Preparing for your first grandchild is an exciting process that can be as unique as the childbirth itself for first time grandmothers. Once you recover from the initial shock that "your baby" is no longer baby, it is time to get both mentally and physically prepared to offer proactive support to both mommy and daddy from the beginning to the end of the new mom's recuperation phase. It is truly more than preparing for baby showers, opening gifts, and sending thank you cards.
Preparation begins with the announcement. From that moment, nothing is the same. My husband and I received our announcement on Christmas day. Our daughter and son-in-law came into the living room of their home to say "the test was positive, congratulations grand mom." A child was in the wings! The excitement is indescribable. It is one of the many times you realize that it is only through the power of God that such a miracle would be possible.
Months of pre-planning begins. Encouraging the new mom to eat and sleep properly (grand mothers worry – that's what we do!), Initiating baby shower planning details (it doesn't hurt to send "save the date" cards), helping mom monitor gift registries and coordinating materials that will be useful after the baby arrives. Even the selection of what the mom and baby will wear on their first trip home is reminiscent of the bridal planning process.
Our event planning was even more more unique. My daughter lived in another state, so we had to ensure baby shower planning in her home state and new location were coordinated as not to create unnecessary mental or physical stress for the new mom. Additionally, travel for the mom is limited after a certain point. It's important, therefore, to ensure calendar dates are reviewed with everyone involved in the two state coordinating efforts.
The future grandmother needs to be proactive about getting ready for the level of hands on input and support that will be needed from her before, during, and after the birth. Essential elements of grandmother preparation should include several considerations:
Watching your diet, taking vitamins, starting an exercise program – Why? You could be "actively" involved in the birthing and immediate aftercare process. I was part of the designated support team and, as such, participated in the breathing exercises, hand holding, and offering gentle conversations my daughter needed while experiencing labor pains. In addition to singing songs, and stroking her head with a wet cloth throughout the labor, I rotated with my son in law to maintain presence and support up to the moment of delivery.
Had I not spent time weeks before my visit exercising, getting plenty of rest, and taking vitamins on a regular basis, it would have been a struggle surviving this most strenuous process. Planning a nine month low impact aerobics or walking routine will make a world a difference during a 10-20 hour labor process.
Using recorded music or sounds. Be prepared with a CD player or soothing sound machine. Being able to play your daughter's favorite music, inspirational messages, or offer other soothing natural sounds can be very helpful in providing comfort during the most strenuous moments.
Taking time to refresh you knowledge about the pregnancy and childbirth process – Especially if you are going to be part of the birthing process, a brief refresher of what to expect would be helpful .. You daughter may look to you at various points of the process for reassurance. It would be helpful if you are able to use terminology she learned during the birthing preparation classes to let her know you are aware and can relate, including up to date information.
Setting aside at least two weeks after the birth to be available or commit to spend time helping both the new mom and her husband during the recuperation and adjustment period is an invaluable gift your daughter will never forget. Sleep schedules, adjusting to feeding, doctor appointments, stabilizing meal schedules, addressing unexpected emergencies, and helping with general lifestyle changes all make a difference between smooth and traumatic transition. The significance of your presence during this time cannot be measured.
Scheduling "readiness" packing. Do not wait until your daughter is heading to the hospital to pack items you may need if asked to stay overnight. Be sure to include dried fruit, juice, peppermints, and other light refreshments you can access during break times.
Our team took turns sleeping and eating during the 17 hours my daughter was in labor. We prepared a kit that included toothbrush, wash cloth, her favorite music, and fresh fruit (unfortunately, hospital vending machines only offer carbonated soda and potato chips – uninviting during the 2-4 am morning hours).
Becoming a grand mother for the first time is a precious gift from God. Participating in the process can mark a moment in your life that can only be matched by the birth of your daughter. Your role will be different this time, but it is important toward enhancing the joy of your daughter and son-in-law's birthing experience. Congratulations Grandma! Welcome to a wonderful new experience.