Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Making of a Grandma

As you can imagine, my mother is very excited to become a grandma. Mind you, this excitement manifests itself very differently than my own.

I resemble a Jack Russell terrier when something excites me, with shrill shrieking and an overabundance of bouncing. Basically, if I had a tail to wag, it would always be going a mile a minute. This is my nature.

However, though my mother and I are similar creatures in many ways, she's generally not the most excitable sort. For instance, take her response upon learning of our pregnancy. She found out she was going to have a grandchild about two minutes after I peed on the stick, as I took the test while visiting my family for the holidays. My husband and I had our teary, joyous, private celebration, and then I called my mother into the bathroom, thrust the stick in her face and exclaimed "Merry Christmas, Grandma!" The response? "NO - what? Are you sure it's right?? NO!"

People outside the family might question this reaction, but I know my mother. I attribute her reticence to show true enthusiasm to her proper Southern upbringing, in which genteel ladies didn't bounce and shriek. Though she may not exhibit it outwardly, I know that she's silently counting the days until LOOL arrives and she can spoil him/her within an inch of his/her life. Though she's never actually verbalized this, at one point in my pregnancy I happened to catch her on the phone after a glass of wine, when she told me "Oh, I'm going to bounce that baby!! I'm going to bounce and bounce that little baby!!" I'm assuming this translates to "I can't wait to hold my grandchild," but one really can't be sure.

What I do know is that lately my mother has taken to relaying baby horror stories to me. If something dire has happened to a child and hit either the local news or the town gossip, my mom feels the need to inform me of it.

The first tale of woe came when she relayed the plight of a young East Bay couple and their months-old infant. One day the father was supposed to take the baby to daycare before work, so he tucked Baby into the car seat and off they went. Unfortunately, at some point in his commute Daddy forgot that Junior was in the backseat. He raced to make his train and off he went to work, leaving the infant to suffocate to death in the car at the train station. Horrifying, right? When my mother relayed this to me with a cluck of the tongue and a deep sigh, my no doubt hormone-induced reaction was to immediately burst into tears and demand "WHY are you telling me this??" "Just be careful," she said. Excellent. Good to see that there is so much faith in our parenting abilities.

The other day, another delightful tidbit - my mother ran into an acquaintance on the street, the mother of one of my old classmates. Apparently her daughter recently had a baby, so the two women chatted about the incredible joys of grandmahood. At one point, the other mother confessed that her daughter had neglected to wake her infant for feedings, believing that "She's just such a good baby - all she wants to do is sleep." Ultimately, the newborn was rushed to the emergency room on the brink of death, in a state of severe dehydration. The child was given an IV drip, and the young mother was sternly reprimanded by hospital staff and prohibited from leaving the hospital without a thorough tutorial on baby care.

"That baby could have DIED, Paige!" said my mother, clearly horrified at the girl's ignorance. To this I responded with a cavalier "Well, she never was the brightest bulb in the pack, even in high school."

Despite my dismissive remark, I've learned that such new baby ignorance is not restricted to C students who sleep with half the football team. My brilliant friend K has a ten-month-old, and she recently relayed her experience in the hospital immediately post-partum. A nurse came in, gazed down at K's perfect slumbering newborn and asked "And when was the last time you fed him?" K replied, "I don't know - three or four hours ago? He's been sleeping." The nurse looked horrified and quickly educated New Mommy K that evidently, not all babies will let you know by their cries and whimpers that it's time for a meal, and that she MUST wake her child to feed it regularly. Who knew?

Now, I'm an bookwormish, academic type, and there wasn't a course on this in college. Basically, were it not for these two stories, I would not know this either! While I clearly am not planning to leave my infant in my car at the train station (or bus station, or airport, or parking lot - you get the idea), I've read my share of baby books and perhaps I missed the chapter on Waking Your Sleeping Infant And Sticking Your Boob In Its Face. This begs the question - what ELSE am I missing? Am I lacking some vital baby-rearing DNA?

This paranoia crept briefly into the back of my mind and fortunately was squashed just as quickly. Despite her horror stories, I know that my mother has faith in Mommy Me, and that the scary gossip is less for "Now listen here, missy..." tutelage than for sharing some good old-fashioned "Can you BELIEVE what that bonehead did?!?" incredulity. There is definitely a learning curve to motherhood, and I'm up for the challenge. After all, my friend K is a fantastic mother, and I daresay she had just as little baby experience as I do when she first gave birth.

Sometimes I'm amazed at the sense of calm I have felt in these months and weeks leading up to delivery day. I've wondered briefly if I just might have a complete anxiety attack as my due date draws nigh...and yet I know that won't be the case. They may not teach this in school, but I know that I was simply meant to be a mother. Now bring on the baby.

1 comment:

The Mama said...

I have another friend who didn't wake her sleeping newborn in the hospital for a feeding either. I think this is a pretty common mistake. I mean, why would you think to wake a sleeping baby? I guess we know now.