I’m learning that you don’t go from not being a grandma to being the kind of grandma you imagine you should be, even when the grandbaby arrives. It’s like driving on the left side of the road. It’s nothing like you expect, and it takes a fair amount of patience and blind trust to know that what you’re feeling is OK.
I loved Claire before I met her, when she was more a thought than flesh. Esoterically, I knew that the nature of this kind of “love-in-anticipation” was to change and grow. The larger my daughter’s belly, the more complex my love for her and the growing baby. Yet intellect flies out the window when bombarded with intense emotion.
The day Claire was born, I was tired and out of any semblance of a comfort zone. Middle-of-the-night phone call, middle-of-the-night bag packing, middle-of-the-night drive to the hospital, middle-of-the-night seeing my daughter hooked up to monitors – nothing felt real. Waiting for Claire was like standing at the arrival gate at the airport to greet a relative you’d never met before and hoped you’d recognize.
All day I kept waiting to feel “grandma-like.” I expected to feel some distinct feeling that I’d inherently recognize as grandparent love. But no fairy godmother sprinkled fairy dust on my head. No brick fell. No hammer. When Claire was born, I was overwhelmed with awe that the little baby I’d known as a mere thought came out perfect with all her toes and fingers, big eyes and a little hair. I kept crying and saying, “Oh, she’s so perfect!” There was so much emotion entering the room at once that it was like grabbing Jell-O to pick one feeling to experience fully.
Some people can process their thoughts immediately. I can’t. I don’t trust those first feelings. I need to step back and examine the details, run them all through in my mind a few times before I let them sink in.
I saw Claire for awhile after she was born and then again a day later. I went to stay with Cassie and Matt and Claire for a few days and I didn’t understand why a distinct “grandma” feel hadn’t settled in yet. What I felt was fear. I was afraid of taking over, of offering advice, of being a pain-in-the-ass, of being in the way, of moving within a space so unfamiliar. I was afraid I’d love her too much. I was afraid she’d go away. I was afraid I’d fail.
Somewhere in me, though, knew I loved Claire. I went home, and within a few days in my own home and surrounded by familiar things, I began to realize that what I felt for Claire was unique to me. The more I thought about Claire the more my own “grandma feel” emerged, like an early spring crocus out of the snow. I found that plane on which to move around as the grandma I’m meant to be. I found that place of peace that allows me to feel everything I need to feel and not be afraid.
Larry and I went to see Claire yesterday and I was completely comfortable with my new-found grandma feelings. I held her with confidence, no longer fearful of her tiny body. I unconsciously moved into my own unique grandma role yesterday. I am not like any other grandparent. No grandparent is.
Claire is very alert and wiggly for an 8-day-old. Perhaps I’m just forgetting how 8-day-olds behave, but I swore she was going to push herself on the to floor today the way her legs dug into my stomach when I was holding her in my lap. Her arms flail, her head moves from side to side. She was fascinated with Grandpa Larry’s brown shirt. She stared at it for several minutes. I took video and photos, laughed with my daughters, teased my son-in-law – things are back to normal, only we have a new member on our family team.
I’m all ready for my three-day stint back at the Conti ranch. These new feelings make sense. They aren’t what I expected, but then, how boring would life be if we knew ahead of time what every life moment would feel like?
What kind of grandma would I be without photos?