It is often said that babies do not come with a list of instructions, and the first few days with your new born baby – especially the first – can be very stressful, to say the least. But you survive, and then you learn to cope and start enjoying the wonderful – and challenging – adventure of raising a child.
Time goes by and your children grow up. They go to school, they become teenagers (probably the most challenging time of all!) and in the blink of an eye they have become men and you can no longer sit them on your lap.
And that’s when you realise you haven’t held a baby in your arms for a long, long time, and you feel you would like to, but of course your own children are still too young to give you grandchildren so you are in for a few year’s wait.
Unless your boyfriend becomes a grandfather and you can enjoy the role of step granny, and suddenly find yourself with a baby in your arms before you know it!
Nuno’s eldest son Luís and his wife Matti became the proud parents of a baby girl, Mia, last November. As they live in London we don’t get to see them that often although they send photos and videos of the baby almost every day so that we can see how she is growing up. The new technologies are amazing, as we not only see how she eats or smiles, but can also actually talk to her on video calls and hope she remembers us when we actually come face to face.
Finally the long awaited moment of their arrival for few days of holidays came and we could actually touch the baby and hold her in our arms. A moment her doting grandfather had been looking for in the last few months!
But one thing is to play with a baby while her parents are around and another, completely different, is to be with her when they are not there.
Matti’s birthday was during their holidays here and we could see they very much wanted to go out on their own, something they hadn’t been able to do since the baby was born, as they have no relatives or close friends in London. On the other hand Nuno really wanted to have the baby to himself, and after overcoming some misgivings I said I’d play along…even if I knew the responsibility would be mostly mine, as he has broken his leg so with crutches could not do much…
Luís and Matti came over looking as if they were moving house, bringing along with them all the paraphernalia you need for an eight month old baby: a dismountable bed, small milk packages, fruit and vegetables smoothies, clothes, toiletries, a highchair, a baby stroller…etc, etc. Suddenly the house was invaded by “baby things” and they were giving us the instructions on how to use them; what time we should feed her or put her to bed, the tricks to make her sleep… Matti breastfed her and as they prepared to leave we felt relatively knowledgeable and capable of facing the challenge ahead.
She is the sweetest baby, smiling and always baby talking. We sat her on the couch by Nuno’s side and she just stayed there playing with one of my rubber bracelets…and we would have gone on and on as she was in a great mood but Nuno was worried as his son had warned us it was bedtime and if we delayed it too much she might throw a tantrum…so after a certain time I decided to put her to bed and see how things turned out.
As it was, she was not too happy about it and things turned out badly. As soon as I put her to bed and gave her her rabbit – the one she always sleeps with – she began to cry. I tucked her in and then left, also as instructed. She went on crying but we stood firm, as they had told us she rarely goes to sleep without crying first. And then, of course, we remembered we had been through this so many times with our own babies…
But she went on crying. And each time it seemed she was crying louder, and more furiously. At a certain point I began to worry about the neighbours. And about her, of course, as she was shouting as if someone were trying to kill her…after ten minutes that seemed like eternity I told Nuno I was going to get her. She was sobbing furiously, sweating all over, and putting her hands under her body as if trying to get up. I picked her up and tried to soothe her but to no avail. She went on shouting so loud I felt I was going deaf! I brought her to the living room where Nuno was highly stressed, exchanging Whatsapp messages with his son who had of course anticipated this and was giving him instructions such as” let her cry for ten minutes but no more…then go and pick her up…try to calm her…”. For this I needed no instructions, as all my instincts of twenty years ago were coming back and I was managing to keep my composure amidst the entire crisis. While the previously sweet baby shouted in a frightful way I always kept calm, as I knew to get stressed would make things even worse. I also told Nuno to calm down. Finally, after some time she stopped crying and I kept holding her for a few more minutes, after which I put her to bed again. Again she began to cry but his time I saw her holding the rabbit in a way that told me she would settle down to sleep. Which she did, after a few minutes of trying to fight off sleep. I suppose all the crying – it must have been a huge effort as she cried really hard – must have exhausted her, and she fell into a deep slumber which (thank God) lasted until the following morning. During the night I went to check on her for a couple of times but she was sleeping peacefully, so we did the same. Or, at least, I did, as Nuno hardly slept so worried he was she might wake up and start shouting again!
