A new baby

On Wednesday my daughter had her first baby, a little boy. He was two weeks early and delivered eventually, after a long labour, by caesarean section. They are both fine and still in hospital, with E longing to go home!

It has been quite a journey for her with a pregnancy plagued by sickness. As always she has been her mainly cheerful and stoical self. She has always been like this, not one to fuss, not one to seek sympathy. As a two year old she had whooping cough. Even then, her face flaming and streaked with tears and her little body shaking with the spasms, as soon as the coughing stopped she would shake herself, blow her nose and say firmly "I'm all right Mummy." I have admired her so much as she has gone through this pregnancy, exhausted, sick, trying to hold down a difficult job, but, just as soon as the nausea faded, back to herself, strong and calm and without self pity. She is quite a girl, or a woman now I suppose. And her husband has been fantastic too: shopping and cooking and doing the laundry, singlehandedly looking after their allotment while doing his own work and keeping her spirits high.

You don't know what to expect or how you will feel as you watch your daughter approach the birth of her first baby. Underneath all other feelings there is a faint running surprise that time has whirled away like water down the plughole and your baby is now having a child of her own. How can that have happened so fast? If I close my eyes I can see her sleeping in her carry cot. There are whole stretches of the intervening years that are hazy, although bright images suddenly leap out from the mist to which I struggle to attach a date. But her birth and those first few months of caring for her are clear and vivid and instantly accessible. I don't have to strive to remember. It is all there behind my eyelids.

I did not find motherhood easy that first time. I bonded with her instantly and utterly but I took months to find my feet and to stop feeling adrift in a sea of exhaustion and incompetence. What to do with my memories of my own experience has been difficult. I haven't wanted her to be as totally taken aback as I was by how hard it is to look after a baby. I remember feeling that there must have been a great conspiracy of silence, all those people who had congratulated me on becoming pregnant who must have known how hard it was going to be but who had never told me. I was angry with them. I thought I should have been warned. But I haven't wanted to be all doom and gloom, the spectre at the feast, pouring cold water on her happiness. I have tried to walk a middle way but I may have said too much or too little, I really don't know, and she may have quite a different experience to mine. She might be one of the mothers I used to watch with the babies who never cry and sleep through at six weeks. I hope so.

It has got me right in the gut, wanting everything to be ok. When I found out she had had the baby a great surge of relief washed over me. She was all right. The baby was all right. A tiny tight knot which I had been carrying about in my stomach melted away. I had to see them to really be certain it was all ok. I drove for three and a half hours and arrived at the hospital just as visiting hours began. The joy at seeing her knocked me over like a wave in the surf. She was so happy with her baby and he was so perfect, tiny, with a surprisingly strong nose and E's long slender fingers and toes. There must be something about the handing on of one's genes. I felt I had handed her the baton. I could fall back, dropping my stride, letting the race surge on without me. As I drove back, stopping frequently knowing I was tired, the line from Othello came unbidden into my head "If it were now to die, t'were now to be most happy." Strange, strange, strange.

And now I feel connected to her as I used to be when she was a child. We are quite close and one of us will often ring to find the other was just about to pick up the phone. This happens with my other children too and there is just the same sense with them of being attached even though now that they are adults the line is long and loose, as it should be. But now as the baby is three days old I find myself thinking about her all the time, imagining the nights, wondering how she is, not quite able to settle to anything without the thought of her and the baby rising again and again to the surface of my mind. It must be something genetic, something primitive which focuses the efforts of the grandmother on the new generation, carrying the genes forward into the life after we will be gone.

But it is hers to do now, hers and her husband's as they make a new family. I hope I will be a good grandmother to the new baby as I think I am to my stepson's little boy who I love to bits. I hope I can give them support and love without interference. I hope I can make their lives easier and respect their instincts and their choices. I hope I can be as good a mother to her and grandmother to her son as my mother is to me and to my children.

A family can be a wonderful thing, in all its complexity. Perhaps the fact that mine is a step family makes me think about how it works more consciously - complicated, sometimes difficult, always sustaining, wonderful. Welcome to our family, new baby. Sleep well, my daughter and my grandson. I love you.

Comments

  1. What a gorgeous and truthful post Elizabeth, I know just how you feel. Your description of your two-year-old daughter brought tears to my eyes. What a star. Enjoy this time :-)

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  2. That was such a lovely post.
    Congratulations on the new little grandson.
    There is nothing quite like the time you hold a first grandchild in your arms and realise that there is a part of you living in that tiny mite.
    May you have many, many happy times with him.

