Sunday night, 8:45’ish p.m. Jackson and I hop into my white CRV for a quick drive into town. I take the back roads fast in the mid-August evening air, both of our windows down so he can smoke. As I breathe in the woodsy, laced-with-cigarette countryside, nostalgia takes over, and for a brief moment, I am a teen again, out for a summer cruise.
The feeling doesn’t last long. The reality of that evening drive is too sobering.
Jerrica, my oldest daughter and new mom, had just called—hysterical and sobbing—about little Layla, not quite three months old, who had choked during a feeding and was also hysterical and sobbing (screaming—I could hear her). Jerr didn’t know what to do, and Layla wouldn’t stop crying.
“She keeps making weird noises,” Jerr said through tears.
“Okay, I’ll be right there,” I said, jumping up from my chair, Jackson joining—no questions asked—as we hurried for the car.
How would I (we) help, though? I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I needed to be there—in person—to see with my own eyes. I needed to assess the situation, to experience what was going on with little Layla.
“Aimee, Layla’s okay. She’ll be fine,” Jackson assured me on that drive. “It just went down the wrong tube, I’m sure.”
Inside, I knew he was right. Between the two of us, we’d raised five newborn babies who now stretched in age from 13 to 26 years. Experiencing and living through those numerous, scary parent moments, like the one Jerr was dealing with, had provided quite an accumulation of wisdom along the way. But, still. This was my new granddaughter. And my own baby, who was learning how to be a mom.
Eight minutes later, we walked into Jerr’s to find her still crying and little Layla still screaming. Layla’s daddy, a hard sleeper, had already gone to bed. He was convinced there was nothing to worry about, and he had to be up by 5 a.m. the next morning.
I reached out and took the baby, thinking Grandma would make magic, but she didn’t. Layla kept screaming. In person, however, I could see that she wasn’t turning blue or red or purple, that she wasn’t having trouble breathing, and that she definitely wasn’t interested in a bottle; she was just angry. Choking must have scared little Layla, still sensitive to her new world, one that she had entered way too soon, but she would be fine.
Jackson and I took turns passing Layla back and forth, every bounce and pat on the rear calming her, while Jerr pulled herself together.
“I think choking scared her, Jerr. She’s okay,” I said.
“Yeah, well it scared me, too,” she agreed. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to put her down to sleep tonight. I’m afraid she’ll stop breathing.”
I’d been there. All parents have.
“Then don’t, hon. If it makes you feel better to sleep in your chair with her on your chest, then do it,” I assured her. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
After a half hour or so, Jackson and I put little Layla back in her mama’s arms, where she quieted and started to fall asleep. I kissed my girls on their cheeks, told them I loved them, that we were only a phone call away, and then Grandpa J and I took our leave.
“I knew you were right,” I tell Jackson on the drive home.
The night air mingles with the smell of another cigarette, but I am not taken back to my teen years this time.
“I had to be there, though. I’m her mom. And Layla’s my peaches,” I say, knowing he already understands.
But at the same time, I know there’s only so much I can do.
Yes, Jerr called often with questions or worries, and yes, Jerr listened when I advised. But in reality, I just cannot experience any of this new venture for her. Jerr has to find out for herself. And I have to be okay with that enough to let go, even when it’s difficult. Even though I’m her mama.
Recently, Jerr described motherhood to me as “traumatic” so far, and I can’t blame her. After finding out she had pre-eclampsia, doctors performed an emergency C-section at 31 weeks of pregnancy, and little Layla, weighing a mere two pounds and fifteen ounces, was born two months early. Jerr recovered from birth and HELLP Syndrome in one hospital, as Layla grew in another, and after eight long weeks of traveling and worrying, mommy and daddy were finally able to bring little Layla home. The whole experience had left them overprotective and nervous, and quite frankly—yes—traumatized.
But I would also bet they’ve grown and learned so much through the experience thus far. Even if they don’t know it yet. Because that’s what parents–and maybe even grandparents–do.