After we were sure she had fallen asleep Nuno texted his son and told him not to worry and to enjoy the evening with Matti, as we had overcome all obstacles! And we finally sat down to eat an omelette as with all the excitement we hadn’t really planned for anything for dinner.
She woke up in a great mood and Nuno listened to her baby talk for some minutes before he woke me up. Of course I was fast asleep at 7.30 in the morning! This was the moment I deeply regretted him being with crutches, as it would all have been much simpler had he been able to go and pick her up and take care of her – he wakes up very early every day – even on holidays, as was the case – so no sleep deprivation for him! But to no avail, I had to be true to my promise and so I got up and went to her bed. My foul mood for getting up so early left me when I looked at her happy face and engaging smile. I just felt like picking her up – which I did – and hold her close to me. As I sat her on Nuno’s lap and went on to prepare her milk I really felt like playing with her. After Nuno fed her we sat her on her highchair and gave her a banana – in pieces – which she quickly gulped down. After playing with us for some minutes I put her to bed for a nap as she looked sleepy – and we had been told she enjoys a morning nap – and she cried for a bit but soon she was sleeping. I immediately did the same but was disappointed to find she only slept for half an hour – in my time babies had longer naps, I complained.
There was nothing to do but to get up and give her some food again – still according to instructions. Her feeding routine is completely different from the one my boys had or even from her cousin’s, who is her age but lives in Portugal; but it was not for us to make any changes, so again we gave her some milk and then some pieces of cooked carrots and broccoli, which she heartily ate. By this time Nuno declared she was following me around with her eyes and she seemed quite taken with me – something I really enjoyed. Later I took her for a stroll to the café and to see the sea. I dressed her in a white tee shirt and pink pants and added a denim jacket because it was quite windy even if sunny. And there we went, and it was quite an adventure as there are many obstacles to a baby stroller that of course you don’t notice when you are walking…but we made it, and she loved it, her huge brown eyes looking everywhere with curiosity.
When we sat down on a bench facing the beach I noticed her eyes were closing and soon she was fast asleep, only waking up when we arrived home. She was in a good mood and smiled at her fascinated grandfather while I prepared to give her lunch: a vegetable and fruit large smoothie, a smaller one with fruit and after that we gave her a rice biscuit and she played with it for a long time, while she ate of course. And then I put on some music and danced with her as I used to do with my boys, and she loved it, she just laughed and laughed…Nuno could not hold his laughter and he filmed us for posterity!
As we were enjoying ourselves Luís and Matti arrived, only to confirm their baby was safe and sound and all had gone extremely well. As it had. Nuno and I had faced the challenge and won. I was so happy that Luís and Matti had managed to have some time for them even if it just meant being able to sleep for a few hours without worries – in fact Matti confided to me she had slept for nine hours in a row, something she hadn’t done for months! It was lovely to have a baby to ourselves again even if for a few hours, and I felt quite proud that I had been able to handle her tantrum successfully. It is a fact that you never forget how to care for a baby after you have your own. You just think you have forgotten but it all comes back once you are caring for a baby.
And we really loved it. As I told Nuno: “Next year you’ll be in shape, so we can do our team work: I’ll take care of bedtime stories and you early bird will be in charge when she wakes up…”.
As we said goodbye I whispered into her ear” Don’t worry, my darling. We’ll do lots of things together: next year, I’ll take you to the beach: in two years, we’ll go to Toys are Us together to get you your first Barbie doll…“
I love being the mother of boys but of course there are many things I once thought I might do with my daughter or daughters which of course never came to pass. So now I have this wonderful chance to do them with Mia, and I hope I will. To be a step granny can be a wonderful thing. I’ve loved every minute of it, and I’m already looking forward to the new chapters. After all, it’s so good to have a baby in your life again.