    Nuts in May

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  3. I agree this is a lovely post and
    congratulations, there seems to be something very special about a daughter having a baby, now I have a grand daughter with a baby, she was far too young, but is proving to be a wonderful mother.

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  4. E, that is the most moving piece of writing; so loving and eloquent. Like Sue I'm sitting here, ever-so-slightly damp eyed and more than a little envious.

    Welcome to the world baby boy.

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  5. Congratulations on being a grandma.

    I think there is too much said and written about 'having a baby' and not enough on 'being a parent.' This is especially the case in magazines.

    Enjoy.

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  6. A wonderful post, written from the heart.
    My best wishes to you, dear new grandmother, and to the new baby. May you find only joy in each other.

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  7. I read this avidly because so much of what you say about your own feelings and experience mirrors mine.. except that my daughters don't have children yet so reading how you felt has helped me think about and prepare for that time. Very moving to read - thank you for sharing. Congratulations to all.

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  8. That is a lovely piece of writing and says everything that I would have written if I'd have blogged 6 weeks ago.
    Toady
    XX

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  9. Oh Elizabeth - you have me weeping over this. The little one for whom the blanket I've just knit is intended, is on her way as I type. My niece-in-law is at this moment in the delivery room.
    I wonder how I'll feel when my Lillypad has a child - all of what you wrote felt so familiar.
    I wish you all the joy of grandmother-hood!

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  10. Yes this was a beautiful piece of writing and such heart warming truths admitted to. We have 5 children with children and our youngest daughter who can not have a child. All of the anxiety I felt with the birth of 10 grandchildren is not much different than what I feel for my one daughter who cannot have a child. It breaks her heart. Blessings
    QMM

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  11. Best Wishes on the new grandchild, they are the best thing ever!

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  12. A lovely post. With my first child just barely grown, I only have a glimpse of what things will be like for me as they are all gone from the house. I dread it a little less now, I think.

    Congratulations on your first grandchild. What a wonderful event.

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  13. Another first time Grandma here and you have put my feelings into words much better than I ever could. I am lucky enough to have my g.daughter all to myself for 3 days a week, she is now 9 months, how the time has flown. I love looking at here when she is taking a bottle, studying her face as she goes off into a dream. Watching her personality emerge is fascinating. I can see how people get interested in genetics, traits of g/grandparents no longer alive live on.

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  14. Beautifully written and terribly heart wrenching it its content. Hopefully I have at least a few years ahead of me before I become a grandmother but I find now as things happen I miss smy dead motehr terribly not for advise so much but jsut to be able to say I know how she felt !

    I am sure your daughter will be a splendid mother and yo a fantastic grandmother too . I was alwasy envious of mothers who had theior own mothers on hadn to help when you felt that you were drowning so do not forget that she still needs you heaps no matter how far away you are!

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  15. Hello again - thanks for comment on my blog. You must keep lots of the pictures they make when that are little - I have hundreds filed away from our boys: I love them.

    My feeling s that computers are not the same as drawing and that isn't just because we are old. The reason is that drawing has greater 'vocabulary' of marks - line, smudge, shading, impasto, tears, rips etc... Oh, you've given me an idea for today's post - keep a look out.

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  16. Such a lovely, loving post... like everyone else, I ended up damp-eyed, but delighted for you all. Such a special time! I still have the letter my mother wrote to me hours after seeing her first grandson, 38 years ago; the sense of an immediate and very special bond with him just leapt from the page, and was lived out every day of her life from then on.

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  17. What wonderful news Elizabeth - I am sure that your grandchild will grow up surrounded with love. Hope that daughter and babe are soon home.

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  18. Lovely post Elizabeth. I never had a daughter, only a son - so I cannot imagine what it must be like to watch one's own daughter going through the nine months of pregnancy.
    I am so glad it has all turned out well - congratulations on your first grandchild - enjoy!

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  19. What a wonderful post. So much that I recognise in relation to Theo. So much too in relation to my own daughter. She has changed from someone whom you would have thought the last possible person to be a mother into someone, totally different. Softer, warmer, calmer, more serene. Is it just the hormones.? She can manage car seats. I can still not manage car seats. And she knows much more about babies than ever I seemed to. In short she has excelled as she has done in everything she has set her hand to and that makes me very proud. Part of the grandparent experience I suppose. But let me send you, Elizabeth, my very best wishes and a hug. I am really, really happy for you and best wishes too for the rest of the family.

