Here is another golden moment in this strange season of my life. On Sunday, my wonderful daughter-in-law Kat gave birth to Florence Elizabeth and our whole family was transformed. I described Joel and Kat’s wedding last year as a shift in the cosmos, a moment that changed all of us who were there. And this is another. With Flo’s arrival, everyone has a new name – mum, dad, uncle, great-grandma – and a new person to get to know. There is something very mysterious about newborn babies and their hidden internal lives. We might look for family likenesses but we have to wait for her true self to be revealed. Her future is full of potential and possibilities and we wait to see how it will unfold and who she will become. But instantly our hearts have expanded to embrace this new life, she’s on my mind all of the time and I have bound my life to hers without question.
We went to meet Flo a few hours after she was born and even through the fog of chemo, there is something profoundly moving about seeing your boy hold his baby girl. I can still remember the elation and bewilderment of those first days after giving birth to Joel, the sense of wonder and amazement at this new life, alongside feeling totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for him. Now Joel and Kat need to find their way through these early days and weeks of being parents and I have no doubt that they will do it brilliantly, with grace and love and laughter. For them too there is a becoming, a growing into relationship and responsibility, a transition into parenthood.
Because although Flo’s birth has changed us all, we need to grow into those new relationships and fully inhabit them. In one sense I became a grandma automatically at that moment of her birth, but in another it is the invitation of a lifetime and not something to take for granted. I don’t feel old enough of course, but I’ve been thinking about what kind of grandma I hope to be. I want to be involved in her life so that I get to know Flo and she gets to know me. I want to be respectful and affirming of Joel and Kat as her mum and dad, and the choices they make about how they bring her up. Flo has been born into a large extended family and a wide circle of friends and I want to play my unique part in that, contributing what I can to enrich her life, not least alongside my fellow grandparents, Jonny, Jan and Greg. I’m looking forward to learning from her, and for my life to be enriched by the experiences we share together. And while I need to be guided by Joel and Kat and Flo herself, I want to be someone who opens up possibilities for her and helps her navigate the pink restrictions that are so often placed on girls, so that she thrives and blossoms and becomes the mighty girl that she was born to be. And most of all at the moment, I just want to give her another cuddle!