The birth of a new baby brings all our emotions to the surface: curiosity, fascination, elation, and joy beyond compare.

There’s also terror!

“Is she breathing?”

“Will I let her down?”

“How do I handle the responsibility for another life?”

Every parent asks these questions, alternating between ecstasy and anxiety.

Fortunately, others have been there before us.

If a new mama is lucky, her mother and her mother-in-law will arrive to help take care of other things so the parents can concentrate on the baby. If the parents are really lucky, they can share their joy with grandparents.

Kate and Nik are some of the lucky ones, on both sides of the family.

Four generations of Anns: Barbara Ann (r), Shirley Ann (l), Katherine Ann and baby Lydia Ann (center)

Four generations of Anns: Barbara Ann (r), Shirley Ann (l), Katherine Ann and baby Lydia Ann (center)

How is it that we were able to get this photo so soon after Lydia’s birth? When we lived so far apart?

You have to know my niece Joyous of Joyous Snyder Photography.

She loves her grandma, and her own five children, and adventure.

So she proposed a trip from Lancaster, PA, to Pittsburgh, loaded up the youngest two children and 90-year-old grandma,

And drove.

Of course, there was a big coal spill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, delaying them for 1.5 hours, and the two toddlers needed a place to run, and the apartment is small.

There was some chaos, but somehow we all managed just enough time to take some wonderful pictures.

The star of the show: Lydia Ann Stoltzfus.

The star of the show: Lydia Ann Stoltzfus.

The almost-smile of a newborn. The dress was made from a pillowcase and hand dyed by Kate.

The almost-smile of a newborn. The dress was made from a pillowcase and hand dyed by Kate.

Kate called her cousin “the baby whisperer” for seducing Lydia Ann to be alert and yet serene.

Barbara Ann with baby Lydia Ann, Joyous with Kenny and Nightingale.

Barbara Ann with baby Lydia Ann, Joyous with Kenny and Nightingale.

By early evening, all of us went our separate ways, leaving the new parents and baby behind in their apartment.

But Great Grandma and the children continued their journey another day.

Sharing an adventure in Frick Park.

Sharing an adventure in Frick Park.

On the way home, Joyous asked her grandma what she enjoyed most about seeing the new baby: “It just feels so special to watch that baby of mine as she’s become a grandmother — to watch her feel the way I’ve felt.”

I had that same feeling watching Kate become a mother.

And so it goes. The cycle of life.

A little more than 90 years ago, another four-generation picture was taken with baby Barbara Ann Hess.

Baby Barbara Ann, Mother Anna Mary, Grandmother Barbara, Great Grandmother

Baby Barbara Ann Hess, soon after her birth February 27,1927. Held by her great grandmother. 
Mother Anna Mary Herr Hess, November 30, 1895 – June 25, 1951 (r)
Grandmother Barbara Hershey Brubaker Herr, August 29, 1862 – March 19, 1942 (l)
Mary Ann Bowers Hershey Brubaker, June 4, 1839 – June 23, 1932.

Mother is now the only remaining link between these generations.

But they knew the joy and terror too!

What do you know about joy and terror combined? Any words of advice to the new parents, or grandparents?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Jeanette Bontrager on June 21, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    This is precious, every single person involved! What a gift to have so many loving people.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

      Thank you, Jeanette. I think of the grandma you and I shared and am grateful for her love and teaching by example.

  2. Sadie Showalter on June 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    How wonderful that the four generations could be together. What love shows through to all. Kate and Lydia must feel so blessed!

  3. Marian Beaman on June 21, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    That Lydia Ann Stoltzfus is quite a lass, a show-stealer actually! She’ll find out soon enough how blessed she is.

    I do know about joy and terror combined as I recall the grandson Ian’s birth 3 months too soon. We sang Jesus Loves Me This I Know, hoping he heard through his isolette and listened to neonatal nurses assure us he’s a fighter. Today at age nine he’s reading Shel Silverstein and Harry Potter and helping Grandpa trim hedges in the heat.

