My oldest grandchild was born eight years ago today.
I was invited to attend the birth, something I wouldn't have missed even if I hadn't been invited. I'd been staying with my daughter and her husband in Boston for a few days, before to the relief of everyone, the midwife decided to induce and get the child into the world.
My daughter had just finished her Masters and was now a Nurse Practitioner. I'd told her for years about my delivery of her, which had been easy, and that combined with her professional knowledge made her fairly relaxed and more than ready to welcome her daughter. ( My son-in-law, the son of a Pediatric Cardiologist who specialized in high-risk newborns, was not quite so sanguine, but his wife was the picture of health, so he was encouraged to keep his concerns to himself.)
Things went along nicely if rather slowly. Into the evening, tired from the contractions, just when they were becoming the most intense, it seemed that everything my daughter had read about hypo-birthing, relaxation, breathing and all the rest faded away under the reality that another human being was working its way out of her.
I'd been doing all those motherly things one does when your child gives birth, but for a few seconds I began to feel my own panic rising and I was overwhelmed with a sense that I didn't know what to do. It only lasted a few seconds because then another set of hands took mine over. They were a set of small, cool hands that had soothed and calmed me my whole life and they belonged to my own mother.
My mother had been gone for about two years by then. A Donna Reed look-alike as a young woman, only those of us who knew her best knew that she had a core of steel and the heart of a lioness. Those small, cool hands of hers had soothed me on the street's hot asphalt when I'd been hit by a car as a child. They had brushed my cheek before I walked down the aisle as a bride and they'd given my daughter, this about-to-be mother her first bath. For months I'd been regretting that she wouldn't see her first great-grandchild, but I'd forgotten that this was a woman who hated to miss anything.
I felt those hands and I knew where to massage my daughter's back and I knew that everything was going to be fine. I told my daughter and the midwife what has just happened and the midwife smiled. "Doesn't surprise me", she said. "We hear all kinds of things like that in here."
Today Maddie is eight. Bright as can be, this year she got her ears pierced, read all of the Harry Potter books and became half-owner of miniature horse foal. And she has her great-grandmother's smile and it wouldn't surprise me at all if has her hands as well.