This week I met the most adorable little girl. She is all of five pound two ounces, and she has only been in this world for just a couple of days. She has already stolen my heart though. Who knew such a little package could cause such overwhelming emotion? Her name is Vivi and she is my first grandchild.
I remember when her mother was born 30 some odd years ago and then her uncles after that. I remember those emotions; the fear, the love, the exhaustion. I remember holding that sweet bundle and being amazed by it all. I remember my first time labor, and the subsequent labors, the pain, the look of terror in my husband’s eyes, the rapid activity of the nurses and doctor preparing to bring a new life into the world and then the overwhelming love. While I didn’t know exactly what to expect the first time I had seen enough TV to have a bit of an idea of the organized chaos in the labor room.
I remember as a mom who was having the baby I never thought much about the stress there might have been for my mom and my extended family. They had all been through this before, so I just assumed they were old pros. Consequently, I was not prepared for the roller coaster ride of the few days leading up to the birth of my first grandchild. It has left me emotional and exhausted. My daughter was admitted to the hospital Monday morning with severe preeclampsia. I really did not know much about preeclampsia until this week. Yes, Downton Abby fans that is exactly what Lady Sybil died from in Season 3, so, yes, my mind not only went there, it RUSHED there with lightning speed. Of course, that show was set pre-World War II so there have been significant advances in the treatment of this disease.
The call from her on Monday sent my heart racing. My fear for her was more than it had ever been for me. Despite my co-worker’s warning I immediately Googled it to find out what it meant. While I know you are never supposed to do that, it actually calmed me down in this instance because it helped me understand not only what it was, but also how easily it was treated. The issue for today’s doctors are to ensure they diagnose it early and to be able to control the disease long enough to keep mom stable until the pregnancy is far enough along to deliver a healthy baby. The cure is very simple. The doctor only needs to deliver the baby. In cases where the onset is early in the pregnancy the balancing act can be tricky. Treatment can involve bed rest or near bed rest for the duration, and sometimes even long hospital stays and medication. The disease can significantly increase your blood pressure and show signs of damage to your organs, usually the kidneys or liver, which can cause death if left untreated. We were lucky in her case because Katie was already almost 35 weeks and so the baby was almost full term. In fact, even though Vivi was a preemie she was very healthy and strong. She was able to stay in the room with Katie and Patrick right away.
Weeks before, my daughter and her husband had asked for the grandparents, other family and friends not come to the hospital to wait for the impending birth. They did not want us
to have to sit for hours waiting only to get a short glimpse of mom and baby, and then be sent home. I also think they wanted this to be as private a moment as it could be for them with 20 medical personnel working in the room. They did not want the pressure of dealing with us and everything else. So on the afternoon of Vivi’s birth I kissed my daughter goodbye and told her that the next time I saw her she would be a mom. While on paper that sounded easy and less exhausting than hanging out in the waiting room for hours, I did not realize how worried I would be about my daughter and the baby, or how far the drive to the hospital was from my house in the event something went wrong. Being there close by would have probably given me a little comfort and that 2 second glance would have been welcomed. I likely would have slept a lot better that night than I did. Our FaceTime introduction was nice of course, but not quite the same as reading the faces of the nurses and doctors. I was not completely relieved until the next morning when I saw Katie’s face and held sweet Vivi.
Those of you reading this who are parents of adult children know the struggle. You understand the delicate balance of respecting boundaries while satiating the need to assure yourself they are ok. I remember when my kids each went off to college, and how
worried I was if I had not heard from them in a couple of days. The boys were definitely much worse about returning calls and texts than my daughter. I can remember sending both Will and David text after text with no response then finally sending a text that said, “If you are not dead please type something!” Often after a few hours I would get back a one word or one letter response saying, “fine” or “k”. Hearing their voice would have been a lot better, but I took what I could get. The experience of waiting for Vivi to be born was a bit like that. I didn’t want to be too intrusive, and Katie and Patrick were very accommodating about sharing information, but I just felt better when I was there and I could see her.
Of course, I know in my head this is ridiculous. Had I been there nothing would have changed. Plus, I know well the other side of this coin. I was a young mother once married to a young dad. I understand the need to be together as a family. The importance of bonding with your child in the first few hours after she arrives. I know my job of raising my daughter is done. I think my husband and I have done well. We raised three great adults including a new mom who is a strong, independent woman, married to a strong, loving man. Katie and Patrick have a wonderful relationship built on trust, friendship and commitment.
I know my role was to raise my children then let them fly. I also know that no matter how far they fly, no matter how well they turn out, the love you have for them, the pride you feel is always coupled with worry. It is ingrained. It is genetic. We are hardwired for this. I have no regrets or apologies for feeling this way. It is because I love her, love her brothers with all that I am that I will always want to see them happy, safe and secure. When things are hard or rocky or scary I will always extend my hand if ever so slightly just to make sure they are able to stand steady and strong.
Now that Katie and Patrick have a daughter their lives are forever changed. They will in the
many years to come understand the struggle. They will soon realize that no matter how old she is, their love and worry for Vivi will always be there. They will understand that with the joy of watching her fly comes the fear of letting her go. They will extend a hand to steady her as she takes off first to walk for the first time, and then again many more times over the rest of their lives. I look forward to watching as the next generation learns to let go and let baby fly. I think it will be a lot of fun from the grandmother chair.
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