    Your blog has recorded the entrance and antics of all of your grandchildren. Aren’t we fortunate to live in the digital age when all of this is possible, public posting of private moments. What would Samuel Pepys do with this – ha!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 9:12 am

      It was Joyous who pulled the performer out of Lydia at age 6 days, but I am sure she just gave us a foretaste of shows to come.

      How hard it would be on parents and grandparents to go through Ian’s kind of birth. It must double your joy in seeing him grow to know how treacherous a cliff he began on.

      “Jesus Loves Me” is a song important in our family through the last words of my father. You can be sure I’ll be singing it to Lydia when I put her to sleep.

      As for Samuel Pepys and digital media — I think you’ve just outlined the plot for a British Rom Com. All the English majors would flock to it. 🙂

  4. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 21, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Congratulations, Shirley, to you and your whole clan! After eight grandchildren (the youngest is 7) I still would love to have a baby grand to cuddle. Guess I’ll have to wait for the greats!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Elfrieda, I remember rocking and nursing Kate in the early hours of August, 1983, and having this startling thought: “If she has a baby when she is my age now, I will be 70!!”

      Well, I’m 68, and if Lydia has a baby when she is her mother’s age now, I will be 101. Don’t think I’ll make it unless she’s a very young mom. I hope YOU do. Among the many lovely photos Joyous took were several of my blissed-out mother cuddling and smelling Lydia.

  5. Jerry Waxler on June 22, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Wow. How refreshing! What a sweet story, complete with photos, a journey, a flashback to an earlier time. Your project of writing your memoir is long since finished. But every time one of us completes a memoir, we are starting on a new chapter which we are empowered to see and share life through the lens of Story. Congrats and thanks!


    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Jerry, how good to see you again, and how kind of you to offer these words. I love how you said this: “every time one of us completes a memoir, we are starting on a new chapter which we are empowered to see and share life through the lens of Story.” Yes. In my last post, I said I would blog less often but not give it up. You summarized the reason so well.

      I need to go visit your blog and see what you’ve been up to lately. Good things, I know in advance.

  6. Joanne Hess Siegrist on June 22, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Shirley… This posting calls for printing it out to add to my HERSHEY 3 ring binder. I love your efforts. What great adventures your extended family is enjoying and the generational photographs are wonderful. Surprise – I am actually names for my maternal grandmother, Anna Nissly Nissly Nissley and my twin brother, John, for her husband. The twist is that my mother wished to moderize her first daughter’s name by making it Joanne. In hindsight I do wish at least my name was Joanna; however, I had no voice on that matter.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 9:24 am

      I’m so glad we have shared interests in history and heritage, Joanne, and that you, with your passion for detail, travel, and friendship have made the Hershey family an object of your research. We all benefit.

      Isn’t it funny that names come and go in relation to fashion? Anna is now more hip than Ann. Live long enough and everything that goes round comes around. 🙂

  7. Joan on June 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Congratulations to you and yours. Lydia is gorgeous and she is so fortunate to have such a wonderful, loving family. Grandchildren keep us young and moving into the future!

    • Shirley on June 22, 2017 at 10:18 am

      So true, Joan. Thanks for adding your thread to the amazing web of life!

  8. Janet Givens on June 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

    When I saw that photo of Lydia in her tie-dyed dress, I could just see her dancing to the music, Latin music I believe it was, with her fingers snapping and her toes clicking. How precious! How happy! My heartiest congratulations, Shirley.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Yes! And that bow in her hair is like a rose tucked behind her ear. We got the same picture.

      Some day she and her daddy will dance a tango. They are practicing now.

      Thanks for the hearty congrats, Janet. Everything you do is heart-y.

  9. Tina Barbour on June 22, 2017 at 10:33 am

    So much love and joy in this post and the pictures! I am sure baby Lydia Ann feels the love and care even though she doesn’t realize it. She is precious. She looks so adorable in the tie-dyed dress. I bet the pillow case material is soft for her. Looks like she is starting out with color like her mother. Blessings to you all as your family grows.

