A new baby in the family

Ten days ago my son and his wife had their first baby, just a few days early.  It was a long labour.  C rang me on the evening of the day K went into hospital having had some bleeding.  I went to bed but all night long I kept finding myself awake, looking into the darkness, wondering what time it was.  Why had I woken?  Oh yes, the baby.  Was it born yet?  How were they?

He rang again the following morning.  No, nothing, not yet, just tiredness and contractions.  They would induce her.  Again in the evening.  Things were happening but still painfully slowly.  Another night of drifting in and out of sleep.  It is not a rational thing.  You know perfectly well that it makes no difference whether you sleep or wake.  But still that primitive tie, that tug of blood, keeps pulling at you, tugging you out of sleep into dark wakefulness.

On the following morning their daughter was born, our first granddaughter, as our elder son and elder daughter both have sons, who are now seven and very nearly four.  It was a joy just to know that baby and mother were both fine but a special leap of happiness for me at the news that it was a girl: Eliza Mary.  Why is it good?  I don't know.  It is just good to have both boys and girls with their different pleasures.  I was down in Devon staying at my sister's and helping my parents with their move into a flat designed to provide assisted living where one or both of the couple need additional help.  Knowing that new life is coming in at a time when age and ill health are bearing down on my parents, despite their determined good cheer, somehow made it all easier.  We hand on life down the generations.  And the fact that I was in Devon also made it easier practically.  C and K live about an hour's drive from my parents.  I couldn't bear to come home without seeing them so on the Thursday afternoon I drove down to the hospital to meet the new baby and to see how her parents were doing.

The baby was in the special care baby unit because she had had some trouble breathing the day before.  C assured me that she was fine now and that they would probably let her out into the neonatal ward later in the day.  I parked in a heaving hospital carpark and walked in through the grey drizzle of an autumn day.  I carried a knitted elephant and a bottle of champagne.  A nurse at reception sent me down the corridor.  At the door of the unit I met K's parents coming out.

"Only one visitor at a time.  Go in, go in.  We will go and sit in the lounge."

Smile at my daughter in law.  Wash my hands.  K is sitting with the baby on her lap, her beautiful face ivory white instead of its usual berry brown.  She has had a hard time but that is done now.  The baby is tiny and perfect.  Some of the babies in here really are tiny, early babies with skinny chicken legs.  Eliza is smooth and soft.  Her eyes are closed.  She looks so exactly like her father did thirty odd years ago that it takes me aback: the same regularity of feature, the same line of chin and cheek, the same neat little nose.  I hadn't realised I would remember so clearly.  Babies are all alike and not alike at all.  This one looks unlike either of her two cousins, a little like my daughter did as a baby, totally like her father.  I sit and K hands her to me. The feel of a baby against me is strange and yet utterly familiar.

My son comes in and he and K change places so she can chat to her parents and he can show me their daughter.  Carefully he frees the blanket around her and there are the narrow feet and long thin toes which all our family share.  We smile at each other.  He is aglow with happiness, radiating it like warmth.  He is not one for expressions of emotion, my son.  He is dry and funny with a good line in self deprecating wit and the quiet puncturing of pomposity or indulgence.  He loves his wife, his dog, walks on the beach, cooking and a good glass of wine, and now, clearly in his face and in his hands and in the whole curve of his body as he holds her, his baby daughter.  I don't stay long.  We all have a cup of tea together and then I am back in the car for the long journey home.  I needed to see them, to know that all three of them were OK, and now that I know I can go away again, knowing that Ian and I will be coming back to see them together.

They go home from hospital the following morning and day after day my son sends me pictures or rings to tell me how they are. I knit frantically to finish a blanket I am making for the pushchair, not a white and pretty blanket but a red one for outside and winter cheerfulness.  I think about them every day, wondering how they are sleeping, how Eliza is feeding, how the dog is taking to the new member of the family.  Somehow the new baby tempers the constant bubbling undercurrent of concern about my parents.  It is not that I think about them any less but that little bubbles of contentment break the surface of the water all the time.

Tomorrow we are going back to Devon to finish clearing the house my parents have moved from. On Thursday we shall go and see the new family, the first chance for Ian to meet his new granddaughter. Everything changes.  When we were with my parents a few weeks ago for my mother's eightieth birthday my father watched Ian moving furniture and sorting things out and doing all the things he would have done in the past and said, quite philosophically, "You pass the baton down a generation."  Here is yet another generation, with the family face and the family feet.  I hope she has much too of her mother's kindness and independence of thought, her strength and cheerful resilience.  I can't wait to see her grow and to find out what kind of person she is.


Welcome to the family Eliza.  There are many people who will love you.

