Monday, August 3, 2009
Grandson's birth marvel to behold
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel August 3, 2009)
I just experienced the birth of my first grandchild. As I stood at the foot of my daughter's bed, I saw how slow, painful and messy birth is. It's also amazing. More than amazing, really — it's in the company of marvels.
It's not as if I haven't seen it before. Four times I've labored over my own children's births, but on each of those occasions I was on the grunt end of the job. It's completely different being in a position of receiving. Not that I actually caught my grandson or did anything more helpful than offer support, encouragement and an observer's perspective on the baby's progress, but it was a role I assumed with eagerness and appreciation. I was there to receive the result of love — my love for my daughter and her husband, their love for each other and the product of that union: my grandson, Atom.
Despite his name, Atom's birth was not explosive. After more than 41 weeks of pregnancy and a labor that lasted well beyond two days, my daughter's 7-pound, 4-ounce offspring finally decided to grace us with his presence. As I stood alongside the calm obstetrician, I watched my tiny grandson inch his way into the world.
"I see his head!" I announced as a sliver of crown began to appear. With each contraction, his rounded pate grew more and more noticeable before retreating. There was an ebb and flow to his movements, as if he were hesitant to make the final transition.
"Shall I give up this cozy abode for a world unknown?" he seemed to be pondering. "Shall I make my entry now or wait a little longer?"
Giving birth is a visceral experience. Even in the most secure location, the birthing table is anything but a bed of roses. I saw firsthand how new life emerges from a primordial slime. Babies may be born out of blood and agony, but amid the suffering and the mess is an overwhelming sense of happiness, expectation and joy. Do we experience such an emotional slurry at any other time in our lives? So many positive feelings combine with body-wrenching anguish and passion.
Throughout her long labor, I reminded my daughter that her pain would vanish with the birth of her son, and immediately after Atom finally decided to slide into the world, that's exactly what happened. Amber's face lit up with smiles while Scott's paled with the momentousness of the occasion. As the attending nurse laid my daughter's first child in her arms, I felt my heart swell with appreciation for everything that enabled this moment.
I now join the ranks of grandparents around the world doting love upon children of the children they gave birth to themselves. Life is nothing if not an amazing journey, and as I pass yet another bend on this byway, I delight in the marvel that is my grandson, Atom.