My husband Chris and I married when we were 24-years-old, but we didn’t have our first baby until we were 33-years-old. The reason we waited nine long years to have a child was because it took us that long to finally feel like we were ready.
Unlike my mother, who was so ready to be a grandma that she was knitting baby booties while I walked down the aisle. (Well, not really, but she would have if there’d been a few skeins of yarn and some needles next to the champagne.)
What my mom showed us during those first years of marriage was that as hard as it can be to wait to become a mother, it’s almost harder to wait to become a grandmother. After all, when you’re trying to get pregnant, there are many proactive things you can do, like see your doctor, track your ovulation, take your vitamins, and everything else that’s needed to get your body ready to reproduce. But when you’re trying to become a grandmother, there’s only one thing you can do: Nag.
The first Christmas we were married, my very enthusiastic mother handed us a bright, pretty package and eagerly waited for us to open it up in front of the family. Ripping off the paper, Chris and I were stunned to see she’d given us a little pair of infant athletic shoes for the baby we wouldn’t even think about having for almost a decade. Subtlety, thy name sure as hell ain’t “Grandma.”
“Gee, thanks, Sharon,” Chris said to her while my younger sisters smirked and I stared in horror at the 3-inch-long shoes, “but by the time we have a child, I’m pretty sure these won’t even be in style. In fact, babies will probably be flying around in hovercrafts or something by then. Do you mind if I exchange them for a basketball?”
Over the next few years, my mom backed off her “Make Me A Grandma, Damn It!” campaign and thankfully stopped her constant questioning of our reproductive plans. Instead, she went with a more passive-aggressive approach wherein she’d deeply and dramatically sigh whenever anyone asked her if she had grandchildren.
“No,” she’d answer in a resigned, woe-is-me voice worthy of an actor in a Shakespearean tragedy, “Not yet. I’m still waiting. I really hope that one day my daughter will finally come to her senses and make me the happiest person in the entire world, but that hasn’t happened yet. So all I can do is just … wait.”
After we’d been married about five years, she switched tactics yet again and this time cheerfully asked us for a picture of our two cats to keep in her wallet. “That way when someone asks if I have grandbabies, I can show them a picture of Dickens and Tigger. Because God knows those two smelly furbags are the closest things I have to being a grandma right now. (loud, dramatic sigh) You know my friend Susan? Her grandchildren use cute little potty chairs with their names on them. My grandchildren use litterboxes. Aren’t I lucky?”
Finally the time arrived when Chris and I felt ready to have a baby. And although we thought it would happen immediately, instead, we had seven long months of bad news on a stick. At first, I kept my mom up-to-date on our progress (or lack thereof), but once she started giving me helpful tips like, “Start drinking cough syrup to make your uterus a better slide for the sperm! Chris won’t mind if your breath smells like a little like Robitussin!” I decided it was better to just keep our activities private. Who knows what she would have done if she got her hands on my ovulation schedule.
Finally, on March 24th, 2001, Chris and I flew to my parents’ house on the West Coast to celebrate my mom and father-in-law’s birthdays. After they opened their gifts, Chris handed them each one last present and told them to look inside at the same time. My father-in-law peeked first and gave us a huge smile. Then my mom reached inside hers and pulled out a tiny baby bib that said, “I Love Grandma.”
I’m pretty sure the scream that followed was loud enough to be heard by her feline grandchildren back home in Austin. “Finally!” she yelped. “I’m finally going to be a grandma! Do you know how long I’ve…”
“Yes,” I told her, “we do.”
As I watched my mom (who didn’t yet know that my sisters and I would soon give her not one, but five grandkids in the next six years) shrieking with delight, my dad crying happy tears, my sisters beaming and my father-in-law looking prouder than I’d ever seen him, I squeezed Chris’ hand and smiled.
And I realized that this was what I’d been waiting for all along, too.
Originally published in Austin Woman magazine.