Comments

  1. She's looks utterly gorgeous. Congratulations to you all. Welcome to the world little Eliza.

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  2. How very, very moving to hear that story of a whole new person in the world. She's beautiful. Many congratulations to you all - and thank you for sharing the good news. All best wishes to your parents too, I hope they settle quickly in their new home.

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  3. And friends too! I love her already. She is really beautiful (which not all babies are). You must feel stupidly proud. Eighteen months ago we went through these feelings when little Bean (Isla May) arrived. It is strange how babies unlock a whole set of ready made instinctive reactions among grandparents - the urge to love and protect, but also to teach to amuse, to plot; the baton as you say is handed down. At the end of the day we are just slaves to these little bits of chemical that keep using us to reproduce themselves. One day she will be a grandparent looking at her new granddaughter and so the cycle goes on.

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  4. Congratulations-she's beautiful!!

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  5. Such a lovely post, she is beautiful, Yes the baton gets passed on.

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  6. Absolutely lovely, congratulations to dad mum and grandparents x

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  7. I am thrilled for you all, Elizabeth! Congratulations to the whole family! And such a sweet name too!

    Stephanie

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  8. Congratulations Elizabeth, I hope all goes well. For your parents too.

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  9. Best wishes to beautiful little Eliza and to all her family (including the dog) who'll soon be having such a fine time getting to know her.

    Elizabeth, this post is a gem.

    xo

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  10. What a lovely little face she has, and the combination of beautiful hand-knit blanket and Moses basket looks as if she's already settling into the world quite nicely, somehow. Congratulations to all the family, especially new parents and Grandma!

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  11. Best wishes to all! What joy! I felt joyful just reading your words and then when I saw the photo, my heart seemed to expand :-). A lucky little girl to be born into a family with so much love.
    Enjoy!

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  12. Congratulations! What lovely news for you all.

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  13. Oh, that has brought such a lump to my throat. I remember each and every one so clearly, how they looked when they were born. Beautiful writing xx

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  14. I must admit that I don't always check my blog reading list as much as I should, but I'm so glad your blog is on there. You have a lovely writing style that completely drew me into this private family moment that I feel lucky to share, on the other side of the world, through the computer. Very happy for you all and I hope that things go ok with your parents.

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  15. Congratulations on the new grandbaby!

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  16. Strange thought - but it must be possible that someone in the Neolithic had those feet and face....

    So glad at the happy. Xx

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  17. Great news for all the family Elizabeth! Wishing baby Eliza a long,happy and healthy life ahead.

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  18. How wonderful, congratulations to one and all. The wheel turns, and sometimes brings pure joy. And although your parents are at the other end of the adventure, they will presumably get to meet a great granddaughter, which is rather special. I hope they settle well in to their new flat, and that it starts to feel like home, such a hard adjustment to make. I hope that Eliza's arrival helps, that sense of the story continuing, and that her parents thrive on the new adventure of becoming three.

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  19. Love the baby, especially the hair, which looks to be a lovely glowing auburn - the colour which runs through my family too. Welcome little Eliza - may you have a long, happy and healthy life, full of love.

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  20. Welcome to the world Eliza. Many congratulations to all concerned. What wonderful news.

    And a beautiful piece of prose too. Not a one of my four has yet produced a child, although they have plenty of time yet. But I am rather looking forward to becoming a grandmother.

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  21. Wonderful news. Surely you have now earned enough grannie-points to qualify for a purple rinse. :)

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  22. Lovely. All life is full of shifts in gear and it's nice to have these juxtaposed to remind you of the positiive.

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  23. Many congratulations to all! I can't wait to have grandchildren.
    Teresa x

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  24. Welcome, Eliza! Your granddaughter is beautiful.

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  25. What a lucky girl she is! Blessed with these fantastic parents (I love how you describe your son) and all grand and great grand parents' good genes behind. Just a wonderful clan to be part of. I hope that one day I could also welcome a little girl into our family - who knows. I know you will enjoy these so special moments to the utmost.

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  26. And now we do too. Thank you for this lovely moving post. Wishing you all every happiness in your new life changes.

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  27. CONGRATULATIONS!!! She's lovely! And thanks for sharing her with us. Bubbles of contentment all around - who needs champagne?

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  28. How lovely, a lovely early Christmas gift. X

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  29. long live the bubbles of contentment, for each one of your family.

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  30. Congratulations to you all . Such lovely news and such a beautiful little face !
    May she have a wonderful , happy and satisfying life .....

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  31. What happiness, Elizabeth! A granddaughter is, somehow, special to a grandmother. No less love for the boys, but a special tug at the heart that I can't explain. Congratulations!

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  32. What a beautiful child. How wonderful to have a granddaughter x

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