Sixteen years ago today, I became a different person.  I went from mother to grandmother in one second that exploded into years that fill my heart and life.  Sixteen years ago today, my first grandchild was born, followed by another one eleven or so weeks later and another one eight months later and then they kept coming until I now have eight, six boys and two girls.  The first seven are between eleven and sixteen as I write this.  The youngest is three.

But, sixteen years ago, my husband and I entered this new phase with joy and humor and all the anxieties that come with watching your children enter new phases of their lives along with you.  We took the Grandparenting Class at the hospital to refresh our memories and see what was new in the world of babies.  We learned, with amused glances at each other, that we were expected to do things a little differently this time around.  There were car seats to contend with from the moment the baby left the hospital and infant CPR to learn and other things that I’m sure I’ve already forgotten.  We graduated with a certificate that declared us as ready as we could be.

Shopping with my first time mother-to-be was an experience.  In the years since I’d had my children, the baby business had exploded.  I went with her to register at Babies R Us (the name makes this old English major cringe) and was overwhelmed by the aisles of choices to get this little one started.  How did I ever manage in my little duplex right off the college campus when I had my first one, the inexperienced, but very educated, young mother that I was?  Where we had one brand and one size of disposable diapers and only used them when traveling, there was an aisle filled three shelves up on both sides with diapers.  Just disposable diapers.  There were new kinds of diaper pails, which we probably could have done without, but listed anyway, going with the hype.

I used a new kind of baby bottle with my babies, Playtex with disposable liners.  They had those, but there were infinite other kinds.  Where to begin?  There were different styles of binkies, which we called pacifiers and my babies never used.  And accessories for the binkies.  And an aisle of cribs and an aisle of strollers and an aisle of high chairs to match every decor and an aisle of car seats and an aisle of cribs and then there were the crib accessories.  It went on and on and on…I couldn’t even begin to give advice because I had never seen most of these things or never had so many choices.  Besides, most of the things we had so carefully protected our babies with had now been deemed unsafe.  I think a lot of the industry is built on guilt and fear because who doesn’t want their child or grandchild to be as safe as possible?

Then you got to the cute side and all the clothes and toys and you just oohed and ahhed your way through the store, ending up with a long list of what you thought you needed along with all the things that looked so cute you couldn’t resist.  The registry led to baby showers with young mothers and other grandmothers-to-be.  Of all the parties that women have devised, baby showers are about the most fun.  Opening all those gifts with those cute little clothes…it’s our way of playing dolls again.

When the time came, my daughter had read her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting through and through and was moving on to the next book in that series, leaving me to flip through my old copy of Better Homes & Gardens Baby Book and remembering having to prop it open to follow the pictures on how to bathe a baby when I was starting out.  My mother had done the same with her copy and she stood by me as we both began that journey together all those years ago.  My daughter was induced, which has become pretty common for who knows what reason.  On the morning of the birth, the entire family gathered, except for our son who was away at college.  This was a far cry from our days when nobody was allowed in with the mother and the father sat in the waiting room with the other fathers.  When it was over, he could call the rest of the family from the phone at the hospital.  No cell phones for instant pictures then!

We could all go into the labor/delivery room to visit until closer to the time and my husband and other daughters, both of whom were also pregnant by this time, and I waited with the other grandmother-to-be.  What a difference a generation makes.  My son-in-law was not only allowed in for the delivery, but carried the baby to the nursery.  That was pretty scary since I’m not sure he had ever held a baby, but he did it like he had always known how.  He got to stand there with pride while they weighed this not so little 9 pound 5 ounce boy and we all watched through the window.  By that night, everyone had gathered and we filled the room, baby talk beginning to stream out of our mouths.  How instinctive is that?

They throw the moms out of the hospital as soon as possible these days and they have the babies with them most of the time, so it’s a little bit hectic between the nurses, the visitors, and trying to figure out what is going on with your body.  I was happy to remember my two-five days stays when I had my babies as times I could get some rest and gear up for the rest of my life.  I was visiting the hour that the lactation nurse came to explain breast feeding and I’m sure my son-in-law would have killed to be back at his job at that moment.  It was all my daughter and I could do to keep from giggling as she told her how to stop swelling by plastering her chest with cabbage leaves.  I hadn’t nursed because it was kind of out of fashion at the time I had my first child, but was happy with my choice by the time this nurse got through with us.  I’m all for it, but it was a bit of overkill from an overzealous advocate that day.

The parents were thrown out on their own with this new baby and I spent a lot of time remembering the ropes myself, hoping to be helpful as I remembered what an overwhelming responsibility it is to become a new parent.  Fortunately, it is amazing how quickly you remember how to hold a slippery, wiggly baby.  My mother and I laughed a lot remembering our own adventures and bonded with her new role as great-grandmother.  It was a time of happiness and joy.  What is better than having a little baby snuggled up against you?

By the end of that year, we had three new grandsons and I was well on my way to being known as Mimi as well as Karen (I’m not sure all of my grandkids know my real name even now).


We had had first trips to the car show, the zoo, the Drillers baseball games, the swimming pool and the pumpkin patch.  Life was changing and repeating itself in the best ways.  It was also teaching us about life and death as my husband was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of this season of births.  He died a week after this oldest grandchild had his first birthday, changing all our lives and teaching us how love heals those losses and life is never-ending cycles.

Once I became a grandparent, grandkids started coming at a fast rate.  Within the next couple of years, there were two more boys…

Scan 11

Then a girl and a boy.


Each time there was a birth, the ever increasing family filled more and more of the hospital waiting room, ready to greet the newest addition.  We could all diaper a baby in seconds, had wiped more faces than we could count and the babies probably had to figure out sometimes whether the person holding them was a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle.  They were interchangeable at family gatherings.  And they grew up way too fast.


Then we had another one.  The only two births I missed being at the hospital for were my two granddaughters.  The first one was born while I was in Seattle with my son as he battled cancer, so we met her together over the computer, laughing at her first hospital picture, and then meeting her in a few days at the airport.  The second one was my son’s daughter, also born in Seattle.  I’d have been there, but we didn’t know when she was coming, so I heard from a text in the middle of the night and saw her first pictures on Facebook the next morning.  Such was the new technology in those fast moving years since the first baby came.


So, now I have eight wonderful grandkids and each is unique and a delight, just as their parents were.  They teach me so much and keep me up with what is going on in the world and make me feel old and young at the same time.  Following their busy lives, watching them grow into young adults, sharing their mistakes and triumphs, is a blessing beyond words.  I am lucky to have all eight of them here with me.  I make some of their ball games…soccer, football, basketball, baseball…and their assemblies and their confirmations and graduations.  The biggest problem is that they grow at a faster speed than my kids did.  Maybe I’m just on that downhill slide that comes when you go over the hill.  We won’t talk about that.

Sixteen years ago, I started on a new journey with my children, watching them become parents, watching them grow as people, watching them nurture their children through life.  Now we’ve got babies who are taller than their parents but not as smart…yet.  Sometimes I think that watching my own children with their children may be the very best part of it all.  May I live long enough to see my grandchildren with their children and my children become grandparents!  How much love can one family have?  There’s always room for more.