On Becoming a Grandmother

lizzie and baby
Lizzie and Aven in the hospital 
Jane
Jane

A week ago, on December 9th, my world changed.  My own first baby, Lizzie, now 27 years old, delivered her first baby into the world, and I became a grandmother, just like that. I guess it’s not really fair to describe it that way. After all, Lizzie had to go through nearly 27 hours of increasing misery to get to that point!  But in retrospect, the change certainly feels that sudden and that startling.  Aven Marie Bowman, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce, was born at 10:02 p.m. last Tuesday, and nothing has been the same since.

I’m learning that it’s really true that when you are a grandmother, you don’t have to take on all the day-to-day worry about that baby the way you do when you become a parent.  You get to hold a baby and love the baby and even change a diaper when you feel like it, but, to quote an old joke, then you can “give the baby back” is true!  It’s harder than you think to make your mind relax into that truth.  I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have  to figure out what that baby is wearing each day, how many times she’s eating, if she’s having as many wet diapers as she should, or if her umbilical cord is falling off correctly. Old habits die hard!   But Lizzie is happy as a clam to do those jobs,  so I can relax. All I have to do is hold Aven when Lizzie hands her off to me and rub her little soft head and kiss her little neck and breath in her incredible milky smell and make little silly clucking noises.  It’s sort of like having the best baby doll I could ever imagine, one that not only opens its eyes but also sneezes and yawns in the cutest way anyone could ever imagine.

I”m also learning that I don’t need any other entertainment when Aven is around. Our daughter and her husband, Janson, are temporarily living with us while they look for their next residence, so we get to see this little creature every day and watch her changes, such as her going from being mostly a sleeping/nursing wonder to someone starting to open her eyes more and look around at the world.  And I’m grateful and privileged to be able to witness our daughter becoming a new mother.  I am awed at how patient and calm she is.  I was never that patient with my first newborn.  I was scared to death, and my anxiety came out in frustration and tears and all kinds of great behaviors. Sure, Lizzie has an advantage over most new mothers from her years of experience and knowledge gained  working in child care,  but there is something else, something bigger, going on here.  Lizzie has taken on the mantle of motherhood as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  When she has to make a decision about something to do with the baby, she just naturally chooses what’s right for the baby, instead of what might seem better for anyone else, including herself.  And she’s putting up with the discomfort (a nice word for it) and fatigue involved in learning to breastfeed without any serious complaints.  She’s getting very little sleep because she’s waking with the baby at night, but she doesn’t whine (as her mama did).  She’s just moving along, taking care of that baby, walking the walk.

She is my hero.

And it’s also great to see Janson becoming a father.  He was great in the delivery room, exhibiting all the right support and compassion and protectiveness to his wife, just as any mother-in-law could hope.  And he’s been working right along Lizzie since then. He has a very natural-looking football hold for Aven!

I don’t mean that I’m surprised by any of this.  I just feel honored to be able to see it up close and personal!

I hope I can make just as smooth a transition into grandmotherhood! One hard part is turning off my advice-giver!  It’s hard not to feel like I have a duty to step in and guide my daughter and son-in-law  each step of the way.  It’s hard to stop being a mother and become a grandmother.  Grandfather Tom, who is by nature extremely protective of newborns, is also having difficulty with that one!  We both want to give Lizzie and Janson several “helpful” hints on an hourly basis!  It’s good to remind ourselves that Aven is not our baby.  She’s our grandbaby!  Hallelujah! We can relax!

And here’s the other, unexpected hard part about becoming a grandmother:  now I have another generation to worry about getting grown safely, without bad things happening to them.  Aven has made it even more painful to think about things like global warming or the  terrorism or wars or plagues.  And when the global stuff is not in my head, I’m obsessing about things like her breathing or her future happiness or, worst of all, how old I will be when Aven is 20, 30, etc.  It’s that etcetera part that does me in.  It’s weird:  in some ways, the thought of my own, inevitable death has become a lot easier to bear with Aven in the world, but in other ways, it is now ten times harder.

Enough gloom and down!  Right now I’m celebrating Aven and her wonderful little head and precious feet and long, beautiful fingers and lovely eyelashes.  And she has already taught me something:  boy, am I ready to make the shift from mother into grandmother! I’m so glad someone else is having to nurse that baby, change that diaper, put that car seat in the car for the millionth time.  There’s a reason people have babies when they’re young.  I’m glad to pass the torch.  And, at least in this first iteration, some things have already made this life-changing transition seem natural and easy: 1) It’s clear that  Lizzie and Janson will be–are!–great parents and  2)  I already love Aven.  In fact, I fell madly in love with her at first sight, the moment she came into the world.  So now, Tom and I need to sit back, be incredibly thankful and grateful,  and enjoy the ride.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is another picture of the world’s cutest baby, this one napping with her over-the-moon grandmama!  Merry, merry Christmas to all of you!!!

grandma and baby

5 thoughts on “On Becoming a Grandmother

  1. Oh Jane, how wonderful! We are so very happy for you and Tom! Once again you have written a fantastic essay that rings true, conveying your joy, fears, myriad of thoughts and back to joy, again. And how cool to share your house, at least for a little while, with this precious little one. Aven (nice name!) is indeed the cutest doll–at least until one of our grandchildren comes along, but that won’t be for some time, if ever perhaps, which is alright, too!. Congratulations to all of you! Thank you for the happy news. <3 Jamie 'n Lee

  2. Jane–What a wonderful article–almost felt like I was becoming a grandmother which unfortunately will never be the case. Thanks so much for sharing. This article ought to go in every parenting magazine around.

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