma 4 times over now. Our last grandson was born almost 3 months early! It was scary and really hard waiting for him to be able to come home! but now he is so big and happy ….and I love love being a grandma. Best of luck to you!

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