Basking in the majesty of grandparenthood

21:32, Nov 19 2013

Timing is everything. My daughter's waters broke at 6am last Wednesday, at the exact moment I was checking in for my flight across the Tasman to be with her.

By the time I reached Sydney she was 5 centimetres dilated. When my domestic flight landed near her new home town, she was almost ready for the final push.

I was admirably calm in the car, right up until the moment I stepped inside the hospital lift, pushed the button for the fifth floor, and the lift broke down. I spent the next 15 minutes phoning the delivery suite upstairs to talk to her through contractions, phoning home for comfort, laughing at the absurdity of it all, crying with frustration, and over-sharing with the nice hospital clerk trapped in the lift with me.

Once emergency services had us out, I ran the five flights to her room (something I couldn't do under any other circumstances) and held my daughter's hand through those last gruelling minutes of labour and those first slippery, shining moments of birth.

When we left the hospital two days later, me with the honour of carrying my granddaughter in my arms, my finger marks were still clearly visible on the lift doors where I had tried to prise them open.

Grandparenthood is different from parenthood. The clue is in the name. It is majestic, splendid, grand.


Motherhood without the anxiety but all of the joy.

It is a story in which you are no longer a lead character, and the revelation of this is liberating. It is understood that, in this story, you are a guest star, making cameo appearances to move the narrative along, deliver wisdom where you can, and offer comic relief.

Your own role models shift.

Suddenly you have in mind the recent work of Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton. You start thinking about buying fewer but more expensive clothes and doing something chic with your hair. I might have been a fierce mama at times, but I will be a ferocious grandmother.

I am on burp/change and laundry duty while paternal grandmother cooks and directs visitor traffic. We call each other "Nana G" and "Nana Michy", trying out our new names and liking how they sound.

I struggle to remember how to swaddle a baby until, in the middle of the night, my hands remember the correct origami fold that keeps a baby womb-like safe.

I teach my daughter how to do the things I did for her and stand back to see how she will choose to do them.

Day Three, we take baby out for coffee. Day Four, we take her shopping. Day Five, I have to leave.

A delayed flight is a gift of extra time and we weep at final boarding call. I run back from security for one more kiss with my two girls.

As I squeeze her, my granddaughter produces a magnificent burp, audible across the terminal. It is the most hilarious thing, ever. Timing is everything.

The Press