This week I was afforded the very special privilege of being invited to be a part of the birth of my grandson, Ezekiel Alexander Jordan. It is a privilege I do not take lightly, especially when it is my daughter-in-law doing the inviting. This was my third daughter-in-law to grant me this blessing.
It was a long, but fairly uneventful process which began with an induction for medical reasons. This was followed by a very long season of waiting. Thankfully, we were at a facility which is very patient allowing mama and baby to navigate their birth journey at their own pace. Ezekiel loved labor!
In the end, that slow pace jumped into hyperdrive and this Grammie almost missed the birth as I had left to go to my daughter’s volleyball match. As I walked into the gym my phone rang and I was soon scurrying back to the hospital. My daughter-in-law was a pro at pushing and Ezekiel was born gently about 15 minutes after I got back to the birth room.
Seeing my sons become fathers has been such a joy. One advantage of a large family is having sons who are completely comfortable with babies. I’m so thankful my sons love babies and are adept at changing diapers, rocking their sons (yes, my sons have ALL sons!), and taking over the household tasks as their wives recuperate.
When our first grandson was on the way, my wise friend Redetha told me that the feelings I would have for my grandchild would be similar to the feelings I have for my own children. How right she was! Being a grandparent is truly the best. I love babies, and holding someone else’s baby is wonderful. But holding my own grandchildren is a completely different feeling. There is an amazing connection there which causes the same feelings in my arms and heart as when I held my own children – those amazing people who have grown up to bless our lives with -now – eight beautiful grandchildren, seven boys and our princess Alice.
Here are some tips for grandmas who are invited to their grandchild’s birth:
- Mama calls the shots! It is her birth. If she wants to go all natural, be her biggest cheerleader. If she wants an epidural, tell her it is fine. Leave when she wants privacy and don’t be offended. By anything. At all. It’s not about you.
- Check your fears at the door. Whatever your birth story, leave it behind you when you walk in the room. Some things should never be heard in the labor room: “You should….” or “You shouldn’t…” “Are you sure you don’t want something for the pain?” “Just listen to the doctor, honey.” (Not that the doctor doesn’t have wisdom to share, but parents have brains, too, and they have a right to informed consent and to make choices based on risks and benefits.)
- Protect her “cave.” Moms need to be able to go into “Laborland.” A quiet, respectful atmosphere is key. Most moms like a dark, quiet room, especially as labor progresses.
- The “golden hours” belong to the new parents and baby. Once baby arrives, he or she will be placed skin-to-skin with mama. Talk ahead of time about what mom and dad want in the way of photography (and be sure to keep it off social media unless they have given consent!) The first couple of hours are very important for bonding, and new research is showing the importance of colonizing the baby’s gut by mom and dad’s microbes. I know how much you want to hold that new baby – I totally sympathize! – but it really is best if only mom and dad touch baby at first.
- Be sensitive to mom’s needs and desires when trying to initiate breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally to mom or baby. Moms have differing levels of comfort trying to feed the baby in front of other people. In the first 24 hours it is extremely important that baby latches on at least 8 times (often 10 – 12 or more!) and suckles for at least 10 minutes each time. Again, take your cue from mom or simply ask what is comfortable for her. If you know how to help her and she desires that help, have that discussion. Realize, of
course, that there is always new research out there and the ways we learned may have been updated. If you bottle fed, just be supportive of what mama wants to do. Please don’t offer to bottle feed the baby “so mom can rest” or say something to make her question her supply. Do encourage her to see an IBCLC, a board certified lactation consultant, if she has any problems getting established. And if after all that she decides to formula feed, support her in that, too.
All those things one hears about how wonderful it is to be grandparents…I have a little secret for you: they are all true!
Congratulations, Jacob and Zinnea, and thank you again for inviting me into your very special birth day.