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Becoming a Mom, Becoming a Grandma

At the hospital

I arrived just as Perri and Larry were leaving for the hospital, and insisted on carrying the overnight bag. It was unexpectedly heavy. "I thought you were only going to stay overnight," I said. Perri hates to stay in hospitals as a patient.

"I am," Perri said. "Those are just my nightclothes and some stuff the childbirth course recommended."

At the hospital I was impelled to snoop. Their childbirth course had been a mystery to me: I sought clues. I found a large bottle of champagne, copies of Little Women and Pride and Prejudice, a Crock-Pot and various soft cloths to be warmed in it, a cassette player and homemade tapes, potato chips, lingerie, toiletries, and a small stuffed bear -- all the crucial assists needed at childbirth.

I'd arrived in excessively good time. Turned out we had the next seven hours to talk and walk nonstop. "Ah, Perri," I comforted her repeatedly. "Soon, soon!"

Exhilarated by the whole experience, I thought back on Perri's own precipitous entry into the world, on a spread of old newspapers during a tropical downpour in rural Trinidad. I'd ridden out the cramps in an old broken-down car on terrible back-country roads. I was excited and astonished and scared. Oddly, the whole scene distracted me from my pain -- there were too many other things to think about.

How I would have liked to help Perri now! She needed an exotic setting, or a broken car to worry about. But her labor just went on and on. Vainly, I sought to distract her with bad jokes and feeble puns. It was okay because no one was listening to me anyway. Benjamin was born without anesthesia or complications and was incomparably beautiful. And tiny -- I'd forgotten how small new babies were. The nurse standing next to me said, "Congratulations, Grandma."

"Thank you. Easiest thing in the world," I replied. And it was.

I had a grandson! First I felt incredulous, then relieved, and then euphoric. With difficulty, I controlled my excitement and behaved decorously, befitting my new rank. Mort, who'd driven up from New Jersey, and I were dispatched to buy the birthday dinner, glorious burgers from a favorite local restaurant, Perri's medium-rare with mozzarella and mushrooms. We sloshed through the snowy streets. Look who's a grandmother! I told him.