My first day of 2015 didn’t begin well. I’d woken too early, so I was tired and couldn’t seem to find the motivation to do any of the things that usually make me feel better. Instead, I felt grumpy and dissatisfied with those aspects of my life that weren’t the way I wanted them.
It’s strange, but it was as if the universe was adding fuel to my mood when for some inexplicable reason I dropped my yoghurt container as I was preparing my breakfast, and big white splotches of yoghurt splattered all around my kitchen — on the floor, the backs of the chairs, the newspaper, and the bench tops.
Later, my full water bottle slipped out of my hand and created a minor flood in the same kitchen. I had to hurriedly mop that up as my husband was waiting in the car to be taken to the airport and catch a flight.
On the drive to the airport, my mood deteriorated further as I focussed on the most negative aspects of my life. All was doom and gloom, and if beginnings were any indication of how things might progress, 2015 was destined to be a bad year for me.
Fortunately, I know a beginning’s mood doesn’t predict what lies ahead.
But beginnings have always been important to me. As a kid, first days of school held hope for new achievements, and perhaps new friends, and the first day of the summer holidays always held anticipation for lots of sun, water, and fun. My first day as a trainee nurse, the beginning of the process to fulfill my dreamed of vocation, was momentous.
But beginnings took on a different importance when I became a midwife.
I believe that one of the most miraculous events in this amazing experience called life, is birth — the beginning of a new person’s life — and as a midwife, I had the privilege of being present for many ‘birth’ days. Each one was special in it’s own way, and it was always an honour to be able to play a part in such an emotional, spiritual, physical, and transforming experience. The beginning of a new life often marks the beginning of a new family, or a new father, mother, perhaps new grandparents, aunties, and uncles. And each new life brings new love.
Last Saturday night, I was woken at 3:40 am by a phone call. Phone calls in the middle of the night usually don’t bring good news, but when I worked as a home birth midwife, they generated excitement because they signaled that another little person was readying to come to the light and take a breath.
I answered my early morning call in the same way I used to when I was called for a home birth, saying, “I’m on my way.”
You see, I knew it was my son Ben calling to tell me his partner’s waters had broken.
Months ago, when Ben and Amanda invited me to be involved in the pregnancy and the baby’s birth, I felt blessed. Not only were they giving me a longed for grandchild, but they were also enabling me to fulfill my dream to be present at the birth of that child.
But this was Amanda’s second baby, and because I knew her and her history, I believed this babe would be in a hurry to enter our world, which made me scared I might miss the birth. Time would prove my fear was valid.
My phone records tell the story:
First call at 3:41, lasting 31 secs. (To let me know the waters had broken.)
Second call at 3:50, lasting three minutes. (To say the hospital had told them to stay home until contractions began. We agreed I’d drive to their home, but if they needed to leave before I arrived, Ben would text me to let me know.)
Text message at 4:33 saying, ‘Hospital’ (I had only just passed the last exit for the hospital, and had to continue to the next one, turn, and go back.)
I arrived at the hospital about 4:50 to 4:55, just after they got there. (Yes, I broke the speed limit, but there were very few cars on the road.)
Baby was born at 5:07. (The midwives almost missed the birth because Amanda was so calm. I suspect they had no idea how imminent the birth was, they didn’t have time to do anything but quickly don gloves and catch.)
It was fast, too fast – not for Amanda, who was relieved the pain was done with — but for Ben and me, who hadn’t really come to grips with what was happening. Yes, I made it in time, which was fantastic, but there was an element of shock for us. I remember mothers I had cared for in the past who laboured fast, telling me about the shock factor, but I never really understood it before.
As is often the case in the initial minutes after a birth, no one thought to see what sex the baby was until a midwife asked if we already knew, prompting us to take a look.
I have a grandson, Jasper.
Apparently, the clinkers were right! (See previous post for an explanation: Reflections)
Jasper cried readily and all seemed well to begin with, but a fast birth can be a bit of a shock for the baby as well as the adults, and he lacked the energy needed to feed, so towards the end of his first day, he was admitted to the Special Care Nursery. Apparently, despite his healthy weight of 8lb 20z (3685kg), his behaviour suggested prematurity.
So, although all seemed well at his beginning, it didn’t stay that way. On day two of his life, he was still too tired to suck, and had to be fed by tube, and when he did wake enough to feed, sucking at the breast was too tiring.
As is often the case, everything seemed worse on day three when his mum was discharged, meaning she had to leave him overnight while she went home to sleep, and our hope for him to be breastfed was diminishing because the nursery staff bottle fed him.
However, everything seemed to click into place on Day four and he was finally discharged on Day five, fully breastfed.
My siblings all became grandparents over twenty years ago, and I was desperate to join their ranks. I loved being a mother, and wanted what I considered the natural extension of that role, to become a grandmother, but as the years ticked by, I’d pretty much given up hope that it would ever happen.
But I was still curious about it. Grandparents I knew, raved about how wonderful it was, how inexplicable the feeling, and what a blessing it was.
We already have a child in our life, Amanda has a five year old who calls us Nana Juli and Papa Tony. She brings us endless joy and we adore her as if she was our own grandchild, so when Ben told me that Amanda was expecting his baby, I wondered if it would feel different.
One grandmother told me she loved knowing that her expected grand baby contained a part of her DNA, but that doesn’t seem important to me. I see my own DNA as a type of record of my genetic history, coming from ancestors I never met as well as my own parents. It’s not special.
I know to many people, a highlight of having grandchildren is that the family name is being carried forward into the next generation, but I don’t see why should I care if my husband’s name is carried on. And I doubt I’d feel differently if it was my father’s name, because it doesn’t identify my mother, or my father’s mother. Besides, my mother’s maiden name was her father’s name. Her mother’s identity fades into oblivion with each added generation, and given enough time, so will her father’s. When I took my husband’s name in marriage, I knew that names are simply the labels we use for ourselves in this life.
So, now I am a grandmother, I can honestly say that I don’t love Jasper anymore than I love his big sister, but I have discovered one pleasure in being related to the little chap. It occurred to me when I saw the following status that my son posted on Facebook:
This little guy is so amazing! Falling more and more in love every minute.
And this image posted by his partner, along with her words:
Words cannot express how much love I feel for this little guy and his daddy xxx
This is where the magic lies – in that mysterious unconditional love that we have for our children.
If a stranger came into our lives, demanded we feed him, wash him, and care for him in every way, while never giving us anything in return, I suspect we’d rebel, hate him, and tell him to get out of our sight.
And yet, that’s all Jasper does, but we still adore him. He doesn’t crack jokes to make us laugh or cheer us up, he doesn’t hold intelligent conversations with us, he doesn’t even pretend to be interested in us. It’s all about Jasper – me, me, me. Such selfishness!
And still, we love him.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt unconditional love like this for everyone else? Then, peace on earth would truly exist.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, what’s special about becoming a grandmother is seeing my son experience that endless and unconditional love we felt, and still feel for him. I’m sure the years ahead won’t always be perfect, there’ll be days when Jasper makes us angry, or upsets us with something he does, but they will all be evened out with the amazing joy he’ll bring into our lives, and those times when our hearts take flight with the simple immensity of our feelings for him.
I love that my son is experiencing this, and will go on experiencing it with all the ups and downs of parenting. And that maybe one day, his son Jasper, will also feel that love as he gazes at his own newborn.
A baby reminds us that love is limitless.
What a wonderful world.
Isn’t he sweet?
Our beautiful boy.
A happy new year to you all!