I sent a Facebook message to my daughter-in-law – "Will your mom be able to come out for your delivery?" I knew that her mom was busy looking after her dad, who had just undergone a rigorous series of cancer treatments back in Regina. "If not, would you like me to come over and be with you when the baby is born?"
Three days went by without a reply. I worried. Had I overstepped? After all, I am the stepmother to my husband's two sons, a late arrival to this family. I am always torn between my desire to show my daughters-in-law how fond I am of them and my unwillingness to push my way into the circle, to come across as an interloper. Maybe I had gone too far.
But, no. Finally, the reply came. My daughter-in-law had thought long and hard. She hoped I wouldn't be offended, but she really didn't want me in the delivery room. "My bits and all, you know!" she wrote. But if I would be willing to come right after the delivery, she would be delighted to have me there.
(Have you ever sat at your computer, applauding something you read? That's what I did.)
I called her mother in Saskatchewan and told her what I was going to do. I promised updates and photos – lots of photos.
The day came. I took a float plane to Vancouver, stood in the pouring rain until a taxi finally stopped for me. I rode to the hospital, found my way through the maze to where the new family awaited me. My stepson looked as tired as his wife. The brightest eyes in the room were the baby's.
I immediately dubbed him Pickle. He was so tiny. My eyes filled with tears as I lifted him from his clear plastic cradle, hospital-issue. He wore a white toque, a tiny disposable diaper, a plastic wristband, a plastic anklet. He was swaddled in a coarse green towel – again, hospital-issue. Someone who saw the photo I snapped just then said that he looked like a pea pod baby. He was three hours old, delivered by emergency C-section.
This was a new experience for me, this brand-new-grandmothering. Neither of my own children has had children, and I was out of the country when my other step-grandchildren were born. I was excited. I knew I would love this moment, but I didn't know just how much.
Over the next three days, I took as many turns as I could get at holding My Grandson, walking him up and down the hall while his mother rested, reading to him, giving him my little finger to suck when he was fussy. I used my Smartphone to snap photo after photo, which I dutifully forwarded to the Saskatchewan grandma's phone – until I found out that she doesn't actually own a cell phone. Somewhere in cyberspace, there are lots of cute new baby photos whizzing around, looking for a home.
I spent the night at the new family's apartment, the night before they all came home. I took more pictures – this time, of the view from the nursery. This is to be a city kid, this grandson. The nursery is high up in a beautiful condo. I pictured him growing up here, seldom having to go anywhere by car, at least for the first few years -- because his neighbourhood has everything he needs – grocery stores, restaurants, parks, a library, no doubt a nursery school.
Finally, in mid-afternoon, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to welcome mom and dad and their brand-new son. Much as I wanted to hang around, to keep holding the baby, nuzzling his neck, savouring this time, I knew that the family should have their first night at home all on their own, so as soon as they were settled in, I headed back to the Island.
A couple of days ago, I stopped in Vancouver on my way home from a trip to Texas (more later) and I got to hold the baby again. He has grown, but not too much yet. He's still my little Pickle. His hair is a bit thicker. He smells just as yummy. His mom told me again how grateful she was for all my help, and she gave me a very generous thank-you gift. It made me cry, partly out of gratitude and partly out of guilt. If they only knew, these new parents, what a gift it was, letting me be there to welcome their child into the world. They didn't need to thank me at all.