I honestly think I was more excited about the birth of my newest grandchild than that of my own children. Somehow when you are giving birth yourself, the fact that there is no return, grounds you and you have so many other things to think about. How will I bear the pain? How will the other children react to the new addition to the family? Will my baby be perfect? Will my husband get get to the hospital on time?! (He was always late for everything) What sex will it be? (We didn’t know in my day.) But in my role as a granny and not a mum, I knew that everything would be OK.
My beautiful daughter in law (DIL) teaches yoga and she had prepared herself really well. She hadn’t put on too much weight, she had stopped drinking, doesn’t smoke and is a very calm girl. Poor darling, she had an unfortunate and horrible time with her first baby in Australia which had ended up with the newborn (aka The Bionic One) being snatched away from her and taken to intensive care – and the poor girl hadn’t even had a cuddle.
This time, DIL was booked in to the Birthing Centre of their nearby hospital. I tried to seem knowledgeable and approving – even though I didn’t really know what a birthing Centre was – but after some research found out that it’s all terribly natural and basically the baby is born underwater. Natural? If God had wanted us to swim, as my grandmother would have said, “he would have given us gills”. But I banished all negative thoughts and was entirely supportive. My role was to look after The Bionic One whilst my son and DIL went to hospital and to help out however I could. So, the week before the birth I had been over at their house as much as possible, trying to do jobs and generally alleviate the pressure so my DIL could get some rest. I was a sort of 70 year old au pair… well I have got blonde hair!
The night of the birth my phone rang at 11pm.
“I think I’ve started ” said DIL calmly.
“Don’t panic” I shouted down the phone like Corporal Jones.
“I’m on my way. Don’t panic. I’ll be there in 40.”
It was me who was panicking. I raced out to the car grabbing my overnight bag (Oh yes, I had had mine packed for two weeks!)
I arrived at the house with my heart thumping only to find my DIL incredibly peaceful, The Bionic One was slumbering happily upstairs. She had had a bath, her case was packed and she was doing her breathing exercises. The only thing that was missing was – her husband.
“Have you rung him?” I squeaked, my voice coming out slightly higher than I expected.
“Oh yes. He is on his way home.” It was now 11.30 pm. Golly I thought to myself, I hope the trains are still running at this hour, what if he can’t get home… what if… what if…
Then this beautiful girl, A GODDESS OF CALM …. WENT TO BED! How could she? I was bubbling over. I felt like Tigger. I just wanted to bounce up and down and wake everybody up!
Mercifully for my friends and relatives, my son arrived home, gave me a quick kiss and went sprinting upstairs. I diplomatically went to bed.
A couple of hours later in the wee wee small hours of the morning, my grandson wakes and calls out for his mum, who is by this time downstairs on all fours completely focused on her breathing exercises. She is in her own zone. There is no way she can take him to the loo. The Bionic one is inconsolable. Only his mum can lift him on to his Thomas the tank engine loo seat. I try to pick up this wriggling monster who is clutching his willy as he squirms and lies on the floor screaming. Creativity. Come to me please. How on earth am I going to manage to calm him? How am I going to get him to sit on the loo, let alone do a wee wee. All he wants is his mum and, understandably, the last thing she wants is him.
I try every calming exercise I can think of – I sing, try to cuddle, try to get his pyjama bottoms down. You would think I was trying to steal the crown jewels this two and a half year olds has a grip of iron! In desperation I do my Donald Duck impersonation. The neighbours must think there’s a murder going on here but IT DOES THE TRICK! Tears and wee roll downwards in tandem as I get him onto the loo.
Ablutions over, I have to persuade him to get back in bed. I try getting in myself. Several missiles in the form of teddy bears, rabbits and Buzz Lightyear narrowly miss my head. My DIL and son slip out of the house and go to the hospital – if nothing else, for some peace.
The Bionic One wakes at 6.30am in the nicest of moods and is perfectly happy to have only granny there. I can’t move. I’ve been stuck in one position in the Big Boys Bed with elbows, fists, knees and a very hard head hitting me all night. We have breakfast together. He is charm itself.
Four hours after Mum and Dad left the house I get a phone call. A beautiful baby girl was born. All had gone really well, she was born under water. Mum had no gas or air and the little girl came into this world in a wonderfully calm way. She is hugely loved, very pretty, very feminine and seems quite happy to wait for a few minutes before any one takes any notice of her. Her mum looks contentedly beautiful. Dad just looks relieved and The Bionic One…. well, we will just wait on that At the moment he is very sweet with her, but watch this space.
How do I feel about it? Grateful. Hugely grateful to all the lovely nameless midwives and nurses, underpaid and overworked, who add so much value. And to the NHS for taking care of my precious family. I feel deeply happy because I was able to help my son and DIL at a very treasured time. And watching their joy makes me very happy. Finally thank you Donald. You saved the day….. er, night!