I finally had my daughter, Morgan, after some fertility issues requiring surgery. I was 32 years old and I was obsessively anxious to be a Mommy. Morgan was born three months early due to a condition called pre-eclampsia (can somebody find a cure for that, already?) and she took us on the preemie roller coaster ride of ups and downs with fluctuating oxygen levels, blood transfusions and retinopathy, to name a few. She was so fortunate that she emerged virtually unscathed, compared to many preemies who fight a losing battle or live with life-long complications. Even though there were still health concerns to watch and make accommodations for, we considered her normal and got on with the business of raising a girl. A girl, who happened to be fearless (she broke her arm jumping from a church pew at age two, pretending to be Superman), tender-hearted in a Dr. Doolittle way toward animals, and loved rocks and sticks. That little tornado was five kids wrapped in the skin of one tiny little girl who lived her life with a zeal that had her sleeping twelve hour nights!
Now, at 22, she’s a mommy. Bless her. Although I was ten years older when I became a Mom, I don’t think those extra years prepared me for the frustrations of incessant crying (her, not me. OK, sometimes me) due to colic or sleep deprivation (definitely me!). My mother and I still laugh at my exasperated call to her in which I accusingly asked, “Why didn’t you TELL me it was going to be like THIS?” I’ll tell you why. Because, darlings, nobody can prepare you and you wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Since Morgan was in a hospital for her first three months, I didn’t have the same newborn experiences as my friends. I spoke those words many times, sometimes lamenting the loss of the experience. So, when we ended up caring for Jeremiah for most of his first two months, my words came back to me. My sweet baby girl had developed postpartum depression and was admitted to a hospital for treatment. Jeremiah’s Dad had to work and spent as much time at the hospital with Morgan during visiting hours as he could. We were all stunned and heartbroken and hanging on by our tattered fingernails with her. She missed Jeremiah, we missed Morgan.
Somehow, through some of the most harrowing days and nights of worry about Morgan, Rich and I loved their precious baby boy without reservation, as if he had been our very own. Boy, did I get my ‘newborn experience’! Little sleep, working a full time job and shuttling him to my sweet cousins who cared for him during the day. There’s definitely no substitute for having family close by, especially those who are so willing to help. I received his first intentional smiles, his first giggle and we giggled too as we watched him pack on the pounds.
When Morgan was released from her treatment, I knew my role of substitute Mommy would change. I knew I would feel a hole in my heart when he left my arms. But it was time to be the Sweetie and not the Mommy. The day was July 4th when I asked her if she was ready. Her emphatic “YES!” gave me comfort. She’d missed her baby as much as I’d missed her being healthy. So, in a matter of a few minutes, Jeremiah and all his clothes, diapers and furniture were gone from our house. Rich and I wept occasionally for days, but knew he needed to be with his parents and they needed to be with him, too.
We know the bond formed with him will always be safely stowed in our hearts. It’s what we’ll blame when we let him have cake for breakfast and ice cream for dinner. Being a grandparent brings out even stronger protective instincts than I remember having as a new mommy. I find myself more relaxed as a grandmother than as a new mother, able to soothe him when Morgan can’t. It’s different when the ultimate responsibility rests on someone else and you know you can go home and sleep all night, except for those times when I feel so connected to him that I STILL wake up for that 3am feeding. Love him so!
About Juli, a loving grandmother…