Shortly after my daughter was born, I came across Chris De Burgh’s song, “For Rosanna”—or maybe I heard it years earlier, but it didn’t resonate with me until I had my own child. He totally nails it, I thought (weepily, I admit). My life is completely and forever changed, to the point that I have difficulty articulating the words for what the change even is, but he has done it for me. I promptly changed his “Rosanna” to my daughter’s name, and it became my favourite lullaby.
When I had my son, again the song fit so well, it was as if it had been written for him. I changed a few words when I sang, and it became his song too.
“This is for—, sweet [child] of mine, A song for the baby who changed my life, I’ll never forget when I saw you first, I thought that my heart would burst, With the love that I have,” sings De Burgh in the opening verse.
He goes on to describe watching his child sleep and expresses that he can’t believe everything he feels—and, especially, the great love that he has. Still later, he sings that as he watches her grow from “baby to child,” he shares her sense of wonder.
Most poignant to me, however, was his reflection on the things his child would experience when she was older—and how deeply he wanted her to know that he would always be there for her and that she was so loved.
It’s a song that still has the power to make me cry because I identify so much with all its love, hope, joy, yearning, pride and awe—and tiniest hints of trepidation and worry. And it gained new meaning and refreshed poignancy recently because I became a grandma this summer!
My husband and I were thrilled upon hearing we were going to be grandparents, and as the nine months progressed and the big birth day grew closer and closer, our excitement grew bigger and bigger, just as quickly as our daughter’s stomach. I knew, of course, we would love little him or her. And I knew we’d be surprised by how special it was. I was even aware that we probably wouldn’t have words to fully express our joy that well.
But even knowing that, I was not prepared for the crazy flood of . . . you name it.
I think most people understand that becoming a parent is a life-changing, forever-defining (and redefining) thing. I had no idea that in so many ways so is becoming a grandparent.
When my daughter called me for the first time after having her little son I’d already known he was born and that everything had gone well, but somehow hearing her voice undid me. When I got off the phone, I cried and cried. I can’t really name what the emotion behind my tears was. Definitely not sadness. Something the opposite of sorrow. Joy, yes. Relief, yes. Maybe though, to say awe or a sense of surreality would be the most accurate. My first baby had a baby.
And then I met Sweetest Guy and . . . I was just not prepared.
My husband, when pressed by my daughter, described his feelings for his grandson as being like all the love he has for her (our daughter), plus this all-encompassing new love that is just for our grandson. Was that hard to follow? Exactly. Some feelings, no matter how we struggle to describe them, will always defy our abilities to explain.
And every time I hold my little grandson, I feel . . . awe. I see something of my beloved daughter and a lot of my much-loved son-in-law in his little features and expressions, yet at not-quite three months old, he is already uniquely himself and is even beginning to have his own sense of humor. (He finds his grandma and his giraffe hilarious, just so you know.) There is something amazing about looking into the face of someone who carries your genes and your child’s genes, who is, as De Burgh says, blood of your blood.
Spending time with Sweetest Guy also triggers memories of little moments with my own kids that I thought I’d forgotten, which is very special. I could literally just hold him and watch him and enjoy him for hours and hours and hours. (Don’t worry. My daughter is very assertive. She doesn’t let me drive her too crazy.)
And maybe, just maybe, there’s the tiniest tinge of something bitter-sweet as every aspect of loving him reminds me of how much I delighted in being a young mom with young kids—and reinforces the sometimes-fought-against truth that my season for that is over. But the dominant feeling is an overwhelming, deep joy and gratitude. It’s a new season.
The chorus to Chris De Burgh’s beautiful love song says, in part, “Oh how my heart it is shining, oh how my heart it is shining through—with the love that I have.” And maybe now, as when my own children were small, that is as close as I can get to explaining how I feel. My heart is shiny. There is a new person in our world and I—honour, responsibility, great fun and huge love that is—am his grandma.
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“Babies of Mine” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard in September 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”