In the midst of the isolation of lockdown and the frustration of E’s complete non communication, there has been some amazing news.
I am now a Grandma!
My Grandson (who is, of course, absolutely beautiful, in fact, I’m pretty sure he’s the most beautiful baby born in the world EVER) was born on 4th April, and I couldn’t be prouder,
In March, I eventually got to the bottom of the mystery of Youngest Daughter’s location. It turned out that she wasn’t in fact in ‘homeless accommodation’ as she’d told me, she was staying with her partner’s parents. I discovered this after sending frantic texts to E (who obviously ignored me – that’s no surprise, he’d ignored my texts about her suicide attempt, so I guess her ‘just going missing’ wasn’t high on his list of priorities) and her partner’s dad (who, by contrast, responded immediately). I’m not going to talk about it too much on here but, she was 17, confused, pregnant and dealing with all of the emotions that go with her dad and my split as well as expecting a baby. I think probably her partner’s parent’s house had everything that mine didn’t – it was stable, with a Mum and a Dad, there was no threat of having to move out, there was no daily reminder of the pain her Dad had inflicted on her family. It was a haven where she could forget about everything that was happening at home. I must admit that facing up to this caused me some pain, but she was safe and well and looked after. In the end that’s all that matters.
After six weeks of not seeing her, I invited her, her partner and her partner’s parents over for Sunday roast. It was lovely. They are lovely and things began to heal between Youngest Daughter and I. I think she was embarrassed that she hadn’t told me the truth and was unsure how I’d react. I think the fact that I just hugged her (frankly it was all I could do to let her go again) made her realise that she’ll never lose me. I don’t think it made her feel any better about everything that had happened, but it was a start.
A week or so later they moved into their very first home. It’s a tiny little terraced house a few miles away. I’ve not been there yet (lockdown), but it looks beautiful. Her partner’s Dad and his friends spent hours redecorating it and finding them furniture etc and they created a lovely home for them to move into. I must admit to feeling quite emotional and frustrated about the fact that I personally couldn’t contribute to anything (my finances are so tight, I can just about get to the end of every month). E, obviously, also contributed absolutely nothing (plus ca change), but I was still so happy for them that they were being given such a good start.
The day before lockdown was announced Oldest Daughter popped home ‘for a few days’ (little did she know – she’s now been here for ten weeks) and Youngest Daughter and her partner came over to see us. Youngest Daughter was literally glowing. She had about three weeks to go until baby was due, but her bump was so neat (the advantage of a young pregnancy – I was whale like by the time I got to that stage of my pregnancies), her skin was peachy, her eyes sparkling. She was beautiful. We all took it in turns to talk to the bump (in fact, there was a movement where I thought there was a genuine danger, that we might not be able to detach Oldest Daughter from Youngest Daughter’s tummy). Youngest Son (the self-declared ‘Funcle to be”) promised to teach the baby all the swear words he knew, and Oldest Son watched the proceedings with the biggest smile on his face. We took photographs which I will treasure forever. I had my four babies with me again, everything felt wonderful. They were only here for an hour or so, but it was lovely little moment of togetherness, it felt like none of the worry of the last couple of months had happened. My kids were laughing together, bantering, everything felt like it should do.
The next day the Stay Home message was announced, and I began to contemplate the effect this would have on Youngest Daughter’s birth plans, as well as the impact it would have on how we would be able to care for and help her and her partner as and when the baby arrived. She’d always planned to have her partner there with her, but had asked me to be on ‘standby’ if they needed me. To be honest, I’d always assumed that they wouldn’t actually need me, but I was a safety net that had been removed. Every maternity department was applying the new rules slightly differently. but it looked like at least her partner could be with her whilst she was giving birth. How long he could stay afterwards was subject to change. I was so worried. Any pregnancy/birth (especially first time) is tough, but she was 17. She’d struggled with depression and needed a support network in a way that some new Mums just don’t. Having said that, it was probably just me worrying, Youngest Daughter and her partner seemed in control of, and aware of everything.
