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Becoming a Mom, Becoming a Grandma

The next time

Perri: When I got pregnant again five years later, I thought the obvious thing to do was to put that same team back together. I had high hopes for a more rapid second labor, one that wouldn't allow time for spur-of-the moment 200-mile journeys, so I asked my parents to come when the baby was due. My mother would assume her delivery-room duties, I figured, and my father would take charge of Benjamin.

This time, we needed to schedule an induction, so we all went to the hospital together. Larry and my mother were the delivery-room team, while my father and Benjamin wandered in and out. I got an IV; I hated the IV. I was convinced someone was going to put the wrong thing into it. I got an internal monitor; I hated the monitor. I was convinced the doctor and the nurses weren't paying any attention to me at all because they were too busy looking at the damn tracing. I was a model of the unselfishness of motherhood!

Benjamin spent some time in the delivery room making an endless array of geometric crayon drawings. We hung some of them up, and thanked him profusely. We all watched a peculiarly compelling episode of Divorce Court in which the man claimed he was divorcing his wife because she was a transsexual. Understandably, Benjamin lost interest, and he and my father headed out to explore the cafeteria and the gift shop. And that was just as well, because after a rather long hanging-around-nothing-doing-okay-let's-up-the-dose period, the pitocin kicked in and labor began in earnest.

I have, it turns out, a reasonably high threshold for pain -- and I combine that with an intense paranoia about all medical interventions. I was trying to do this without anesthesia again, though I had been warned that the pitocin would make the contractions more intense. And as they got more and more intense, I thought back on the endless first labor.

"I don't think I can do this for another ten hours," I confessed between contractions, remembering that long, long night.

"I have news for you," my ob said. "You're going to have the baby in about ten minutes."The conversation paused while I ululated through a contraction. "Ten minutes I can do," I said.

And that's how my daughter, Josephine, was born, and as she was making it clear that she regarded nursing as serious business, in came my father and Benjamin, to share the moment. And once again we had those favorite ritual hamburgers.

Sheila: Being a grandmother is a strange and wonderful avocation. I can enjoy the kids without feeling responsible for them. I am once removed from all the crises and decisions. My job is mostly to admire, to sit in the second row and hope, and cheer, and celebrate. I am shameless about claiming genetic credit for my grandchildren's talents and achievements except in athletics, music, and mathematics -- because I'd be laughed out of town.