Notes from a First-Time Pops
One week ago today, Merriem and I became grandparents.
The call came shortly before midnight on Monday: Alyssa and Austin were heading to the hospital. Lil’ Bean – the nickname given to our yet-to-be-born grandchild – was on the way. Lil’ Bean – the one we’d first found out about in September, the one we’d prayed for, the one who we felt like would never get here – was getting here.
My bride Tigger-bounced around our house, giddy beyond explanation. She called other family members to pass along the news, daring them not to pick up their phone at midnight.
In true first-time grandparent fashion, we fulfilled all the stereotypes possible, even when covid restrictions made a hospital visit tricky: we stuffed a cooler full of drinks and snacks. We grabbed lawn chairs. We took books and a laptop and portable chargers and set up shop in a corner of the parking garage that gave us both a cool breeze and a good view of the hospital.
Yes. We were ridiculous.
No. We did not care.
As Tuesday morning stretched into Tuesday afternoon and into Tuesday night, we had a lot of time to pace and think and talk and pray: is it a boy or a girl? Is Alyssa okay? Is it a boy or a girl? Is Austin holding up his end of the birthing classes (and holding himself up as well)? No seriously is it a boy or a girl?
At dinnertime we were joined by Alyssa’s dad – already an old pro with four grandkids – and kept waiting on updates from the delivery room: are things still progressing? Is it time to push? What’s the ETA? You keep using that word “soon,” … I do not think it means what you think that it means.
Around 11 p.m. we received two updates: yes, the baby would be here soon (see previous sentence), and no, we would not be given any idea of boy or girl until we saw him or her with our own eyes. (In case you are wondering: our children are monsters.)
11:29 p.m.: the baby arrived. Alyssa’s mom made her way down from the delivery room where she’d been for almost 24 hours. We pumped her for information, and the woman was a vault. Due to those pesky covid restrictions, we were only allowed in one at a time. Merriem went up first. Then she swapped with Alyssa’s dad. While he was upstairs, I stared at my wife: my beautiful, glowing, grinning-ear-to-ear wife, Mom to our kids and now Mimi to a new generation. Her smile, maddeningly, betrayed nothing.
Finally, it was my turn. The elevator took years. A hospital corridor that I’d walked many times in a pastoral capacity suddenly became very personal. I knocked on the door of room 236 – or maybe that was the sound of my knees – and waited to be ushered in.
Another decade passed. Then, my son. My second-born, my chubby-cheeked toddler; my preschool backyard bee-catcher, my middle school basketball player, my suddenly very-much-adult son cracked the door and cracked a smile. His 36 sleepless hours had been eclipsed by a There’s-no-way-I’ll-sleep-tonight joy. He led me through the privacy curtain, and there:
A granddaughter. A beautiful, tiny, dark-haired and dark-eyed, impossibly fragile princess lay in her Mother’s arms. And Alyssa: so strong, so exhausted, so heroic, so radiant as only a first-time mother can be. The room faded to white, the nurses and monitors became background noise, and everything – my entire world – was encapsulated in six pounds and six ounces.
Those newborn eyes opened and rolled and crossed as only newborn eyes can do, trying desperately to focus on her Mom. My eyes widened and would not close as I suppose only grandparent eyes can do, trying desperately to capture every detail: whose nose does she have? Look at those tiny lips. She has Franks toes. (Alyssa, I’m so very sorry she has Franks toes.)
After what seemed like only seconds, a nurse pulled my granddaughter away for breathing checks and heart rate measurements. I reluctantly said my goodbyes and gave ferocious hugs and soft kisses. I floated out of the door and back towards the elevator, getting lost along the way because I was lost in my thoughts (did I mention I’ve walked that same hall so many times before?).
Down to the lobby. The four grandparents checked in with each other before we checked out for home. And Mimi and Pops – what is this new identity that we love? – made our way to the car and to our home and to the wee hours of the morning, every sentence about Skylar’s beauty, Alyssa’s strength, Austin’s joy. One of our babies had a baby.
The past week has brought a steady flow of texts and photos and video clips and visits. I told Austin that our life now consists of going to his house to take pictures just so we can go home and stare and those pictures. We’ve seen a daughter and son become Mommy and Daddy, sons and daughters become Uncles and Aunts, our own parents become great-grands for the first and sixth times, and friends and co-workers become unwitting victims in a deluge of photo show-off sessions.
Each time I hold Skylar in my arms, I’m overwhelmed with love for the tiny human I just met a week ago. I now understand what older friends have told me for years: God gives you an inexplicable, unexplainable, inexpressible love for your grandchildren.
At the risk of betraying my novice status (7 days and counting!), let me offer up one possibility for this: I’m seeing my grandchildren through the eyes of my children. When I think back to our own delivery room moment 26+ years ago, I remember our own 36 sleepless hours. Our own tears of joy. Our own cutting of a cord and first diaper change and bewildering thought that they’re actually letting us leave the hospital with this kid? Don’t they know we have zero experience?!?
I’m one generation removed from sleepless nights and breathless emotions and first-time-parent jitters, but I now have a front-row seat for all of the above. We’re getting to witness the loves of our life rejoice in the loves of their own. We are seeing our giggly five year old son become a giggly 25 year old dad, and it’s the exact same delightful giggles.
And just as I’m overwhelmed with love for my granddaughter, I’m overwhelmed by God’s graciousness to us. He is so good. His steadfast love has endured. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), but this gift…this gift is especially good and especially perfect. Just as I viewed his love through a fresh lens when we adopted our daughter, I see it again in a new way as I look with unmatched adoration at this child.
On Thursday night as I held my new granddaughter in her new home, Austin whispered, “Hey Dad, put your finger in the palm of her hand.” I did, and she wrapped her tiny fingers around mine, pulled my hand to her face, and slept. I know it was a completely involuntary response, something that infants just do with no forethought whatsoever. But in that moment, my heart exploded, stopped, melted. My sweet Skylar Beth held onto her Pops who held onto her.