Several women in my larger circle of friends have recently given birth. The photos of their precious miracles shine on social media, and I can’t help but notice them the same way I notice a lone daffodil in an overgrown field. They silently demand their attention simply by their bright beauty alone.
I also notice that these “welcome to the world” photos are mostly the same: Mom and her partner holding a baby against a hospital gown, the one with the pattern that ushers us seasoned mothers into warm nostalgia; older siblings smiling down at their new lifemate, a pair of unknown hands holding the back of baby’s head; and grandparents holding their grandchild, the key to a life of new memories when they thought their best were far behind them.
“I never knew a love like this,” Grandma posts. And it is at this point that I want to give grandmothers a piece of advice: Don’t forget to hold your daughters.
It must be magical to feel a tiny child nestled inside the crook of your elbow once again. I’m 36, so I don’t claim to understand this feeling. What I do understand is the sheer panic of becoming a new mother. As I sat in my hospital bed after a tiny human was birthed through a narrow, horizontal slit in my lower abdomen, I felt lonely. I felt afraid. When I turned my head to the right to see my mother holding my child and utterly illuminated with joy, I felt honored to give her such a gift. I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t feel the pangs of abandonment.
I urge you, grandmothers, to remember that the amazing, strong woman laying before you in a hospital bed—the one who just brought a human being into the world—is secretly afraid she will never be as good of a mother as you are. She likely already feels guilty and condemns herself for future mistakes as a mother, the ones she may not even make, the ones she foolishly assumes you never made. She is in physical pain and wonders how she’s going to even make it through the drive home, let alone how she will care for this tiny miracle when she actually gets there.
She turns to look at her husband, and what may seem like a gaze between two solid pillars of love is anything but. She’s wondering how she’s going to juggle it all—caring for her child, caring for her husband, caring for herself. The panic and anxiety are nearly too much to bear.
And when the nurse enters the room to push down on her uterus post-childbirth, she feels afraid to cry despite the stinging and the burning and the physical hurt.
You’re a mom now, she says to herself, as she holds back tears and wonders if you’ve noticed the look on her face. You know, the one only a mother knows, the kind that makes you say “What’s wrong, honey?” when everyone else thinks she’s fine. She thinks to herself, “Will my mother still know me as me, or will she just know me as the mother of her grandchild?”
Society tells us motherhood is natural. Society tells us having kids is what women are made for. Perhaps that’s true for some, but what society doesn’t talk about enough is that this beautiful woman you raised from birth still needs you as she begins this new chapter of her life.
Remember when you wished there was a playbook, something, anything—even a poorly designed informational brochure—that told you what it was really like to bring a newborn home? To operate on three hours of sleep per night for weeks at a time? To handle yourself in a dressing room when your stomach hangs over the bikini bottom, but it never did that before having a child?
I beg of you . . . please, don’t forget to hold your daughters. This wonderful baby, this gift your daughter has given you—that baby is held often by its mother. This beautiful grandchild’s crying is quieted instantly when it is held in its mother’s arms. And its mother’s tears will likely cease when she is held in yours, no matter how old she is, no matter how much she rejects it because she’s an adult herself now, no matter how stiff she feels when you first wrap your arms around her tired body. She needs you. Don’t forget to hold her.