With our announcement of two new grandchildren arriving in June, my thoughts kept returning to my essay, Unexpected, published in Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents. (Incidentally, the journal appeared regularly in Amazon's Bestsellers list through December.)
This week, we learned that one of my daughters might be carrying a baby with Downs Syndrome. We're a couple of weeks from knowing the test results, but I keep lingering on the title of my essay. This possibility is unexpected, and even though the circumstances in this situation are far different from the ones in the essay, I'm going to post that essay in this week's blog to remind us of the blessing of a child in all circumstances.
I hoped that my daughter misread the symptoms, that she wasn’t pregnant. Not because I didn’t want grandchildren, but because of her circumstances. This cherished daughter of mine stumbled onto the wrong path in life in her early twenties and had wandered down a rugged, pot-holed overgrown trail from her misguided choices. She was not ready to be a mother, and I was not ready to handle the responsibility if and when she fell apart.
Her pregnancy forced me to wave good-bye to the freedom my husband and I had come to love and enjoy. Our marriage started with five children, so we greeted our empty nest years with great anticipation.
What I forgot is the power that a baby carries with it. The overpowering, inexplicable surge of unconditional love that I felt with my children was now my daughter’s due. I saw it form in her as her due date drew near. Not to say that she did an about-face in her behavior, but her life picked its way back towards a better, more traversable path.
Still I feared her ability to make the right decisions. I grieved over the few medical options available to an unemployed mother-to-be. I cringed when I took her to appointments, afraid to touch anything that came in contact with these people who obviously did not understand the responsibility that their actions required of them.
Then, my granddaughter entered the world.
I could not believe it. I stood by my daughter’s bedside while she labored and watched this tiny little girl emerge into the uncertain world of a single parent home.
All parents know that the love we experience prior to parenthood holds a small flame to the force and the power of the love that sweeps into your soul at the birth of your own child. Believe it or not, the birth of your grandchild carries a stronger, more potent love.
This is the child of my child.
You know more of what the world can do to harm her, and you want to protect her from all of it. The knowledge that you can’t frustrates you even more, building a stronger will to protect and love.
Because of her mother’s circumstances, they lived with us for the first 16 months of my granddaughter’s life. This prevented me from spoiling her like most grandparents do with their grandchildren, but I gained something greater. In her world, I became part of the foundation of her life. Her home held Mommy, Babbie (her name for me), and Granddad. Besides her Mommy, we became her favorite people in the world.
She is now three years old. When I greet her, her grin stretches from ear to ear and she breathes out my name with joy, “Babbie.”
When my children were little, I couldn’t wait for them to grow up and walk and talk and meet the milestones of childhood. The time flies by even faster now, but this time I beg it to slow down. I want to hang on to those days where she seeks out joy and comfort in us. I hope to be that grandmother who will always be cool and worthwhile to the growing teenager that she will quickly become. I want to be the shoulder she cries on when love lets her down.
But most of all, I want her life to take its time getting us there. I want my sweet, precocious grandchild to have a lifetime of childhood first.
No matter the circumstances, a baby brings love into a home. That's why I keep returning to the words I wrote a year ago. My heart is full.
As a sidenote, a few people have asked how to obtain a copy of Child of My Child. I have a few copies available, or you can order it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.