I have often said that my mother only had children so that one day she could have grandchildren, meaning that I was only the middleman. Of course that isn’t (completely) true, but because my parents wanted grandchildren so badly, I felt like giving birth to two beautiful little girls was my gift to them. In fact, before I even got pregnant, I forced my mom to agree to move in with us for three months after the baby (or as it turned out to be, babies) was born. In my mind, I was going to let her live with us so that she could bond with the baby; I didn’t think she would teach us anything – I mean – Joe and I read every book there is on having and raising a baby. What could she possibly teach us?!
Little did I know that making (not letting) my mother live with us for the first three months of the girls’ lives was hands-down the smartest thing I ever did.
Let’s start from the beginning. Since I was planning to have a caesarean birth, my mom was going to miss out on the actual birth of the babies – something she had always wanted to be a part of (lucky for me, however, my cousin Tara let her witness the birth of her son, which totally took the pressure off). So, in a stroke of luck, she happened to be with me when my water broke. I was thrilled that she could experience the beginning of child birth with me (even though she couldn’t be in the operating room during the actual birth). Honestly, I’ve never seen my mother so giddy over a wet and dirty bathroom floor! She may have even taken of picture of me with wet pants around my ankles. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Mom went to the hospital with me and Joe that day. She was right there with us every step of the way – she shepherded guests in and out of the hospital room all day and went to our house every night to take care of Laika. Then, she’d return the next morning and do it all over again. Mom was with us as we left the hospital a few days after Poppy and Olive were born. By that time, she had moved into the “Grandmother Suite” at our house – a room that was prepared solely with Grandma Diane in mind. It’s a bright and cheerful yellow room with pink furniture and flowery linens. I took special care in making sure the room had every comfort a new grandmom could want (including a squeaky old rocker that we found at a yard sale for $8).
The following three months flew by. My mom was there almost every single day. I would joke with others that we put an anklet on her like the ones probation officers use on criminals under house arrest. We would let her leave for a day or two here or there, but those days were few and far between – and we wouldn’t let her go very far – maybe 45 minutes driving distance in any given direction. We needed her there – at our house – with us and the babies.
During the first month, it was just me and Mom and the babies. It was such a treat to be able to spend some quality time with my mom. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. She’s the one who knew when it was time to feed the babies; change the babies; bathe the babies; wash the bottles; wash the laundry; clean the house; prepare food; pump breast milk; and a million other chores that just seemed to get done without any thought or action on my part (except the pumping part). All I ever really had to do was hold a sleeping baby. I never really gave it much thought since I was letting her stay with us. She had to earn her keep, right? Everything was just magically taken care of in our house. Well, through the magic of Grandma Diane, that is.
The next month, I went back to work and Joe left his job to be a full time stay at home dad. Grandma Diane stayed on to make sure the transition was smooth. She showed Joe the ropes and took the pressure off of me when I came home from long days at the office. Dinner was always prepared (or in the works) when I got home. The girls were always happy and my husband was still around (that’s saying a lot when your husband and his mother-in-law are pretty much living together). We tried to rotate the babies at night so someone always had a night without a baby in their bed at least once a week. Having my mom there every night was such a blessing (and “blessing” is not a word I use lightly). I hear that sleep deprivation is what makes most new parents go crazy, so in addition to actually giving me life, I guess I owe my sanity to my mother as well.
Through all of this, Mom was planning visits from family members eager to meet Poppy and Olive. Once the scheduled guests arrived, she would host them at our house and her house simultaneously and effortlessly. Still, she was taking care of at least one baby all day every day and all night every night. Although she’ll never admit to playing favorites, Poppy took a special liking to Grandma Diane in those first few months, and she took one right back. It’s hard not to reciprocate those feelings of love and admiration, especially when they are coming from your first born (even if only by a minute) grandchild. Even though the girls are identical twins, Poppy looks exactly like I did as a baby and who can blame a grandmother for giving a little extra love to the grandchild that reminds her so much of her own first born so many years ago. But Grandma Diane loves Olive just as much as she loves Poppy. Actually, it turns out that Poppy sleeps for much longer stretches at night than Olive. So, maybe it wasn’t so much favoritism as it was the longing for a good night’s sleep on Grandma’s part. Either way, both girls got more attention (and I’m not talking a little attention; I’m talking constant, unrelenting attention) than any grandchildren ever. E.V.E.R.
And then another month passed – like only a minute had gone by – and the hour that Grandma Diane was going to leave was looming. I was dreading it - not just because I would have more responsibility once Mom was gone; not because Joe might get too stressed out and throw the babies at me as soon as I walked in the door from work; not because I’d miss my mother’s home cooked meals every day; not because I had grown accustomed to having someone else take care of so much for so long; but because I was going to miss my mommy. And my girls were going to miss their grandma. And there is no way that I would ever be able to thank my mom for everything that she’d done for us over those first months of our daughters’ lives. And there is no way that I could ever repay her for her help. Hallmark just isn’t capable of making a “thank you” card that would do the trick.
Before I knew it, she was gone. Mom had a scheduled surgery one week before she would have fulfilled her three month term as live-in-Grandma to newborn twins. She was only in the hospital overnight and then went home to HER house in
for a solid week of recovery. She was under strict instructions from her doctor not to carry a baby for a couple of weeks. I know my mom and if she was anywhere near those babies, she’d be picking them up; so she wasn’t even permitted to visit. New Jersey
Of course, the week she left was the week that Joe and the girls got sick. I tried my best to let Joe get some rest and recover, so I took both of the girls when I could. We were going to bed at 8 PM every night that first week. It was exhausting! You know the saying, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone…well, that was the only thought running through my head that week. No one wants to admit that they need help, especially when the person they need is incapacitated, so I tried not to sound too needy when I would call my mom, but on the inside, I wanted to beg her to come back.
After a week, she came for a visit and violated her doctor’s orders as her first order of business when she arrived. Of course, the day she arrived happened to be the day I came down with the cold that Joe and the girls had, and I was miserable. So miserable in fact, that I didn’t even tell my mom how much she was missed (which you were, Ma, terribly). My mom set us up with everything we needed to be able to handle the girls on our own – something we appreciate so much, even if we’ve been too tired, too sick and too busy and tell her.
So Mom, here it is:
Poppy and Olive will never know (until they can read this) that they would have been dirty, in the same clothes for days on end, starving and frustrated for the first few months of life had you not been there to help us through the seemingly endless days and nights of new parenthood. However, Joe and I will know it and forever appreciate you and everything you did and continue to do. We know that we are the luckiest parents that ever lived (we’ve been told by pretty much everyone).
You are one in a million. That being said, I won’t aspire to be the mother to my daughters that you were to me because that is an impossibility – a pipe dream – an unattainable goal. What I will do, however, is remember every day of my life that I would not be the person that I am, the wife that I am, and the mother I am learning and striving to be without you. Poppy and Olive will never want for anything. They will be loved more than they will ever know. They will know you, love you and remember you long after you have left our home and this earth.
I love you, Mom, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to thank you for giving (voluntarily, I might add) me, Joe, Olive and Poppy three months of your life without expecting or receiving anything but love and gratitude in return. You’re the best mom ever. E.V.E.R. I love you.