Preparing for Baby: Strategies, Tools and Tips
For First Time Grandmothers
©Theresa V. Wilson, M.Ed
Preparing for baby is an exciting process that can be as unique as childbirth for first time grandmothers. Once you recover from the initial shock that your baby is no longer your baby, it’s time to get mentally and physically prepared to offer proactive support to both mommy and daddy from the beginning of the pre-birth process until the end of the new mom’s recuperation phase. It is truly more than preparing for baby showers, opening gifts, and recording cards.
It all begins with the announcement. From the moment you’re told you are about to be a grandparent, nothing is the same. My husband and I received our announcement on Christmas Day after a leisurely breakfast. Our daughter and son-in-law came to the living room of their home to say the test was positive. A new life had been created, a child was in the wings. The excitement is indescribable. It is one of many times you realize that it is only through the power of God that such a miracle be possible. The months of preplanning begins by encouraging the mom to eat and sleep properly, initiate planning the baby shower with save the date cards, helping to monitor gift registries and coordinating materials that would be useful after the baby is born. Even selection of what the mom and baby will wear on the first trip home reminds one of the bridal planning process.
There is, however, one ingredient that is often overlooked during the preparation phase. The future Grandmother needs to be proactive about getting ready for the level of hands on input and support that will be needed. Essential elements of grandmother preparation should include one of several things:
Ø Watching your diet, taking vitamins, starting an exercise program – you could be “actively” involved in the birthing process. I was part of the designated support team and, as such, participated in the breathing exercises, hand holding and offering the gentle conversations my daughter needed while experiencing labor pains. In addition to singing songs, stroking her head with a wet cloth throughout the process, I reminded her of scripture verses that she could use as a source of her strength including “I look beyond the hills from which cometh my strength. My help comes from the Lord who made both heaven and earth”. (Psalm 121:1-2 KJV) These and other inspirational messages can be very helpful in providing comfort at the most strenuous moments. You must be physically up to the challenge even in early hours of the day, and the best time to get ready is before you are needed.
Ø Taking time to refresh your knowledge about pregnancy and birth – Especially if you are going to be part of the child birthing process, a brief refresher of what to expect would be helpful. Your daughter will look to you at various points of the process for your 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 of what she is experiencing and can relate with up to date information.
Ø Setting aside at least two to three weeks time – Being available to spend or be on call to help the new mom during the recuperation and adjustment period is an invaluable gift your daughter will never forget. Sleep schedules, adjusting to feeding, doctor’s appointments, stabilizing meal schedules, addressing unexpected emergencies, doctor’s visits, 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.
Ø Scheduling “readiness” packing--Do not wait until your daughter is heading to the hospital to pack items as you may be asked to stay with mom and dad at the hospital overnight. Be sure to include dried fruit, juice, peppermints, and other light refreshments you can use during break times. Our team took turns sleeping and eating during the 17 hours my daughter was in labor. We prepared a food kit that included toothbrush, wash cloth, music for her comfort, and fresh fruit. Unfortunately, hospital machines offer carbonated soda and potato chips that are uninviting during the early morning hours.
Another preplanning strategy you should consider is talking to the new mom and dad about what they may need from you after birth of the child. Often new parents don’t consider the need for help until the issue arises. By initiating this conversation, new parents have the option to consider whether there is a need for help for one or two weeks to support a variety of issues including monitoring phone calls and visitors, helping with home chores, washing clothes, and preparing meals. These are a few of their favorite things.
Participating in the birth of your first grandbaby will mark a moment in your life that can only be matched by your daughter’s birth. Your role is different this time, but it is pivotal to the joy of her birthing experience. Congratulations Grandma!!
A former non profit executive, Theresa is a full time freelance writer and small business owner (www.meetingtheneeds.org and www.renewingyourhealth.org). Her bylines are in over sixty on and off line publications, and she is president of the local chapter of the American Christian Writers Association. Theresa has recently completed her first manuscript entitled Master of the Seas: A Life In The Lord and she looks forward to its publication. Contact Theresa.