Being the pregnant grandmother


Watching her daughter, mother knows best By Roberta Sotonoff

Frank Pinc / Chicago Parent Roberta Sotonoff, her daughter Jamie and her grandaughter Annie.

I've waited a long time to become a granny. When Jamie, our oldest daughter, announces her pregnancy, I am ecstatic. Soon my journey down Grandmother Lane has me stumbling across odd things such as Diaper Genies and breastfeeding classes.

I learn that all the new theories, state-of-the-art baby gadgets and over-education developed in the last 30-plus years have not changed the basics.

Well, maybe the anxiety level has changed. When I was pregnant, I didn't worry like Jamie does. I ate whatever I liked, drank a little and never thought about second-hand smoke. There was no ultrasound or amniocentesis, so I didn't think much about prenatal development. My mother worried over my pregnancy more than I did. I just hoped for a healthy baby.

Unlike Jamie, I didn't explore dozens of prenatal and child development avenues. I thought that caring for a baby would just come naturally. But now I am the mother, and this is my child's pregnancy. Every little ache and pain Jamie has worries me to death.

Jamie is thrilled about her pregnancy-until her clothes begin to get snug. She is suddenly in denial. Maternity clothes make her look fat, she wails. But she desperately needs something to wear. When she walks into the room, her bust precedes her by about two minutes. It must be genetic. I had a similar profile when I was pregnant.

As her pregnancy progresses, my sweet-tempered daughter becomes prone to mood swings. Lucky for both of us, we have caring husbands. I remember driving my husband crazy. One time he stopped to have a few drinks after work and came home late. I was ready to kill him.

Jamie's husband, Joe, is always there for her. At one point, when she is crying about how uncomfortable she is in her bubble of a body, he tells her just to get through the first nine months. He will take the second. I wonder about that. Will he nurse the baby?

Speaking of nursing, there are now breastfeeding classes for new moms. Jamie's hospital even offers a two-part series of three-hour classes. Come on now. Breastfeeding is breastfeeding. Up until now, mammals have done it without training. I learned by trial and error and did fine. The containers haven't changed in all these years.

What also blows me away are the new doodads for newborns. Take the Diaper Genie, for instance. What is that? Does it keep the baby from wetting its diaper? Nothing can do that. Don't expect a genie to come out of its bottle and change the baby. That is still the mom's job. I was the diaper genie. I took total responsibility for the care of my babies' bottoms. My changing and diaper-washing techniques worked so well, you would have thought they were magically inspired.

My children just had the basics-crib, infant seat, high chair, car seat, stroller, swing and playpen. Beats me why my grandchild needs more.

At her baby shower, Jamie gets so many gifts. Everything that is not a treatise on child rearing (I only had Dr. Spock), or wearable, seems to have mirrors, move, light up and make noise. As if all that noise is not enough, one of her gifts is a baby monitor. Like you don't hear the kid screaming. Right! When my kids were little, I was only moved by distress sounds. My girls learned to cope early.

One of Jamie's most touted gifts is the baby bouncer. When I examine this vibrating, light-flashing, noise-making little seat, I am afraid for my grandchild. All that sensory stimulation will be like a post-natal LSD trip. I am sure the constant vibrating will give the kid tremors.

I don't understand it. Jamie and our other daughter, Caryn, were perfectly content to hang from the door frame on a bungee-like cord. They spent hours bouncing. They may have bounced into the wall now and then, but they never needed stitches.

When they grew older, they amused themselves with pots and pans. Given today's baby necessities, it is amazing my girls grew up to be extremely bright and creative. The odd thing about it, I believe the creators of these must-have items probably grew up with pretty much the same things.

I mention the abundance of mirrored toys saying I think the child will become extremely egotistical. Her reply, "I didn't have toys. And no mirrors to look in-another explanation for my low self-esteem. My mother wouldn't even let me look at myself in the mirror!"

I give up. When my babies were born, my only plans were to stay home and be a mom. Jamie has different ideas. She will have the summer off and plans to hit the road, taking the baby on an East Coast car trip. First, to help get herself back into shape, she will visit Caryn in Phoenix. Their plans include daily workouts, hiking with the baby in 115-degree weather and a pampering day at a spa. As an extra bonus, Caryn suggests a day at the mall, leaving the baby with a friend.

"As long as she is watching one newborn, what difference will it make if she watches two?" says Caryn.

I chuckle to myself. My biggest trip after Jamie was born was to the grocery store. And that took hours. Let them dream.

Finally Jamie reaches her ninth month. She is huge. In my ninth month my mother told me I looked like a Sherman tank. Jamie resembles a Hummer, but she continues to work. Not surprisingly, her water bag breaks at the office. As is typical of her, she drives herself to the hospital.

Late the next morning, our darling Annie makes her debut into the world. The same feelings of joy my husband and I felt when Jamie was born come rushing back.

After a few sleepless nights, the reality of motherhood sets in for Jamie. She suddenly has a new mind-set. The baby monitor is returned, the Boppy pillow has gone by the wayside, the Phoenix and East Coast vacations are canceled, and the only trips Jamie and the baby make are over to my house.

Another thing, our little Annie is colicky. Those noisy, jiggly things prove useless. Holding, walking and rocking are the only remedies. Funny, those same things did the job when Caryn was colicky. The books? They do not seem to work as well as a call to Mom.

That was my first line of attack, too.



Roberta Sotonoff is a Glenview-based writer, mom of two daughters and delighted granny of one granddaughter.


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