I am at the first ultrasound, gasping when she comes into view. Amber and John refer to her as their "gummy bear" for that is how she looks, being formed in that secret place of her mommy's womb. I have the black and white photo of our little gummy bear on the refrigerator.
Her heart beat is strong, sure. And so begins the intertwining of her life and mine, granddaughter and grandmother, and I wonder, "what will she be like?" The little gummy bear grows, visibly, month by month, and so does my excitement and anticipation.
Seeing the beauty on Amber's face, the blossoming of her body, the weight of life on this woman, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, is sometimes painful, but it is a dull pain that leaves my heart when I foresee the joy she will have in receiving and helping her own daughter grow. She is so strong and I am incredibly proud.
The due date comes and goes. Saturday, June 29th. Amber and John are waiting. Contractions start and stop, increase and decrease, the birthing process begins and there is no predictable sequence or way it happens, only an unfolding as a baby girl begins her descent, letting go of her own secluded world to enter another which she knows so little about, or maybe everything about. Still she comes.
And that gives me hope.
In recent weeks her life force has awakened me at night. I can feel the movement as she hovers, between womb and world, her seismic tremors resonating through my being. She is bold and insistent. She will not be stopped.
I am glad.
And then, the call. Amber's water has broken, they are on the way to the hospital. I meet them there, and for the first time I am in a birthing room and am not the one about to have a baby. The gummy bear who is no longer a gummy bear will arrive soon. I remind myself to breathe as I prepare to help my daughter give birth. I am trying not to show how scared I am. When the pains begin to increase she looks at me, crying softly, afraid.
Tears come to my eyes. She sees. I know this pain, and I know the joy looming ahead. She chooses to have an epidural and I feel relieved. We all rest. It's beautifully quiet, serene, and I sit there watching a soon to be Mommy and Daddy nap in preparation for the biggest event of their lives. The peace in these moments is tangible. I pray and thank God, and I again feel the tremors of her presence.
She will not be, must not be, stopped.
Time to push, bear down, I see the head, I giggle like a little girl when I see she has black hair. As soon as she emerges. only a moment in the Doctor's hands, she lets out her cry. It is bold. I expect no less. She proclaims "I am here!" We all cry, welcoming this new life into our families.
Her name.... Harper Edith Moralis. Born to her Mommy and Daddy, Amber and John Moralis, on June 30th, 2013 at 4:33am. 8 lbs 7 oz, 21 1/2 inches long.
The day after Harper's arrival home:
When my daughter Amber called at 5 this morning, I knew she probably just needed my presence and reassurance as she struggled to get Harper to nurse. Breastfeeding is challenging those first few days. Honestly, every part of being a new Mommy is challenging, and I was happy to make an early morning trip to see my granddaughter and comfort my daughter, who is doing an incredible job of transitioning through this new and huge threshold of her life.
Harper was not latching on properly, but with some continued perseverance she finally did, and then the milk came in so quickly that she took a huge gulp, coughed, and went into this drunken sleep. We tried to wake her up, knowing she needed to eat, but she just snoozed.... so we took her adorable jammies off and I held her in my hands in front of me, and for the first time she opened her eyes and looked up at me as I was talking to her, and she saw me.
It took my breath away, made my heart skip a beat. My granddaughter was seeing me, trying to focus on my face, and I was enthralled by her gaze.
Soon she was back at her Mommy's breast and Amber was asking me "Did you have a hard time at first too Mom?"
Oh, did I have a hard time! Dale was born in an old military hospital where the pipes came on for the heat at night which made this incredible banging noise all while Dale was screaming because he was hungry because my milk hadn't come in yet and it was the middle of the night and I was so very exhausted and my baby had scratched his face all up and I really, really, didn't think I could do it...
But I did.
As I shared my story I could see Amber relax. I also told her I had many other moments in the weeks following Dale's birth when I thought "I can never do this again!" It was so damn hard being a Mom, the most difficult thing I had ever done thus far, even though I had been to US Navy boot camp- which up until that time I had considered pretty challenging. Boot camp was only 8 weeks... this Mommy thing, it was a lifetime commitment.
Most people see me as a good mother, including my daughter, but wanting to be a good Mom does not mean I achieved it all the time. There were (are still) real moments when I want to give up. Lots of times I've messed up. Everyone does. Sometimes we paint this unrealistic picture of motherhood for each other and ourselves that we can't possibly live up to. After all, we are painfully human, and with any great human endeavor there is a dark side, a struggle. Talk to enough Moms honestly and it happens to everyone, whether verbally expressed or not. We all have moments of wanting to give up, walk out, throw in the towel.
But we don't.
So now I have the privilege of helping my little girl embrace the joys and the sorrows, the victories and the frustrations, that all make up the wonder of motherhood.
I sat rocking Harper, back and forth, back and forth, while Amber laid down to sleep, just like I used to do 26 years before for my daughter. I reluctantly placed Harper in her crib, sat and talked with John. I can see what a wonderful Daddy he is, a supportive and attentive husband. My heart feels so full it might burst.
Indeed it might, for it is only the beginning!