Reflections from a New Grandma: KEYSTONE SUNDAYS
By Eva Fiendler
Except for a stint at college and graduate school, I have spent most of my life on Long Island. But today I am bundled up against the 27- degree weather, wheeling my “lite” luggage to my local LIRR train station, getting ready to do my usual Keystone Sunday routine. How life for me has changed over the past year! My only child (and she always hated the term only!) gave birth to my first grandbaby almost a year ago.
To experience your baby giving birth to her baby is truly an awesome experience. Last March, my son-in-law sent me an early morning message that they were headed to the hospital and that labor had officially begun. I knew in an instant that I had to move quickly to navigate the available transportation to get to Philadelphia in time. My “go bag” was ready and I walked swiftly to the LIRR station, along with scores of folks who did this commute thing every day.
I knew that I never had the temperament to commute, so I always lived a few miles from work and ALWAYS drove everywhere. But this was different…..it would take me hours in rush hour traffic, I would have to endure the Belt Parkway and then sit on the Staten Island Expressway forever. Not to mention how I would navigate driving in a new city and figuring out where to park my car. We had decided long before that it would be best for me to come down on the train! It felt slightly European to me…which was a good thing.
Who knew that her labor would only be an hour and that my amazingly strong daughter would only push for nine minutes.
Back on the platform, I was nervous as there was a delay of sorts, not sure that I would be able to then negotiate a change in my Amtrak reservation. Needless to say, that time passed with a few text messages here and there, and I flew off of the LIRR, through the throngs of humdrum commuters, down the hallway, up the stairs to the Amtrak station. No one seemed to take note of how critical every minute was for me! I prayed that the government had this train thing down to a science and I would arrive on time. Luckily cabs were available at the other end and I got to the hospital in record time. But, I had missed it! I arrived about an hour and a half after my grandson had come into the world. Who knew that her labor would only be an hour and that my amazingly strong daughter would only push for 9 minutes. Wow! She was okay. And this beautiful baby boy had arrived at almost 9 lbs. I was almost speechless.
So, as is much more typical today, family members live further apart in a world easily connected via technology. I had never considered how different it would be to live on Long Island and to have my grandbaby in Philadelphia. Absolutely everyone says “It’s not that far” but it was very far from the easy cadence with which my mother embraced her role as Oma and slipped into my daughter’s new life with lots of love and kisses, always. She lived only 10 miles away and was a loving presence for her whole life. I have arrived at my next phase of life and as a 63-year-old grandmother; a phase timed by others and accompanied by a host of new challenges for me. I now need to navigate these unchartered waters without my own mother around. She passed away 15 years ago and I still miss her as I write this today. She taught me how to be a mother and I had always assumed would supervise my entrance into grandmotherhood.
Let’s start with technology.
What a world of difference today from that March day almost a year ago. How I have grown! I fluidly call an Uber from my phone, purchase my senior LIRR 10 trip ticket from an app, check the status of my Amtrak boarding pass on my phone ticket wallet as I pack lightly for my weekly journey. I immediately had decided that for my grandson to really know me and for me to love him like a grandma should, I would have to travel each week and spend full days with him. And I have done that, longer stretches at first as the first few months are so tough. But now we have settled into a cadence. I travel down on Sunday afternoons, on the Amtrak Keystone and return home Monday nights to Long Island. And what fun days we have. We do the usual things like diaper changes, feedings, dressing, bathing, playing and exploring all sorts of things with no pressure of having a “to-do” list. And, oh yes, we do lots of giggling and snuggling and fooling around by opening kitchen cabinets and taking everything out to bang loudly on the floor!
Before I spoke to my daughter on the phone, I already knew what little if any sleep everyone had gotten, whether my grandson had successfully nursed and what color his poops were!
Back to my technology education. Luckily, the Millennial generation inhabited by my daughter and son-in-law make good tutors. So, all of their recommended travel apps have helped me feel like I really can do this commuting thing. (Plus, I finally figured out where to stand on the LIRR platform that affords the easiest access to the Amtrak station at Penn!) The photo sharing and editing possibilities give me a slew of daily pictures and videos, all on my phone. And ordering a photobook from CVS has become a no-brainer.
I wanted more frequent updates about this sweet baby from the very first day…..more intel as my son-in-law said!So, I was made a part of the baby app…..an amazing piece of software in which as you enter every single piece of info about a baby’s day (# of wet diapers, # of poops, naps, location of naps, bottles, breastfeeding sessions etc.), all of the caretakers, including me, are notified. So, in an instant, I knew if the night had been a rough one. Before I spoke to my daughter on the phone, I already knew what little if any sleep everyone had gotten, whether my grandson had successfully nursed and what color his poops were! Now, this was a new way to be a grandma!
From my perspective, this was way too much information and created much anxiety on everyone’s part, but, like many other things, this was not my decision. Because what is also available is information about EVERYTHING on the internet. So, if he ha a weird colored poop, all you needed to do was look this up and find out it was a symptom of at least 10 awful diseases. Back in my day, a poop was just a poop! But I am adjusting! And my age gives me the wisdom to know, that in the end, we have little control over things…..and babies have been created since the beginning of time!
I am in love with this new little boy: and am simply in awe of how my daughter has seamlessly slipped into her role as a Mom.
I still work full-time, but my profession as a psychologist allows me to schedule my days for the most part as I wish. My time has certainly changed, however, as I have moved all of my commitments to four work days a week and all of the other things to do to run a house and have a life are squished into a day and a half. I have to remember to make plans with friends and do some self-care as well. But the joy that I have experienced is the purest form of satisfaction imaginable. I am in love with this new little boy: and am simply in awe of how my daughter has seamlessly slipped into her role as a Mom. To watch their loving duet, each smiling at the other has at times brought tears to my eyes. There is nothing greater or more precious to experience.
As I approach the station, with just a well-timed minute to spare, I reflect on how easily the next few hours will unfold. I feel uncharacteristically grateful that others are in charge of getting me to my grandson. Not being behind the wheel has some advantages. I have my train snack prepared, have a new book to listen to on Audible (plus a few podcasts in case), and I will settle into the quiet car on Amtrak and savor the time I now have to read the whole weekend New York Times. On the other end, I will get an Uber and let myself into their Philly home and wait for his little loving arms to reach out for me in recognition when I call his name. I have never felt so connected and so important! Such pure joy!…. And, I think to my tech-savvy self…..what a wonderful life!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – EVA FEINDLER, PH.D.
Eva L. Feindler, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and the Program Director of the Long Island University Doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. As a faculty member of the Specialty Track in Family Violence and as former Director of the Psychological Services Clinic, she is directly involved in programs to help children and families manage their anger and resolve conflict. She has authored books (Adolescent Anger Control: Cognitive-Behavioral Strategies; Handbook of Adolescent Behavior Therapy; Assessment of Family Violence; Comparative Treatments of Anger Disorders), numerous articles on the assessment and treatment of anger and family functioning and has conducted professional workshops across the US and internationally. She is featured on an Aggression Replacement training video (Research Press). In addition to training the next generation of psychologists, Dr. Feindler has been in practice for over 30 years working with all sorts of families trying to help them through life changes and crises. Her work is thoroughly satisfying to her, but she also now wants more time to fully explore this new phase of her life: being a grandma!