New Empathy for Grandparents

Often it's hard to fully appreciate what a person is going through until you find yourself experiencing something similar.

When Monica and I were dealing with various pregnancy complications during the childbearing years, I was so focused on my own stress that I did not give a great deal of thought to what that must have been like for my parents. Now that my daughter, Emily, is pregnant with her third child and experiencing the complications of preterm labor at 22 weeks, I am gaining a new understanding.

Personally, Monica and I dealt with the loss of Emily's twin, Kathleen's stillbirth, a molar pregnancy, an early miscarriage, and an abysmal prenatal diagnosis, but never had problems with preterm labor. We had a loss between each of our 4 living children, and our youngest daughter, Maggie, was the one where prenatal testing suggested she would not survive after birth. In that case, we got lucky and she was fine.

In part because we live in Minnesota and Emily and her family live in Arizona, Monica and I find ourselves worrying about what is going on or might happen, and feel guilty that we can't be there to help out. Every time their phone number pops up on my cell phone, my heart races a little and I have to swallow hard before I answer. On the couple of occasions that it was Emily or Bryant calling to say they were heading to the hospital to be checked, I find myself going into "Mr. Positive" mode, assuring them that probably everything is fine, but it's always good to go in to the doctor or hospital  if they are worried. My parents often played that role with us, and I guess in part that is why I did not really think those times were all that difficult for them. To be honest, I just didn't think a lot about it.

So, if you find yourself frustrated with your parents fretting or irritated with their erratic behavior, take a minute to think about what this experience is like for them. I can vouch for the fact that it's very difficult seeing your own kids stressed and scared, knowing there is not a alot you can do to help!


  1. Ironic timing...we've just been somewhat dealing with this as we are only a few days from the birth of our second child (our first son died a year ago after only a few hours) keeps telling us she feels like a jinx, and is really somewhat high-maintenance for us in worrying about her feelings, when we feel like we really should just be focused on our own. Yet, as we are both parents, we can understand what it's like to watch your sweet little child suffer with nothing you can do, and imagine that must be how she felt when Matthew died and somewhat now. Thank you for the reinforcement of that perspective--that she is dealing with emotions she has never had to deal with before too. Praying for safety and health for your daughter and grandchild....

  2. Thank, Lori, we arrived in Arizona last night and are happy to report that at this point Emily is hanging in there just fine. Each day is a big step forward.

    Best of luck to you and your family. I will anxiously wait to hear how everything goes and am confident you will all do fine. In the meantime, know that a lot of us out here are thinking of you all and saying a little prayer. Take care and tell your Mom that I have felt the same way (like the jinx) at times, but logically know that life just doesn't work that way. Happy Holidays.

  3. When I lost my babies, my dad completely fell apart. Our son was due 2 days after his birthday, so he felt like the baby was a birthday present. It feels weird to be so worried about him when all of my family is so worried about me.

  4. Hi Nika -- sorry it has taken me so long to post this and respond. For some reason I did not get the notification of a new post.

    As a relatively new grandparent, I can only imagine how devastated I would have been if anything had happened to one of my grandchildren. I certainly have a new appreciation for what my parents went through when Kathleen died -- honestly, I had no idea how difficult it must have been. I wish you all the best and certainly hope you will tell your dad that there are many others who can relate to his sadness. As parents, we never get over wanting to protect our children from tragedy -- no matter how old they are. Add to that the knowledge of how excited your dad must have been at the thought of this grandchild being part of all your lives in a different way than he will be, and it makes for a very tough time for you all. Take care.