Heart on Overdrive: Grandparent Love Explained (sort of)
It had been years since I held a new baby for hours — his head nestled on my chest, hanging on every sigh, breathing in his scent, no place more important to be than right here. This feeling was different, though. Holding my brand new grandson I felt a new kind of joy, a sense of pure rapture that’s hard to describe. It’s taken me five months to find the words.
I’ve held new babies before; I raised three of my own. I cuddled each of my babies during their first hours and days of life, feeling that shock of recognition — this is a piece of me.
In the early days of my babies’ lives, my brain was on overdrive. Is she breathing? Will I be able to breastfeed? Is that a tinge of jaundice in his skin? Can I leave him in his swing while I take out the garbage? OMG I love her so much, what if she dies? How am I going to keep him alive? I remember having dreams that I left my new son in the student lounge at University, and that I grabbed a knife, and without batting an eye, stabbed someone who was hurting my daughter.
Anxiety, fear, vigilance— these feelings serve us well as we strive to protect our children, to keep them alive. But they also mitigate the total vulnerability that accompanies the primal love we feel for these tiny humans. The hyper-vigilance that helped me keep my own babies safe also kept me from experiencing the pure bliss that I felt in those early hours holding my new grandson.
While my brain was on overdrive with my babies, it’s my heart that’s on overdrive with Bruno. The love feels as potent as the love I had for my own children, but the anxiety, caution, and vigilance are not my job anymore, and it’s easy to relax into the love, knowing he’s in the best possible hands with his parents.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll have moments of worry, but my daughter and her husband are the ones who will get up at night to make sure he’s breathing, take him to the doctor, and weigh the research on when to start solid foods.
And the concern, caution, and vigilance they will use to keep Bruno safe will also allow them to watch him grow, to celebrate his achievements and wipe his tears. With this child to care for they will experience life in ways they never imagined. They’ll get to feel that unique blend of joy mingled with the complete emotional exposure that all parents feel.
All that said, as fiercely as they love him, until they have grandchildren of their own, they will never have a moment as utterly pure and free as those first hours I had with Bruno.
Now that I am a grandparent, I can’t wait to keep exploring this new kind of love; the free, unfettered, heart on overdrive kind.