Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Perfect New Grandma

When I first became a new mama, my mama came to help. I know lots of grandmas (especially first-time grandmas) want to be there when then baby is born: to snuggle, and to love, and to hold, and to feed, and to help. I'm not about to deny that Mom wanted to come meet her new grandbaby and snuggle and love.

But she really was a huge HELP. Unlike many new grandmas, she didn't take over the baby. Instead she waited on me. She made sure the food was cooked and the laundry was done and the dishes were washed. She brought me a small glass of wine and a freshly diapered baby when it was time to nurse. She made sure the fridge and pantry were not missing items. Before she returned to the care of her own family, she made sure the floors were vacuumed and the bathrooms were cleaned.

Overall, she didn't do much to take care of the baby. She left that job to me and Gary. When I tried to pin on a diaper, and it looked like it surely wouldn't stay on that child more than 5 minutes, and would surely leak like crazy, she gave me some pointers on how to pin it on a little better. But mostly she just encouraged me that I'd get better at diapering with practice. Being a lactation consultant, she knew not to sneak bottles into Rachel even though I'm sure she would've liked to have fed her granddaughter. Instead, she made sure I knew that I could nurse that child just dandy, and gave practical pointers when necessary. Being a nursery nurse, she also knew what to do with a jaundiced newborn (put that kid in a sunny window!) and that breastfed babies were usually more jaundiced anyway (in other words, chill out) and how much jaundice would be too much for us to deal with at home.

My mom was the PERFECT new grandma.

I hope I can do the same for Katie next month, leaving the parenting to Alia's parents, and just doing the slave-duties of waiting on the new mother and alleviating her of all her "non-mommy" housewife-duties.


  1. My mom was the same way...I remember her walking the hall in the middle of the night with a fussy Rebekah when I was exhausted! She always stayed so calm...even helped me with nursing, even though she didn't nurse any of us very long. Since our income was dependent on me during the sem years, Mom even took care of my daycare kids for a week...and let us keep the money. I hope I can be just like her! You'll be great...and you will get to snuggle that wee one, too.

  2. My mom is the reason I kept nursing when I was having so much trouble. After the third exhausting night, I crawled into the fold abed w/ my mom and cried and cried and cried. She was awesome.

    You'll be a great grandmommy.

  3. I wish I had had your mom, or you, or Lora, or some of the other breastfeeding moms I have known around when I had my babies. My mom was a great help in a lot of ways, but in spite of having nursed 7 babies, she wasn't able to help me through my nursing troubles. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and tried so, so hard to do so with my oldest. He latched on in the hospital and the nurse gave me the thumbs up and I thought I was on my way. But after several days of frustration and a baby that was not getting anything from me, we ended up in the hospital with a severely jaundiced and dehydrated little boy. I pumped and fed by bottle in the hospital because he needed the nourishment so desperately. By the time we got home breastfeeding was a lost cause. I don't remember if a lactation consultant was ever suggested. I was exhausted and discouraged and he was doing well on the bottle so I gave up on breastfeeding.

    I had the same trouble with the other two--not jaundice, but babies who latched on in the hospital but who quit doing so at home. After what we went through with my first--there was a moment there, when I looked down at my lethargic newborn and realized that something was terribly wrong and that if we had let it go on much longer, tryng to breastfeed with no success, I might have starved him--I just never didn't have the breastfeeding fight in me anymore. My formula-fed babies have turned out just fine. But I think one of the greatest regrets in my life will always be that I didn't try harder. When mommies sit around talking about nursing, I always feel like kind of a failure. I'm trying not to cry as I write this. Funny how there was a time that breastfeeding was this kind of hippie, rebellious thing to do. These days, those of us who didn't breastfeed are more likely to feel like the outcasts.

    When my little girl grows up and has her first baby, I'm going to need someone like you, Susan, to help me help her.

  4. I am sure you will be a perfect new grandma, Susan! My mom has always spent a week doing the cooking and cleaning (and after the first time, playing with older kids), leaving me to focus on the new baby. She also managed to support my nursing in spite of her lack of personal experience; with 6 kids of your own I am sure you will have the answer to at least one question that comes up in the early days. ;)

  5. My mom didn't nurse any of us, so she was not much help in that area. She was a great help in doing the household tasks while I nursed Lynea. I do remember her patience when I gave Lynea her first bath, and I took over 35 minutes! We have proof on video and my mom just stood there and cooed at her and gave me very little advice. Knowing my mother, that was hard! I hope I can be as you so eloquently write. I am so wanting to be a good grandma, but so really wanting to be great mom to my daughters as they birth and nurse there own dear children. Knowing you Susan, you will be both! ;-) Debbie Theiss

  6. "Mother the mother so she can mother the baby." Every daughter should be so lucky.

  7. Polly, that line is so totally PERFECT!

    And Cheryl, I don't know what to say. "I'm sorry for your loss"? Because I am. And yet, you have healthy children, and you brought them alive through the time prior to solid foods, and that's GOOD.

  8. Thank you, Susan. I tell myself the same thing--that they're healthy, and that's what matters-- but you're right, there's a sense of loss at this special aspect of mommyhood that I got a little taste of but never really got to experience fully with my children. I think the main reason I shared this here is to encourage any young women who might be reading to not give up on breastfeeding if it's what they want to do. I gave up in part because I figured if my mom couldn't help me, no one could. I grew up watching my older sisters breastfeed their babies, and most of them were having children very young, and from my perspective (granted, I was only a pre-teen/teen at the time) it seemed like it just came naturally to them. So I figured there just must be something wrong with me, preventing me from succeeding. But I probably wasn't seeing the whole picture, and the more I have read and talked to seasoned breastfeeding moms, the more I have come to realize that it's not a naturally easy thing, at least not for most women. And I wish now I had sought out some experienced, professional help for myself, because then things might have been different.

  9. For me, it WAS just "naturally easy." But that's probably because my mom was a lactation consultant. It was eye-opening (and funny too) to read How My Breasts Saved the World. (Of course, maybe that's because it was one of only a handful of books I read that decade, and was thus a lovely interlude of indulgent relaxation.) In the book, the mommy really struggled with nursing her child, and it opened my eyes to how nursing doesn't come naturally and must be learned. It made me wonder what would've happened if Mom hadn't been there, because Rachel's suck was wrong. Rachel was the hardest to teach to nurse, and I was ignorant too, so Mom really made a difference!