Meeting Madeleine: June 2007

 A Grandmother’s Tale

My journey to meet Madeleine began with a phone call. I stood in front of the pantry I was cleaning out in my mother’s kitchen, looking at boxes and cans dating back to the 20th century, when my son-in-law reached me on my cell phone. “I guess you know why I’m calling,” he said. “Caitlin and I are at the hospital. She’s in labor and doing really well.” I glanced at the clock—late morning California time, afternoon in Rhode Island where they lived.

 I said, “So you’ll call me when—” and we both laughed.

“Of course,” he said.

I called my husband at work and gave him the news: “Hey, Gramps,” I said. “Game on!”

No one ever forgets what it’s like to be expecting that first baby: a complicated months-long dance that twirls between excitement and fear. My husband and I were so young and unprepared for what was to come, not like my daughter who is a well-trained nurse with lots of experience with labor and delivery. Even so, I told her, when it’s your time, all bets are off. Each birth is different.

“I know,” she’d replied. But you don’t really know until you find yourself living out the events you have been obsessed with for so many months. Everything planned, nothing predictable.

A million scenarios go through your mind as you try to visualize your own labor. Most of these scenarios will be pleasant ones: a mix-CD will fill the air with your careful selections of birthing music— some instrumentals or the sound track from that movie you both love, but nothing with drum solos— that’s a deal-breaker. You will have a focused, prepared, supportive and minty-breathed partner/coach at your elbow who reminds you to breathe with your contractions and who will not think even once about grabbing the remote to “just check the score.”

Softly murmuring nurses will offer soothing hands and calming words; they rub your back and place a cool cloth on your brow. You are strong and brave, and your hair is clean. You have a little lipstick on, maybe. Waterproof mascara for sure. You do not sweat or swear or scream. You exude grace and confidence. Everyone around you will comment on how graceful and confident you are, and isn’t it lucky that you don’t have stretch marks anywhere. And then you will begin to push that baby out. One or two, maybe three good pushes, and the baby will be born and sunlight will fill the room, and you will hear joyous birdsong like in an old Disney movie, and the doctor will put a hand on your shoulder, smile and say, “Congratulations! It’s a perfect…whatever,” and you will smile back and reach for the beautiful, clean, round-headed, sweet-smelling baby who will fit in your arms  perfectly. You will put the baby to your breast and a maternal flood of emotions will fill you to the bursting point. You may shed a happy tear or two and your mascara will not run. Transcendent and glowing, you will fall back on your pillow in a state of contentment, or…or… pure bliss! Yes. Someone should paint this portrait right now, for the ages.

But then, of course, there is the reality…

I woke with a start from a deep sleep and a dream about babies. The phone was ringing, just after midnight. Oh my god, oh my god. The brand new father was calling: their baby had arrived healthy and pink. Seven pounds, two ounces.

I was so sure this baby was going to be a boy that I started to ask what his name was, when my son-in-law said, “And it’s a girl! Her name is Madeleine Olivia.”  I reached for a pen and scribbled the name on a piece of paper. A girl?  A little girl—born to my grown-up little girl, the child of my heart, now with one of her own.

I nudged my sleeping husband. “Wake up,” I said.  “It’s a girl!”

The next night I would get on the redeye to Boston, willing the airplane to fly faster. I would race off the plane to baggage claim, rush to grab my suitcase, and hop on the Silver Line bus to South Station so I could catch the 8:30 train to Providence. I would check into the Radisson near the river, brush my teeth and rake a comb through my hair; take a cab to Women and Infants Hospital, pick up a bouquet of tiny pink roses in the gift shop and let the woman behind the counter know, with a catch in my throat, that they were for my granddaughter.  At last, I would walk into room 5120 and hug my tired daughter.

And there, in her lap, swaddled in pink—a sleeping baby. “Hello, Madeleine” I whispered. “I came a long way to meet you.”

The full grannie: baby, glasses, knitting, adoring look. 6/28/2007

13 Responses to Meeting Madeleine: June 2007

  1. ~Kc Waddell says:

    What a beautiful post and certainly one all of us can relate to! And now — she is 5! Where does the time go?

  2. Barb says:

    So very sweet. There’s nothing like ’em. She’s a beauty!

  3. Oh, this just made me tear up at the sweetness of it all (with a chuckle along the way when you mentioned no drum solos!). Beautiful, heartwarming post that we grandmas can all relate to. The long-distance part of the big day is such a challenge and you handled it so well! Thank you for sharing this in the GRAND Social! And best wishes to you and yours for a lovely, happy holiday!

  4. Risa Nye says:

    Eeeek! Just seeing these nice comments. Thanks everyone!

  5. I only have sons so was honored when my daughter-in-law let me in the delivery room with them. There’s nothing like holding your new born grandchild! thanks for sharing your experience, it was loving and lovely.

  6. Diane says:

    Tears here. I didn’t have to travel quite as far to meet our first grandchild, also a beautiful little girl. But I certainly remember it! Thank you so much for sharing! And happy 10th birthday, Madeleine Olivia!

  7. OMG. SHE’S 10!!!! I’m sure you’re so glad you captured this moment in your writing so that she could read it one day. My heart just warmed over the “hello Madeline, I’ve come a long way to meet you.” How precious. Can’t wait for my turn! And as my daughter lives in Ireland with her Irish husband, chances are good I will say the same one day.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Cathy, I never stopped to think that she would read this, but I’m sure my daughter will show her. M has read my book many times, so I already know she’s a fan! 🙂 Thanks for your comment. Ireland! So far away…hoping that day comes in good time.

  8. Cathy Sweetman says:

    Once again, tears in my eyes. You’ve really captured the facts and the fiction of childbirth and the joy of grandchildren. One sentence particularly caught my attention: ” Everything planned, nothing predictable.” How true of life itself. Thank you Risa.

  9. Marcia Cohen says:

    Beautiful writing, beautiful story…as always!

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