A grandmother’s reflection on her grandchildren’s landings

April 20, 2016

My ordinarily cautious husband was speeding. Pat, the other grandmother, had phoned half an hour ago, “Get on the road, the kids are headed to the hospital.” We lived only three hours south of Dallas but this time the drive seemed interminable. “Faster, faster,” I urged. “If a policeman should stop us he will surely understand. We are awaiting our first grandchild!” Under the blush of a spectacular sunrise, bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush glowed along the highway. We hurried on. I felt as if I was accepting my first literary award, elated, anxious, not quite believing that it was happening.

At the hospital I left my husband to park the car and hurried past other arriving relatives. I barged directly into the delivery room where our daughter Caitlin lay propped up among multiple pillows. “Mom,” she huffed, “join the others in the waiting room. Chris and I can manage.” Of course this was theirs to handle. I tucked away the rebuff and wandered slowly toward a chattering crowd of aunts, uncles and the other grandparents. They were drinking coffee and making predictions. “I am sure it’s a girl. She carried so high.” “It won’t be long now,” another old-timer conjectured.

Indeed our wait was short. A beaming daddy bounced into the waiting room, “Come and meet Dylan, our beautiful daughter.” When I saw Dylan, snug in Caitlin’s arm, I burst into tears along with everyone else. There was our princess who would rule over our five yet unborn grandsons with a beneficent sense of entitlement. Then I ran back to the hallway to call my mother in Germany.

Three years later on the same day in April the Texas countryside was again decked out in glorious wildflowers. We barely had time for a glance at the abundance of it as we rushed to Dallas. Caitlin had been admitted for a C-section after the baby’s umbilical cord had been discovered wrapped around its neck. Our hearts danced with joy and thanksgiving when we arrived and a rose-skinned Nicholas had been safely delivered. Having been lifted wrinkle-free from the womb, I wondered, will he see life differently from others who have to tunnel their way out?

I delivered my three daughters with the ease of a cat birthing kittens. But I ceased advocating natural childbirth when our middle daughter Claudia labored for long, hard
hours. From dawn to dusk we worried and paced the hospital corridor, interrupted only intermittently by the appearance of the obstetrician, “I admire your daughter’s courage…. She’s a trooper….We’re about there….” When Tommy, our son-law, brought us the good news we hastened to the bedside. Pale and still trembling under her sweaty gown, our daughter gazed at Zachary with the adoring look of Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus to whom Marie, Tommy’s mother, had prayed throughout. Zachary’s shining eyes were already fixed on his mother’s face as if to say, “Sorry I took so long. Now I am here, 10 pounds strong and ready to protect you.”

We try not to stray too far from home before the birth of a grandchild. But that winter we were on a mountain sleighing adventure. There were no phones in our cabin. Anxious that I might miss the next birth, each morning before breakfast I hiked up a knoll where I could get reception and called Claudia. “Nothing yet,” she reassured me. I had as my companion an old Inuit dog who silently followed me on my climb and then barked joyfully when I descended. He must have been a talisman, for now Alexander has an intense love for animals. Alex waited until the day of our return to make his entry. When we arrived at the hospital we came upon Tommy perched outside the newborn nursery in Joseph-like devotion, adoring his second-born son. I pressed a stuffed toy Inuit dog up to the glass partition.

Our daughter Cecile and her husband Jeff had beautiful plans, including a hand-painted mandala and soothing music. But nature is unpredictable and one daybreak before the due date a vessel ruptured and Cecile was rushed to an Austin hospital. After the bleeding stopped, labor was long. Upon hearing of her distress, Caitlin and Claudia drove down from Dallas. We waited throughout the day. The doctor did not expect the birth before the next morning, so everyone decided to retire early. About 9:30 that evening, as I sent thoughts of comfort and speed to my youngest, I instinctively knew that the baby would come that night. I slipped out of the house, armed with my toothbrush and sleeping bag. I am not secure behind the wheel and I was frightened on the half-hour drive over hilly roads as irritated drivers honked at my grandmotherly pace.

Visiting hours were over and the parking garage was nearly empty. Not much movement on the maternity ward either except the clicking of my heels on the tile floor. I
peeked into Cecile’s room and found her dozing. Jeff slept soundly in a recliner. The staff, not overjoyed to see me, directed me to the waiting room where I pushed two chairs together and spread out my sleeping bag. I must have just fallen asleep because when I felt a nurse’s tap on my shoulder I awoke, alert as a cat, and tiptoed barefooted to my children’s room. A nurse stuck her head out of the door, “They are not ready for you.” I sat down on my rolled up sleeping bag and waited. When Jeff called me into their room, I was the first, other than the parents, to hold Kaius and spin my web of good wishes around his precious being, grateful to be a witness to love and life flowing from one generation to the next.

When our sixth grandchild was on its way, Kaius stayed with us. In the late afternoon he and I took a walk. We were sitting on a grassy incline when he asked, “When, Omi? When?” “Soon,” I reassured him but had to ponder his second question?” “How?” He was three-and-a half. The answer flew into view. “Look,” I pointed. “A cardinal. See its red breast? It’s coming toward us.” “Really? Is the baby on its way?” I was not so sure of my reply but said, “Swoosh, and the baby will fly from your mommy’s tummy into our arms.” That seemed to satisfy him. He gazed up again. The cardinal had veered in our direction before touching down on a nearby tree branch. As soon as it had anchored its claws into the bark it puffed up its plumage and began preening its glittering feathers. At that moment the phone rang with the good tidings that beautiful Lucas, who would became the delight of us all, had just made a soft landing.

~ Ute Carson, www.utecarson.com

Previous post:

Next post: