Written by Mike Manhart. Originally published in Family Foundations in 2022.
Our home currently shelters three generations and is providing an interesting “grandparent” perspective on postpartum. Our youngest daughter had her first child in September and her husband was deployed 10 days later. Since then, she’s been staying with us, and it has provided a fresh perspective on those early days and months of being a new mom.
Looking back on my “new dad” perspective decades ago, bringing our new baby home was challenging and scary; they didn’t come with instructions, and if I screwed up, the consequences could be enormous. However, we just pushed ahead clueless, finding our way each day. Thankfully Karen really seemed to know what to do instinctively (or maybe I was just too self-absorbed in my own concerns to notice hers).
Now, watching our daughter struggle with all those “now what?” moments during those first few weeks, I have the special joy of observing it once again while knowing, thanks to the perspective of walking that road earlier, it will be ok, and the baby will be fine.
I admit my biggest surprise in this experience is being amazed at how much stuff a 7-pound human seems to require. Our house looks more like a post-windstorm display from Babies-R-US (a now defunct store that dominated our shopping as new parents long ago) than one with just 3.2 full size inhabitants; that fractional sized person has more than his fair share of junk!!
I also have seen the difficulties our daughter has had to cope with, learning to be a new mom, developing a nursing pattern that works, adapting to chronic sleep deprivation, etc., all without her husband at hand. As the weeks have moved on its gratifying to see how she has adapted and learned to deal with the challenges, and more importantly, develop a relationship with her baby that only a mother can. Her instinctive total self-gift to her little one is a miracle that happens millions of times each day, yet we often don’t even recognize it.
Beyond this, the chance to simply drink in and marvel at the sheer wonder and joy of watching a little person discover the world around him and learn to interact with it is the absolute best part of being the third generation in the home. Of course, we get to be with the baby all day and not have to get up all night to feed him which makes daytime even more enjoyable!
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