After the excitement of the positive pregnancy test wore off a bit, my partner (Galen) and I began talking through what was ahead, including when and how we’d tell our friends and family about the pregnancy, which parenting classes we’d take and, of course, how we’d handle communication around the birth of our little one.
Because my parents live 1,000 miles away (in Minnesota), their visit to us (in Colorado) wouldn’t be as easy as texting, “We’re ready for visitors now.”
Our plan was simple: As soon as I was checked into the hospital and it was confirmed that I was really in labor, Galen would text both sets of grandparents-to-be and let them know.
Starting at about 37 weeks, though, my mom started sending almost daily check-in texts.
I’m no fool: I knew her “How’s your day?” was really “How’s your birth canal?”
But we kept up the guise for a few weeks. By the time I hit 39 weeks, her general check-ins became much more frequent and specific: “Anything happening? Any changes?”
During one of our text exchanges, I finally assured my mom that if ANYTHING changed, I would let her know.
Late one night, my water broke. As soon as I got off the phone with a nurse, who confirmed that I should get to the hospital as soon as I could, I texted my mom.
“Water just broke. Headed to the hospital now.”
Once we got to the hospital and got checked in, Galen sent another update to both sets of grandparents, letting them know we were settling in for the night and we’d keep them updated. In Galen’s mind, that meant “As soon as Baby is here, we’ll let you know.”
Laura Groenjes Mitchell poses with her newborn son, Kellan, whose grandmother was excited to meet him.
Clearly, my mom wasn’t on the same page, because several hours later, as my contractions were beginning to pick up, our labor nurse came in to check on me. While she was in our room, she received a page: “You have a call on line 2. It’s the mom of your patient in Room 408 (our room). She’s wanting an update on her daughter.”
In the moment, I was equal parts mortified and impressed that my mom had figured out a way to get the update she needed.
Looking back, I learned a lot. Here’s what I recommend for other parents/grandparents-to-be:
- Be honest about the type and frequency of communication both sides need.
- Revisit these agreements frequently. (Your needs might change!)
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for what you need if you’re not getting it (like calling the hospital directly).
I was ecstatic to hear we’d soon become grandparents, and took great delight in the communications that followed — a picture from the first ultrasound (I bawled!), news of the sex (It’s a boy!), measurements (right on target).
But the closer Laura got to her due date, the more I found myself hovering, despite the miles that separated us.
I began sending check-in texts, and strove to limit myself to one a day. (Sometimes I met my goal.)
Because I work at a hospital, I’m reminded every day of things that can go wrong medically — and the daily check-ins helped keep my anxiety at bay.
My approach was to embrace statistics that favored a healthy, normal delivery for mom and baby, then hold that intention daily. My husband and I began discussing details regarding our visit and — due to the inherent uncertainty of birth dates — we decided to drive, not fly.
My three goals for the trip were:
- Meet, cuddle and start developing our relationship with our new grandson;
- Provide help to the little family: Make meals, run errands, do laundry, whatever they needed;
- Not overstay our welcome.
Finally, THE text came: Baby was coming!
After I shared the exciting news with my husband — that Laura was in labor — he went to bed.
I, meanwhile, started my nervous vigil on the couch, awaiting updates from Galen. Around 11 p.m., one came, stating Laura was doing well.
As I fell in and out of restless sleep, I checked my phone incessantly. Nothing. Around 5 a.m., I reached my limit and texted Galen: “Any updates?”
After 15 minutes with no response, I called the hospital, explained who I was, and within minutes had received a brief synopsis of the birth progress from their nurse. She compassionately assured me mom and baby were progressing and doing well.
I knew I’d crossed an invisible boundary when I made that call; and I understood there would be criticism and teasing to follow. But know this: Mama bear will always do whatever she needs to do to ensure her cubs are OK.
Moral: Communicate with both mom and her partner before labor begins, and discuss frequency of birth updates that will work for all.
Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer and new grandmother, lives in Minneapolis. Her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell — a millennial first-time mom — lives in Denver. They’ll be documenting their generational differences with this occasional series in both Minnesota Good Age and its sister publication, Minnesota Parent.