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  20. That is beautifully written. You have put into words what I can only feel. I have a beautiful little granddaughter of just 12 months and they are expecting number two in April [also a little girl]. The feeling is just magical. Thanks for sharing it with us. A x

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  21. Oh, just lovely, Elizabeth. Brought a tear to my eye. How heartfelt those words are, I loved reading it.

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  22. Congratulations!

    You will be a FANTASTIC grandmother to the new baby.

    Wanna know why?

    Because YOU ROCK.

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  23. Congratulations and all the very best for the future.

    I suspect the new addition may feature prominently in your blog - and why not!

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  24. Oh what a wonderful post and so many congratulations all round. I have often wonderered how my Mum feels about my sister and I - she wasn't a good mother by her own admission but she's a brilliant Granny!

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  25. You have written so beautifully about your daughter and the new grandchild. You've also touched on a theme that too often has been shrouded in an uneasy veil of "something we don't talk about." I floundered so as a young mother of two--my children were born less than 13 months apart. Those around me at the time seemed to feel that all the bonding and know how of motherhood, all the "right" emotions and skills were part of the package, delivered along with the baby. It wasn't so in my case, and a sense of guilt went along with the struggles of learning to mother.
    I suspect this is still an area not dealt with clearly and honestly. There are so many valid aspects of parenting--and the less positive need to be acknowledged and counciled gently. Thank you for an absorbing post.

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  26. Oh, Elizabeth - that was a beautiful, heartfelt post. Many, many congratulations on becoming a grandmother - I feel sure you will be a wonderful one bringing love and your own brand of wisdom to the new little family. Wishing you all lots of joy and blessings, both to you and your daughter, as well as to the new little boy.

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  27. You've just been given an award, a measly one that doesn't begin to reflect the pleasure your blog gives me. Pop over and pick it up, or ignore. Grandmas can do what they like, I reckon....

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  28. What a lovely post.

    I have to say, having my first baby was quite an astounding experience, but one of the most unexpected effects was a sudden realisation of how amazing my own mother was. After years of completely taking her for granted I sudddenly 'got it'.

    Having a baby definitely makes you appreciate your parents in a completly new way so I would be expecting a really good Christmas present if I were you. Although I suppose she's already given you that... D

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  29. Thank you for all these lovely comments. I am now holding my breath again until they let my daughter come home with her baby and wishing that Oxford was not quite so far from North Wales!

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  30. Oh dear oh dear oh dear - I read about you on Rachel's blog and really wasn't going to investigate (too much to do) and then did and - aw! What a lovely post. Congratulations. (I'm so envious, by the way.)

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  31. many many congratulations, it is indeed a strange time and a complete turmoil of emotions for all concerned including Grannies of course

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  32. What a wonderful gift, a brand new baby just before Christmas! Congratulations and may you enjoy many happy days :0)

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  33. Such a lovely, poignant post. My youngest daughter birthed her first child, a son, on Oct. 17. I can so relate to what you wrote. V.

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  34. Many congratulations.
    Thanks for commenting on my blog too, when you must be so busy as a new grandmother. All the best.

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  35. And , when he becomes a Goth or a computer geek or a 24 hour a day skateboarder , you'll still feel the same about him . Adoring !!!
    Grannydom is the best .

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  36. My daughter has gone home today. So good to know that is ok.

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  37. A lovely post. Very much enjoying your writing.

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  38. Congratulations from australia
    kep us posted gravel3@bigpond.com

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  39. Beautiful, just beautiful. Especially this bit;
    'There must be something about the handing on of one's genes. I felt I had handed her the baton. I could fall back, dropping my stride, letting the race surge on without me'.
    I hope I'm eloquent when i am a grandmother, what a lovely post.
    Pigx

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  40. "...passing on the baton..." that is exactly how I felt when my daughter gave birth. Now, I was no longer just a mother, but now also a Grandmother. We continue down the trail of life. It's just such a blessing and a mystery. Congrats, 'Grandma'!

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  41. Beautiful post Elizabeth, and many congratulations to you and your daughter. She sounds wonderful. With three of my own, my thoughts are rushing ahead to do the day when, maybe, I will be living what you are living now. I certainly empathise completely with all you have said.

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