Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

We are now a Big-mother

Fiona Harris  explores her feelings on becoming a grandmother

A few weeks ago, holidaying in Morocco, our taxi driver said a propos of nothing in particular, "I am going to be a bigfather".  Ah yes, we understood perfectly.  So were we.  In our case our daughter, and our first grandchild.


The labour was long and slow, one of those on-off/stop-start affairs spreading over several days. The two bigmothers-to-be took turns in telephoning the labour ward as, in the final stages, one day trailed through the night into the next.  I knew all along that it would be like this, whether the waiting time was short or long. This was my daughter, my child in pain.   


I gave up jumping at the sound of the ‘phone and left it for others to answer.  Instead, armed with secateurs and gardening gloves, I attacked overgrown roses and thorny shrubs, snipping and snipeing, hacking a way through a forest to make an unrestricted passage, easing my daughter’s progress.  


Would I do this for my son?  My daughter-in-law? Why hadn’t I asked other grandmothers? Why hadn’t others told me? Becoming a grandmother is still unexplored territory. There’s no recognised language for the process, no preparation.


Just after midday on Saturday the news came. A girl. I heard it from my daughter herself. My husband picked up the ‘phone and immediately handed it to me when he heard her voice, placing himself second in the hierarchy.  I could breathe again.

The hierarchy continued in the telephone calls to the rest of the world.  First my own parents. Then my sister. Then my other daughter. A very logical, generational pecking order.  


But after that I had to link with my own history. Suddenly it was important to ring my very oldest friend from my teenage years, though she herself did not have children. Then there was the need to speak to friends who had become mothers around the same time as I had done.  I felt deep pangs of loss and sorrow for those I couldn’t ring, those who had died.

The most important friend with whom I had shared the early doubts and joys of motherhood had died over twenty years ago. We had met in the ante natal class. Our daughters, our firstborn, were still close friends. For the first time in many years I felt her loss keenly.


That afternoon, in the hospital, we celebrated with champagne, the two bigparents, the dazed and euphoric parents, and my son the newly-made uncle, watching over the tiny sleeping baby. 

We were family in a new and deeper way, linked by that tiny figure with her spiky black hair and fine, elegant fingers. A long, skinny child like her parents, we noted.

‘It’s funny how you keep wanting to look at her face,’ said the other bigmother.  It was true. I looked at that face and it was printed indelibly on my mind. I was bonded.


Perhaps it was this that made me feel a tiny sense of loss.  My own child had shifted just a little.  We had established a compatible, adult relationship for some time. A modern mother and daughter act, part protective on my side (well, all right, very protective, but kept under wraps), and part equal. She  complemented this with her independence tempered by an acknowledged desire for me to be around in the big moments.  


And now this daughter of mine had joined the club of motherhood. We had new things in common. She would now know the exquisite pleasures, the excruciating pains, not to mention the less-poetic frustrations, doubts and fleeting moments of rejection. We would all be focussing on that tiny face, that new, unknown member of the family, and transferring our protective instincts to her.


Or so I thought.  Within a couple of days, there were tears and exhaustion. The baby was thought to have jaundice. When I visited this time, the cramped side ward was lit by a medicinal blue light as the baby received ray treatment.  She cried and squirmed, stopping only when she was illicitly removed from the lights and wrapped in a blanket, once the nurse had left the room.  


Tough stuff for new parents. My protective instincts instantly went out to both of them. I offered to give them a break. ‘Go out and sit in the day room’, I said.  But times had changed since I’d had a baby in a large teaching hospital.  There was no day room and the nursery was unlocked and unsupervised. Not a good solution considering that babies may be stolen from unsupervised wards in busy hospitals.


Now that women go into hospital  for birth-as-a-medical-procedure, there are few facilities that cater for afterwards. When the birth is without complications, there seems to be no one in a hospital to mother the mother.


I realised that my protective days for my daughter were far from over.  Indeed, now I had her partner’s welfare in mind, too. And how did his mother feel, watching her son’s intense involvement?  If we expect fathers to be at the birth and to participate fully in parenthood, then they need nurturing too.

Once a mother, always a mother.  And now a bigmother too. 



To view previous articles in this series - see the laterlife-interest index page



laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also regular columns of a more specialist nature such as healthwise, reports from the REACH files, mother and daughter and a beauty section called looking good in later life.

Also don't forget to take a look at our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT by IT trainer and author Jackie Sherman.

To view the latest articles and indexes to previous articles click on laterlife interest here or above.  To search for articles about a certain topic, use the site search feature below.




back to laterlife interest

Site map and site search


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti