I had a chance to spend more time with my grandson recently. I am happy to report he is doing well and becoming much more aware of his surroundings and the people in it. He is active in moving all extremities and likes to grab for his mobile hanging over the side of his crib. I know he doesn’t recognize me yet but look forward to the day when he does and is happy to see me.
He is still in the NICU but plans are being put in place for him to come home. All these months it has been like we lived in cities far away from each other because he was restricted many times from having visitors, especially during the winter flu season. I would get texts, photos, videos, and occasional calls from his parents to tell me about his progress. So when I visit I feel like the out of town relative. He looks at me with his big eyes as if to say, “Who are you?”
Featured image of ‘baby holding hand’ via Pixabay.com
The progress of babies born very premature is not in straight line up. It is more oscillating and has been compared to a rollercoaster ride. There can be complications, and setbacks are very common. When my grandson was first born, I thought about how many weeks he needed to go before he would be home. It seemed like a long space of time where he would have to avoid complications. I read about some of the common conditions that premature babies are vulnerable to, and I did not want him to have any of them. I resolved to block a lot of it out because I did not want to live in fear. It would do no good to live in dread of what might never happen. I wanted to be positive when I was around him. This wall I had built, as a defense mechanism against my fears, did not protect me when he had complications or setbacks. He would be making progress and I felt secure. Then, he would have a setback and I found my wall crumbling. Even though I had told myself to take things day by day, I have found it just as hard each time there are setbacks. Through all this I have seen the resilience of my grandson. He has been fighting back against all challenges with his parents right there by his side. I am with them all the way.
Like a moon orbiting around its planet, parents of adult children have to maintain the best distance to keep from crashing down like a meteor or rogue asteroid. The parent isn’t guided by any laws of physics. They have to find their way by heart. This is especially true when you become a grandparent. I have memories of the time I was a new mother and how I wanted to be in control of my own nest. I was getting to know my baby and learning how to be comfortable as his mother. I have always said that when I was the mother in law, I would be very sensitive to boundaries. Now I am finding out what it is like to actually be the mother-in-law and paternal grandmother. It is a balancing act because you want to be involved with your children and grandchildren but you don’t want to be overbearing or intrusive. I have to learn how to be a grandmother just like I did to be a mother. I have to accept that I probably will make mistakes. I am starting to understand how my own mother-in-law may have felt.
I started my grandmother journey last year when my son and daughter-in-law told us they were expecting a baby this February. At the beginning I thought my task was to adjust to the idea of becoming a grandmother and to pick a grandmotherly name. I did not want to be Grandma, Granny, or Nana. I chose Mémé which is Grandma or Granny in French. Before I had a chance to get used to my new name or role, my beautiful grandson was born prematurely. It has been a different journey from the one I expected. My grandson has had to stay in NICU while he grows and gets strong enough to come home. He was not ready to meet his grandparents except at a distance. In the early days, he had to rest without a lot of stimulation. When he was first born I thought it was good for him to hear my voice talking, reading, and singing to him. But I found out this is not really beneficial for very premature babies. The stimulation is too jarring for their developing nervous systems. You have to the learn the proper way to touch the babies because their skin is very sensitive. You can’t hold them because they need to be kept warm in the incubator. My husband and I were pretty much just viewing him through the walls of the incubator. Sometimes the incubator was completely covered with a blanket. Again, this is done to cut down on stimulation. It is to make the environment quiet as if he were still inside the womb. The nurses would lift up a section of the blanket so we could see him when we visited. I did find all the restrictions frustrating at first but understand the need for them now. Having to keep my distance and being a bit removed from the situation has caused a sense of helplessness at times. I couldn’t help my grandson or his parents very much. There wasn’t much for me to do but to stand by and be supportive in any way I could. He has grown and is getting closer to coming home. In recent times, we have been able to touch him more, talk to him, and hold his pacifier in. Soon we will be able to hold him. I will be able to read and sing to him. I hope he doesn’t mind if I am a little off key.