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Good Grandparenting Begins At Birth



By Carolynn Bauer Zorn

Have you been invited to attend the birth of your grandchild? Are you reluctant to go, or are you looking forward to it?

With the ease in hospital regulations and the exploding senior population, many grandparents are now present during the delivery of their grandchildren. Attending the birth is a way to begin the lifelong love affair with your grandchild.

A rite of passage
When you attend the birth of your grandchild, the birth event becomes a “rite of passage” where everyone celebrates the addition of a new generation to the family. Your children become parents and you become grandparents. You all move up a branch on the family tree. It is an emotional and spiritual event that touches everyone in attendance. Sharing your grandchild’s birth provides unforgettable memories.

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“A new baby can cement and affirm family bonds,” says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, president and founder of The Foundation for Grandparenting, who has long advocated the attendance of grandparents at the birth of their grandchildren. “But many grandparents are hesitant about attending their grandchild’s birth. They ask many questions about the ‘how,’ ‘why’ and ‘when’ of getting involved.”

A whole new approach
If it has been more than 20 years since you were in a maternity ward, you probably realize that things have changed a lot. Perhaps you were sedated during the birth of your children and have never actually seen a baby being born. Or if you had your children during the ‘70s, you may have had natural childbirth. But today’s hospital birth is very mechanized, and a delivering woman can look like she is in intensive care. Despite all the propaganda about new pain-relieving procedures, women still have some degree of pain at some time during most deliveries. Watching your daughter give birth is a very different experience than giving birth yourself, and watching her in pain can be overwhelming if you don’t understand what is taking place.

How to prepare
It’s no wonder some grandparents are hesitant. Many often feel that birthing is a private event and they shouldn’t intrude. But if you are invited to be there, don’t pass up the opportunity. This is your child who is having a child. It’s an important and unique event. A little preparation will assuage any fears that linger.

Preparation makes the event more comfortable for everyone present: the doctor, the expecting couple, the hospital staff, and the grandparents, and preparation begins with the first announcement that a baby is expected.

Here are 10 tips to enhance your expectant grandparent experience:

1. Be informed. Read about how pregnancy is managed today and about birthing practices and how they have changed. Know the tools and terminology.

2. Be positive. Keep a positive attitude. Refrain from scary talk even when you are worried. Tell only positive birth stories.

3. Be attentive. Be ready to help when asked, listen to a daughter or son’s pregnancy updates with enthusiasm and recognize this milestone in their life.

4. Be available. Go shopping together, attend a doctor’s visit, take a hospital tour, help fix up the nursery and stay in touch.

5. Be prepared. Have your camera in good working condition; keep yourself healthy, study up on baby care, childproof your home, get your own baby equipment for future visits.

6. Be available. Postpone a vacation or cancel a function if it means you might miss the birth. That means clearing the calendar for two weeks before and two weeks after the due date. This day will not come again.

7. Be supporting. Even if you don’t agree with plans your children make, try to support them. This is their birth and their baby. You don’t want family disputes now. Recognize that their way of doing things isn’t right or wrong; it just may be different than your way.

8. Be proud. Let everyone know you are looking forward to this grandchild and to being a grandparent, lest you hurt your children’s feelings.

9. Be patient. Have a thick skin, as pregnant and laboring women aren’t always in a good mood. Don’t take things personally.

10. Be kind. Don’t forget other grandchildren. Think of everyone else’s needs before your own during this time.

Whether you are in the room or waiting nearby, being there when your grandchild is born is an exciting experience and one you shouldn’t miss. Your children will appreciate your help and support during this milestone in their life.

And new grandmother June sums it all up: “I was present for five of the eight grandchildren’s births. It was very relaxed and wonderful. I do not remember much about my own children’s births, so it was a real pleasure to witness such a miracle. All grandmothers should experience this, especially if it is their daughters giving birth. I’m glad I was invited.”

© Carolynn Bauer Zorn

Carolynn Bauer Zorn is a freelance writer, author and reporter and lives in Oak Park, California. She is the author of Attending Your Grandchild’s Birth: A Guide for Grandparents. She can be reached at P O Box 744, Agoura, CA 91376.

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