She was inconsolable. I tried everything. I had foolishly considered myself an expert after raising four children and step-mothering an additional four, but nothing in my bag of tricks was working. My two month old granddaughter’s uncontrollable sobbing set off my one year old. They cried in unison. Ten minutes prior, everything was fine. I had dinner going on the stove and cartoons going on the television.
When my oldest daughter was twenty-one, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. Eleven months later, my granddaughter was born. Having a child and grandchild less than a year apart certainly has its advantages. I don’t feel guilty spending money on clothes and toys, knowing they will be passed along. We have the same pediatrician, belong to the same Mommy group, and our girls have matching car seats.
None of my children ever had colic, so when my daughter asked for advice, I had none to give. She spoke with the doctor, the pharmacist, and other moms. She tried gripe water, tummy time, swaddlers, white noise, and every pacifier on the market – to no avail. I got a frantic call from her one evening. She was overwhelmed and exhausted. Through her tears, she explained that she hadn’t bathed in four days and it had been longer since she slept. My granddaughter would only rest in twenty minute intervals and they both needed relief. I offered to take the baby for the night.
“No Mom,” she protested. “She won’t take a bottle and I don’t have any pumped milk, anyway.”
A couple of months went by and my daughter was ready to go back to work, just in time for Christmas. Naturally, I offered to babysit. Her first shift was only three hours. This would be the first time they were apart for longer than a speedy shower. She arrived at my house with an over-packed diaper bag, enough pumped milk to survive the Apocalypse, and apologies. She worried that it would be a burden for me, but I assured her I was thrilled for some time with my granddaughter! We hugged, she kissed the baby, and left for work.
So there I was, holding two crying babies, one on each hip, scolding myself for thinking I was an “expert.” I set the babies down, raced to grab the Bjorn, and strapped my granddaughter in. My own daughter was jealous and wailing. I scooped her up to my hip while trying to calm them both. Their combined screams pierced my ears, but there was something else…
…the smoke detector! It blared loud enough to drown out the babies and alert the neighborhood that I burnt the potatoes on the stove. While wildly flailing a kitchen towel at the alarm, I realized my face was wet. As I went to open the back door, I passed a mirror in the hallway. That’s when I saw my face covered in tears. I was crying with the babies and hadn’t even realized. I felt helpless, useless, and defeated. I felt what my daughter felt daily. I wanted to be a good mom and grandmom, but I felt like a failure.
With my head hanging, I worked my way down the hall, singing the ABC song. I looked up and saw my husband standing in the open doorway. We must have been a pitiful sight. I was frazzled, my knees buckling, make-up smeared from tears, and snot across my daughter’s face. He eased her off my hip and disappeared to the bedroom. I sat on the sofa, took off the Bjorn, and cradled my granddaughter in my arms. She was rooting around and I felt the “let down” even though my milk had been dry for months. It was a phantom sensation, but my maternal instincts kicked in and I latched her on my breast. I didn’t think about it really. She rooted, I offered, she accepted. Within a few minutes she was sound asleep.
My husband wandered in the living room and was surprised to see my granddaughter latched on. He asked if it was okay to do that. I didn’t see why not. All my children had comfort nursed. I was used to being a human pacifier and I was sure my daughter would be happy I consoled her, by any means necessary. And she was. When she arrived to pick up the baby, I told her the whole story and we laughed.
“I don’t mind if you don’t,” she told me.
I didn’t mind at all!
I’ve taken care of my granddaughter several times since then and each time, she’s needed a breast. I understand that to some this is seen as controversial, but truthfully, I don’t care. I love my daughter and granddaughter and will continue to do anything and everything I can to help them both – even if it means dry-nursing.