A giant blue birthing tub in front of the piano overtook the living room; a large embroidered quilt—a privacy barrier— divided our family room from the dining room. Coffee cakes with small slivers eaten stood by in the kitchen. Stacks of towels, pads, plastic liners, and a music playlist were also at the ready, anticipating our moment of destiny. Our homeschooled daughter had asked us to host the home birth for her first child, and the time was near.
We were all awash with joyful anticipation during the baby shower and ensuing preparations. The nursery for my new grandchild looked adorable with its black corner canopy-crib and the pink-checkered curtains that I had made myself. All that was needed was for labor to begin. After a false alarm or two, the due date passed by.
It was late April; life was blooming everywhere. The trees had flowered, the daffodils were in full glory, and the cows on the property had recently calved. The sun was cheerful and bright; the sky, blue with only the billowiest of clouds. The air freshened by the smell of new leaves. It was a gorgeous early spring.
One night, exhausted from waiting, we slept exceptionally soundly. Our bodies recovering and refreshing, we were startled awake by our loud doorbell clanging repeatedly. I didn’t know whose feet hit the ground first, my husband’s or mine, but we rushed as one to answer the door to find our daughter and her husband agitated, standing in the dark.
We all sprang into action. My husband and my son-in-law pushed the sofa against the wall, set up the hose, and filled the birthing tub. I attended my wordless, laboring daughter at the library table. As if in a blur, the midwife and doula showed up and set up shop on the same table. My husband discreetly disappeared to the dining room behind the quilt listening in and praying.
Active labor was underway. Our daughter was a champ; composed, deeply focused, breathing through every contraction, and resting in between. Her husband—dutiful by her side—fed her ice chips and mopped her brow. It was an awesome picture of love in action. As a praying observer, I took a few sweet photos.
“I’m trusting my body,” I remember my daughter saying between contractions. “It will know what to do.” I’m glad she said that because during her delivery, I worried that she had fainted several times. But, as it turned out, she had simply fallen asleep between contractions.
Delivery was taking a good while, so I slipped away into the dining room to update my husband. “What are you doing here?!” he demanded urgently. “Get back in there, she needs you!” Clearly, he wasn’t looking for an update. So I quickly turned around and returned to the birthing site.
At one moment late in labor, I had an epiphany: My daughter was being promoted to motherhood, and I was being promoted to grand-motherhood. It’s a promotion! It seemed obvious, but this was a next-level type of realization. God was doing this, and it was a holy thing. I felt the reverence and awe of his presence. My heart swelled with pride for my daughter, with wonderment at God, and with gratitude for my new calling.
It had been 25 years since I had held a baby directly descended from me. And soon, I would hold the next generation in my arms. I didn’t expect the level of love I was feeling for the baby since I was one generation-removed, not the actual mother. Instead of striving to stay in the background, I was happily surprised to see a new road of possibilities lit before me. That the baby and I would enrich each other’s lives. The baby and I would have our very own bond.
No one had ever adequately described grandparental love to me. An old friend captured part of it when he said, “Now my children can understand the love I have for them.” I’d add that grandchildren are rendered extra precious for having been born of our own children. One feels an awesome sense of legacy.
At 11:47 a.m., my child’s child was born. In anticipation of the birth, we kept a little Christmas tree up on a table behind my recliner although it was April. My first grandchild, Willow, was born in that chair (which my daughter later nicknamed “Birtha”). Appropriate to the miraculous present that she was, Willow arrived under my Christmas tree … I can still picture the exact spot where she took her first breath.
So many wonderful things were happening at once: My daughter and her husband were holding their newborn daughter, bonding as a family. My husband recorded the time of birth and emerged from behind the curtain, immediately taken by the pride he saw on our daughter’s face, her sort of “Look what I did, Daddy” expression. Willow’s other grandmother was nearby waiting for the call and when she entered, I saw her eyes shining deeply, too. No words were necessary.
The next few days were fun, but virtually sleepless. Each person played their part. The new granddaddy fed the troops each morning with omelets and homemade sourdough toast. He also made sure that afterward, the dishes were cleaned and the kitchen stayed in order. To my delight, our son-in-law woke me up in the middle of the night for help with the crying baby. I smiled at how accessible my knowledge still was. Over the next few days, I taught them the finer points of diaper changing and baby care. Once, when the baby was regurgitating violently, I was utterly impressed at my trained reflexes as I skillfully flipped her onto her side, and held her feet higher than her head. I still knew just what to do.
I can still picture the moment they drove away, their baby carefully installed in her car seat. My husband and I stood arm in arm waving goodbye, reflecting. We had entered a truly golden era.
Evelyn Glover, a Chicago-born, Boston University-educated, first-generation American and freelance writer, has traveled the world with her college-sweetheart husband of 34 years. They live near their grandchildren in Franklin, Tennessee, where they pursue and teach many varied arts: writing, cooking, painting, needlework, piano, and cello.