Monday, October 01, 2012

Curmudgeon becomes a grandfather, Part II: Standoff in a hospital room

At the end of the long day when our granddaughter was born, Long Suffering Spouse and I were on the same page: Our child -- Younger Daughter, that is, not our grandchild -- needed peace and quiet and rest.

These are typically in short supply in a hospital, and less so than ever when a new baby is involved, but we wanted Younger Daughter to have some space and time to heal. Long Suffering Spouse had never undergone a C-section but, in the course of delivering five babies, had roomed with several who had. And we have friends who'd been through this. And we've both been through abdominal surgery. So we both had some idea of what Younger Daughter had been through. So our question was, how can we help provide that time?

Older Daughter was coming up from Indianapolis whether we liked it or not -- but she's a nurse. She might be useful. (Turned out, she was.) In fact, because Older Daughter was expected, Long Suffering Spouse and I both planned on going to work the next day. I had a seminar I'd enrolled in; my wife never takes a day off.

But at 5:00am my wife's cell phone signaled the arrival of a text message. It was from Younger Daughter. When you see this, call, the message read. She called.

Younger Daughter was feeling poorly. Her husband had been up with her all night (fathers stay in the hospital these days -- very different from when my wife had our kids) and Younger Daughter could already see he'd be next to useless. She wanted her mother's help.

Before we went our separate ways then, I composed an email to Middle Son and Oldest Son, advising them that -- if they were planning to visit -- to plan on making it a 'flying visit.' Get in and get out, I suggested, even if it is your sister's birthday (it was).

Younger Daughter did not need to play bedridden hostess.

I noticed that, overnight, Olaf had posted a picture of his new daughter on his Facebook page and the 'ooooh, isn't she cute?' comments were starting to accumulate.

The news embargo has clearly been lifted, I thought, and I thought about posting a picture of me with the new arrival on my own Facebook.

Then I decided against it. Olaf's parents hadn't even been in to see the baby. I was only there the night before because I was the chauffeur. I could wait.

Olaf's parents couldn't wait.

Now you have to understand that Olaf is their only child. Why that is so is, of course, none of my damn business. But it became astoundingly clear, from the moment that Olaf and Younger Daughter announced their marriage plans (and the impending blessed event), that Olaf's parents were a tad... Baby Crazy.

We met Olaf's parents for dinner shortly after the engagement was announced. (We'd been introduced, in passing, but we'd never talked to these folks before this.) Long Suffering Spouse and I wanted to talk about the wedding -- at that time, we had questions like, when would it be, who would be invited, whether we could have a reception and, if so, how. Olaf's parents wanted to talk about Baby.

Long Suffering Spouse and I wanted to talk about health insurance. We weren't certain then whether Long Suffering Spouse's coverage would cover the birth and we sure wanted to talk about what the kids were going to do afterwards. Olaf's parents wanted to talk about Baby.

Long Suffering Spouse and I wanted to talk about Olaf. If you've been following along here, you know the strides Olaf made this spring and summer with his health and with the completion of most of (but not all of) his graduation requirements. But, at the time, we weren't certain that Olaf was getting the medical treatment he needed. Olaf's parents wanted to talk about Baby.

Long Suffering Spouse and I wanted to talk about jobs and employment and living arrangements and auto insurance and all the bazillion things that the kids had barely begun to consider and on which they might need our help. Olaf's parents wanted to talk about Baby.

Don't get me wrong. It was not an unpleasant meeting. They are not unpleasant people -- just the opposite, really (although, if you've been through all the wedding posts with me you know I have some reservations about Olaf's Aunt Floofy). But Olaf's parents were just so excited about Baby that they couldn't focus on anything else.

Even though they did, eventually, get involved in the wedding planning (they decorated the parish hall that we secured for the reception), they haven't stopped being focused almost exclusively on Baby.

There are aspects of jealousy and suspicion here. Olaf is living with us. Baby is living with us. It is only understandable if Olaf's parents start to think, at some point, what are we, chopped liver?

The suspicion surfaced during the wedding planning. Remember my post about Aunt Floofy and the wedding napkins?
When it was determined that Olaf's family would take on the decorating responsibilities, they insisted on inspecting the locus in quo. As a teacher in the parish school, my wife has been entrusted with a prodigious collection of keys. There are some foreign cars that weigh less than my wife's key set. But none of these, however numerous, open the Parish Center. Access to the shiny new facility is strictly controlled (we actually had one of the first private parties in the place; after Older Daughter got married in Indianapolis, we had a second party here so that we could celebrate with our friends and neighbors -- that was the occasion on which my wife first field-tested the spinach lasagna).

