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A Grandparents’ Day Reflection

Published in ChicagoNow, September 4, 2014

First grandkids

Sunday is Grandparents’ Day. Now that I am a pro, with eight amazing grandkids I adore, it seems like the right time to reflect back on how it all began. So, this post is for my younger sibs and sibs-in-law who are just becoming grandparents. It’s also for all of the newbie grandparents out there. You are embarking on one of life’s best journeys.

I became a grandmother for the first time on May 1, 2003. And it was to twins. That was quite an assignment for a rookie. I guess my future blogging career was predestined because I actually kept a journal. Here are some of my thoughts as I became a grandparent and my life changed forever …

“Mom, my back is killing me, but I don’t think it’s anything.” My daughter’s call at 6:30 a.m. at the 37-½ week stage of her twin pregnancy started me on the incredible journey to becoming a grandmother. Once I convinced her she might be in labor and she called and was told to come to Labor & Delivery, I was on the way.

Since there had been a false labor fiasco at 32 weeks, we waited to see if this was the real deal before calling the men, who, of course, were “working.” After checking with her OB, the directions were to walk around for 1-½ hours to see if true labor would begin.

This was no easy feat. My daughter was huge with twins and the views in the small area of the hospital we explored were rather unspectacular. The best we could do on this rainy day was to watch some men and machines digging a large hole where the conveniently located parking lot used to be. Had we been 3-year-old boys, our day would have been complete.

I pushed my poor daughter mercilessly, as neither of us are the type to fail an exam, and she passed with an A+. She was now in labor and they wanted to do a C-section quickly. When the future dad arrived, they shoved him into gown & shoe covers and off they went. At 2:30 and 2:34, two beautiful little girls were born. The only way to describe how I felt when seeing them for the first time is that my heart melted. I was hooked for life.

I soon learned that many things had changed since I had my babies. The equipment needed to sustain a baby seemed to have grown in volume to resemble a small factory. The new inventions were incredible. Car seats now fit nicely into strollers the size of small boats – especially if one has twins. Of course, I come from an era in which car seat meant, “take a seat in the car.” Not so for my granddaughters. One even had to pass a car seat test to go home. Luckily, she took after her mother and got an A+.

There were some aspects to new parenthood that I, a newly minted grandparent, found somewhat frightening. The first to arrive on the scene in the hospital was the Swaddling Nazi. She taught the new parents the importance of wrapping their babies very tightly in receiving blankets so they would feel more secure. They looked like little mummies to me. They also had to keep their goofy hats on at all times. These rules applied regardless of room temperature, which sometimes exceeded 80 degrees. Consequently, I never saw more of them than their adorable faces.

The Lactation Nazi quickly followed the Swaddling Nazi. Her role seemed to be to make those babies nurse no matter what. All parties were banished from the room (actually a good idea) while she had my poor daughter propped up in a chair nursing both girls at the same time. Of course, this feat could only be accomplished with her constant presence and expertise. Once she completed her lesson and admonished my daughter about supplementing with a bottle (or even giving a pacifier), she was gone. In her wake, she left one rather unconfident new mom wondering how she could possibly duplicate this feat on her own and how people did this in third world countries.

My next step as a new grandmother was a trip to the drug store in search of diapers, wipes, bottles, and formula. The latter two were just in case. I quickly discovered that shopping for diapers was worse than buying sanitary napkins. There were diapers in sizes newborn through jumbo, all of which seemed too big for our new little ones. And there were many brands of these. Did I want them to be decorated with little bears or Ernie & Bert or flowers? Did it matter that they were girls? Would they care if the diapers were trimmed with car designs? The bottles/formula aisle was even worse. What was disposable or convenient about any of this? I walked out in a daze, hoping the breast-feeding thing worked out.

It was time to move on to the next phase and go over to their house to get things ready for the homecoming. And a new set of issues emerged. Did I use enough Dreft? After washing about ten loads of the tiniest undershirts, onesies, socks, blankets, sheets, mattress pads, receiving blankets, and mystery items handed down by family, I cleaned, made up the cribs, stocked the refrigerator, and left with everything in great shape except for my back. It looked perfect – how could anything go wrong?

My granddaughters came home on a Monday. Being sensitive to the need for the new family to bond, I went off to work. The Lactation Nazi had given her blessing, the hospital loaded them with thousands of samples and coupons for baby products, and they drove the few blocks from the hospital to their cute little house. Total bliss. The babies nursed and slept and their parents concluded that all they needed was to get home. Their daughters would fall into an ideal schedule and everyone would get some sleep.

I was delighted that everything was going well. Now I could return their beloved beagle, Charlie, to them that evening. Charlie requires some explanation. The first time he stayed with us, still in his puppyhood, he ate the cord to our kitchen phone, the fringe on our hallway rug, and anything else he could find in the three seconds we were not watching him. So, it was a true act of love for our children that we took him while they had the babies. This time he demonstrated much improvement, only eating a rubber band and just one section of the newly re-fringed rug. Whenever they asked how Charlie was doing, I could only answer the way we did at my preschool – I described his behaviors and secretly wondered if a little therapy might be useful. Let’s just say I was happy to return him that evening, they were happy to have him back (although they were shocked that he was bigger than both of their children combined), and the new family was tucked in for the night.

Now for real grand-parenthood. My phone rang at 6:31 a.m. and my exhausted daughter cried, “We were up all night. Since they were born, neither of us has slept more than two hours!” I had naively believed I could go back to work, secure in the knowledge that now that they were home, all was well. They had naively believed that they did not need any help to manage these babies, even though my daughter could not yet walk upright or do the stairs and her husband did not realize that he would be unable to find the time to wash their clothes, let alone a constant barrage of baby items. How could two little babies make such a mess?

Luckily, a preschool is the most sympathetic place for a new grandmother to be working. I left at 11:30 for lunch and never returned that day. I cleaned, brought food trays to an exhausted new mom, and convinced the new dad that when you wash 200 baby items, that’s a large load that calls for more water in the machine than “extra low.” The babies took turns being fussy and going on strike at the breast, and the tidy schedule was gone.

But they were so adorable and they were my grandkids, so any misbehavior was forgiven and even seen as cute after a little rest. (That is still true for all eight of them, by the way.) “Call me anytime,” I cried as I drove off at 5:00 that afternoon.

A very lucky grandmother!

This was my new grandparent story. Here’s wishing all of the newbies out there a happy Grandparents’ Day and the best of luck with your darling grandkids.


by Laurie Levy
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