In the weeks before the baby arrived, Youngest Daughter and I called and texted every day and I began to feel that I was getting my baby back. Of course, as the weeks went on, it became clear that lockdown was going to go on for some time, and that the chances were I wouldn’t see her, or the baby for quite some time.
She went into labour about a week before her baby was due. Everyone had told me that she’d ‘need me’, but, after everything that had happened, I wasn’t sure she would. She’d built such close relationships with her partner’s parents, that I thought she might prefer to have them nearby. I needn’t have worried, I was with her, by phone, almost every step of the way. I cannot describe how hard it is to hear your child in distress and not be able to help her. She was having very strong contractions, which would proceed to every three/four minutes, then recede to five/ten minutes so she wasn’t in ‘established labour’ – but she was in distress and every maternal instinct I had was to hold her/hug her/reassure her. Her labour was beginning to remind me of my labour with Oldest Daughter – after four days of the same coming and going of contractions, I ended up having an emergency c-section and I was really worried that this would happen to her.
I can’t tell you how hard it is to listen to your child in distress and not run to help them. She called me at 3am – her contractions were agonising and she and her partner didn’t know what to do – the hospital had told them not to come in yet (labour not advanced enough). They were confused kids, doing a very grown up thing. All I could do was talk to her calmly, reassure her, try to make her smile. I also spoke to her partner and tried to be there for him too – he was doing his best to support her, but, again he was on his own. I think she just wanted to hear my voice. All I wanted to do was be there with her, not being able to just go over to her house and make her a cup of tea, hold her hand, hug her, was agony.
She was eventually admitted to hospital on the Saturday morning and that afternoon my Grandson was born. She did it all by herself, no c-section, and with no pain relief other than gas and air (she’d asked for pethidine, but by the time she asked the labour was too advanced). I can’t tell you how proud I was of her, and how much I wanted to just hold her. Oldest Daughter, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and sat in the sunshine aware that the most momentous change had happened to all of us, waiting for a picture of the baby, calling ourselves ‘Aunty’, ‘Uncle’ (‘Funcle’) and ‘Grandma’, getting used to how those words felt in our mouths, letting our new roles sink in.
In normal times, we’d have been at the hospital in time for visiting hours, but obviously, this couldn’t happen, so we had to wait for photos and videos, and when these arrived we crowded round my phone, all of us overcome with emotion and the most intense love for this newest, tiniest member of our family.
Unfortunately, he had a few minor health problems, which meant he had to be moved to the neonatal ward for a couple of days and was separated from Youngest Daughter. Lockdown rules also meant that her partner couldn’t be with her on the post-natal ward, so she was her own, without her baby for large swathes of time. By the Monday he was on the ward with her, but they weren’t discharged until the Thursday, so she had a long time on her own. She coped magnificently, I was concerned about how she’d be, but I needn’t have been. Motherhood has come so naturally to Youngest Daughter. Even from phone videos I could see how easily she’d taken to it. She had all of the struggles that all of us have – post birth pain, post birth trauma, learning to breast feed (to this day I don’t think anyone makes clear how difficult this can be), learning about this new little person who is now her whole world, but she did it all on her own and she did it amazingly.
Since he’s been born, I’ve seen him four times – all from a 2 metre distance, where all I’ve been able to do is cluck adoringly. He’s now eight weeks old and I still haven’t been able to hold him. I still haven’t been able to hug my daughter (it’s hard to work out who I want to hold more – her or my Grandson), but they’re both really well and they’re both so happy. I treasure every photo, every video, every moment of his little life that Youngest Daughter sends me. The picture of his first smile made me cry. The video of him snoring made me laugh. Every image she sends is little piece of hope and joy.
It’s the most amazing thing – he looks like Youngest Daughter (huge dark eyes), he looks like one of my babies, he looks like ‘one of us’, he’s so new, but so familiar.
Out of all of the pain and confusion of the last few years, this incredible thing has emerged. Youngest Daughter and her partner are the most amazing parents and my Grandson is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. I really am so utterly proud of the three of them.
Did I mention, I’m a Grandma now?