The point, however, is that my wife can't always get in there. She is in there, nearly every day, during the school year, because there's a track around the perimeter of the room, on a mezzanine level -- 17 times around is a mile -- and Long Suffering Spouse walks it during her lunch hour. But she can be there then only because the gym teacher has the place opened up at that time. The gym teacher has keys; the gym teacher is, I think, the only teacher with a key.

So when Olaf's mother began pestering my wife for a site inspection, Long Suffering Spouse was unable to instantly comply. I'm speculating, of course, but I think the logic train may have run like this: She works in the building; she should have keys to things in her building; she's not letting me see the room -- sabotage!

Logic trains, like real trains, sometimes run completely off the tracks.
And, now, with Baby finally here, Olaf's mother was determined to be at the hospital as soon as visitors were admitted. She and her husband were in the door at the stroke of 11:00am.

And Long Suffering Spouse was already there (Younger Daughter had sought, and received, permission for my wife to come in before visiting hours began).

This just didn't go over well with Olaf's mother at all.

And then Older Daughter arrived, too.

Never mind that Older Daughter and Long Suffering Spouse were focused on getting Younger Daughter up out of bed and to the bathroom and trying to get her plumbing restarted after surgery. Never mind that they were getting ice for Younger Daughter to suck on and making sure the pain meds came on time and all the other little things that Younger Daughter needed, but wouldn't want, from her mother-in-law. She was in pain. She wept trying to get to the bathroom. This is not how you want others to see you, even family, unless it's absolutely necessary.

And Olaf's mother made no pretense of trying to tend to Younger Daughter (nor should she have). Instead, Olaf's mother got hold of that Baby and sat and sat and sat. She posed for pictures. She gave the baby up for feedings, reluctantly, and, later, verrrrry reluctantly, when Abuela came in. (Olaf's father spent a lot of time looking out the window.)

By this time I had gone to my mid-day seminar downtown and had come home.

Throughout the course of the afternoon, I was receiving text messages from my wife.

They're still here.

She's not leaving.

Younger Daughter is exhausted.

Don't worry, Olaf slept.

Well, of course he slept. He'd been up all night. There was nothing left for him to do but sleep after Long Suffering Spouse and Older Daughter took total control of the situation. New fathers are pretty much useless anyway -- I remember -- so I couldn't understand why Long Suffering Spouse was miffed at the boy for doing the logical thing and catching 40 winks.

But Long Suffering Spouse was really aggravated by her in-laws' continued presence. I tried to explain -- knowing all the while I was treading on dangerous ground -- that Olaf's mother did not want to leave as long as Long Suffering Spouse was there. Come home for awhile, I suggested. I'll go back with you this evening.

But to no avail.

Hunger overtook Olaf's parents at one point and they left to get food from a place across the street from the hospital. They brought food back for Olaf, but nothing for Younger Daughter. I've heard the story both ways: Either Younger Daughter was still on liquids only or her diet was switched to regular while Olaf's family was out foraging. Either way, Olaf's mother only offered Younger Daughter some french fries. Younger Daughter was crying angry tears this morning as she again recounted this tale (I forget which version she told).

The one thing I knew was I was not going to the hospital at this point.

They had too many people there already. It's not like I didn't want to go over. But Younger Daughter was not getting her rest.

I think the in-laws finally left around dinner time; I didn't want to know. But there weren't gone for long before Middle Son showed up with pizza for dinner. Oldest Son showed up with his wife -- to the great amusement of my wife and daughters, they held the baby like it was carrying the Ebola virus. At some point our friends Steve and Charlotte showed up.

Long Suffering Spouse called at this point to let me know that a party had broken out. Well, it was Younger Daughter's birthday. She got me on the phone and asked, "How are you?"

"I'm pissed," I snarled. "We agreed the girl needed to rest and now there's a --"

Long Suffering Spouse hung up.

Ooops. I'd been on speaker.

The impromptu party didn't last long anyway. Everyone paid their respects and left.

Although... Oldest Son did congratulate Olaf on his new job. "How long have you worked there?" he asked, all innocence personified. "One day? Really. And how many days are you proposing to take off now?"

Older Daughter stayed with her sister that night so Olaf could come home and get some rest and work Friday. But he's off today, Baby's first full day at home. Working every other day isn't going to go over well for long either.

My parents never came to the hospital once when any of my kids were born. Of course hospitalizations were shorter then, but it's not as if my parents had to fly in from Timbuktu. I do think, though, they were out of town by the time Older Daughter was born. That wasn't intentional -- Older Daughter was two weeks late (no one is allowed to be two weeks late these days) -- but it may have set the precedent. And, in those days, you had to scrub and put on a gown to hold your grandbaby. Who needs that? my parents said. We'll come to your house, you can pour us a drink, and we can chuck the little one under his or her chin as much as we want.

I kind of like that attitude.

But, on the other hand, I understand, even sympathize a little, with Olaf's mother. She feels excluded. She thinks she's missing something. And she is: I woke up this morning at 3:30am to the sound a baby crying. I haven't had to do that in nearly 20 years. I could easily have done without. Trust me, I don't need a baby under my roof, and I was just starting to enjoy being an 'empty nester' when all this stuff started in February. I wouldn't flinch if the kids moved in with Olaf's parents. But that's not what the kids wanted.

What's got me worried today, however, is that, after his mother's virtual sit-in demonstration at the hospital, Olaf apparently barred his mother from returning.

I don't like that. It's not going to help.

I tried to explain it to Younger Daughter like this: Olaf's mother means you no harm and no disrespect. She's excited about her granddaughter, that's all. Olaf's mother will calm down eventually -- the baby will upchuck on her or leak through her diaper or some other disgusting baby thing and that will help considerably -- if only the kids just let it happen. There are so many people in this world who mean to give offense. Why take offense at people who don't mean to give it? Heal up quick and plan on to spend some time sitting like a lump while your mother-in-law holds your baby. And holds and holds and holds. Get this set up as soon as possible. But I don't know if she'll listen.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

oh my gosh i SO know about this stuff! you are doing wonderfully! when ayla was born the other grandmother came from new york. she was really getting on my last nerve too. example, i made daughter's christening gown, slip, hat, and booties. well ayla got to wear it all too for HER christening. i wanted to take some photos of the baby in the gown i so lovingly made but "other" grandmother says "let's get her out of this THING now"... sigh.

good luck! bee

Anonymous said...

I hope younger daughter will listen to you because you are absolutely right..I know this, from experience. Oh Curmy, I have to come down a little on Olaf's mothers side and shame on him for banning her from her first grandchild. That's extremely rude of him.

I think younger daughter probably has some hormonal changes going on this soon after childbirth so her feelings are probably normal for this time but Olaf needs talked to. Parents of an only child who have just had their very first grandchild are probably elated about the baby. Olaf could do serious damage if he isn't careful.

elleeseymour said...

I hope any misunderstandings soon get resolved and everyone can enjoy the new baby. Life is too short.

Anonymous said...

I bet everyone was very tired and even though extremely happy these things can be very emotional. Lets talk Olaf's mother for a minute. If she arrived at the hospital the day after the baby was born and found your wife and younger daughter's sister ( a nurse) both there taking care of younger daughter what really could there have been for her to do other than to hold the baby? I bet she felt terribly out of place and maybe even unwanted and unneeded. I hope by now it has all resolved and everyone is happy. New grandparents are hilarious as we all think we aren't going to have enough time with the baby. In reality, we all get our fair share, and sometimes more.LOL

The Curmudgeon said...

Anon 6:47pm, you're probably right. Although I don't think Older Daughter got there until later, Long Suffering Spouse was definitely already there. And the in-law may have felt as you suppose. But you're definitely right when you say, we'll all get our fair share.

And Ellee and Anon 2:15pm, I'm worried, too. I think there's some preexisting issues here, all of which I choose to gloss over. But I am counseling peace and good will and the kids are supposed to go over to the in-laws on Saturday now where all the family on that side can hold the kid and Younger Daughter can sit like a lump and watch. I told her it's OK. It's good. And I hope it will be!

And, Bee, if Older Daughter is ever blessed with a child (remember she married an only too) I'll probably have to hire the photographer who took those ultra-long distance snaps of Kate Middleton in order to see that grandkid. Joking! I'm joking here! More or less. But I'm determined to be OK with it however it works out.

Anonymous said...

This throws me back 15 years to when I became a grandmother for the first time. It was my son and dil first baby and my son is also an only child. I guess I was lucky in that dil had older siblings who had already blessed their side of the family with 8 or 9 grandkids so for her parents it was no big deal that yet one more grandchild was getting born. I was there from beginning to end. In fact it was her parents who picked me up to go to the hospital when dil was in labor. Soon after the baby got here they went home or to work or whatever and I was designated to stay at the hospital. My dil is a little different type person in that she is very private and modest around strangers and that included hospital workers. Within hours after giving birth she decided she wanted a shower. Not a bed bath mind you but a stand up in the shower, shower. After realizing that all the kings horses was not going to change her mind 2 nurses came in to assist her into the bathroom and to help her with her shower. She would have no part of that. Instead she looked at my son (her husband) and said "He will get in there and help give me my shower"....My son shot me a look like a soldier going into battle that for all the world said "Do something mom, make this stop" I pretended not to notice and instead starting talking gibberish to the baby. So, son gave his wife her shower and has done so after all 3 of their kids were eventually born. He stopped shooting me that look after number 2. He was now resigned.So, in my case I guess it was thank goodness that my dil had older siblings because I for sure got my fair share of baby time!