    I have not faced the terror and joy of motherhood, partly because I would have been so terrified, especially with OCD. But my mothering of the fur babies gives me the terror and joy of caring for and being responsible for another life.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      You are so generative, Tina, in your love for kitties and cats. We all have our ways of contributing to future generations, and I honor yours. You know exactly what it means to contain both terror and joy. You live with it every day.

      Thank you for honoring Kate by observing her love for color and for making things. Now she will have a new person to share these loves with — and an opportunity to observe Lydia’s own loves as they become apparent. A parent. Get it. 🙂

  10. Barbara McDowell Whitt on June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Shirley, Lydia Ann is beautiful! And how special that she’s a fourth generation Ann. I have three younger sisters and our youngest sister is Ann (with “no e”). She’s still an Iowan. When you get a moment you might want to go to my page on Facebook and scroll to see your photo of Owen.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Barbara, you reference to the no “e” in the name made me think about the new movie about Anne (“with an e”) Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. Amazon has a new series that is quite good, if you have a grandchild who might be the right age??

      Thank you for the many ways you have blessed my life by sharing similar experiences and sharing on social media. The cherry pie plate is loaded to the brim with frozen fruit and walnut custard, waiting for the right occasion. I always think of you. . . .

  11. Laurie Buchanan on June 22, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Shirley — Lydia in that little tie-dyed dress is beyond precious. Her “pose” looks like that of a flamenco dancer. ALL of the photos are wonderful. It’s clear that the joy level is that of a geyser—GUSHING from everyone involved. Congratulations to you and yours. I’m so happy for you all.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      The geyser image is perfect, Laurie. It can work for any kind of emotion that comes suddenly and then dissipates. Tears, smiles, laughter. Those first days and weeks bring all of them. Thanks for sharing the celebration.

  12. Elaine Mansfield on June 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Congratulations. What a beauty and What a wonderful maternal lineage you have. Mine was a bit flimsy, so I’ve had to create my own. I have no advice, since I have no grandchildren, except to show up and be part of their lives. That’s just what you’re doing from the beginning. Such joy! Please weep a few tears for me.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Your last sentence did indeed touch my heartstrings, Elaine.

      Show up and be part of their lives. Thanks for the wisdom. Simple is usually the best kind of advice. And I plan to act on this advice.

      You have shown, so gracefully and skillfully, how to create lineage. I have learned a lot from you. Thank you.

  13. Lanie Tankard on June 22, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Happy hearty congratulations to the entire family! Tears of joy ran down my face as I read your post and looked at the marvelous photos, but there was another emotion seasoning the tears as well. I’m not sure there’s even a word for it—that sinuous connection binding the generations at times of birth, marriage, death. We each superimpose memories of such events from our own lives onto these scenes when they occur in the lives of others, thus heightening the sentiments in our reactions. Kate’s face glows with new motherhood. And you, already a veteran grandmother, radiant in pink. How fantastic that your mother could be there to bask in the moment. (90???? Oh, that I should look so good if I ever reach that age milestone someday!) Welcome to this wonderful world, Lydia Ann!!! May you be forever surrounded in love. Big hugs to one and all from an Oma in Texas!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Yes, Lanie, you named the un-namable emotions: “I’m not sure there’s even a word for it—that sinuous connection binding the generations at times of birth, marriage, death. We each superimpose memories of such events from our own lives onto these scenes when they occur in the lives of others, thus heightening the sentiments in our reactions.” This is what I am feeling, and why pictures of other babies (and weddings and obituaries) participate in a similar drama. Thank you so much for knowing what these words and pictures produced in me and sharing your always sympathetic, empathetic, response.

  14. Sharon LIppincott on June 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I too felt tears well up at the joy and beauty of this post and like Lanie, memories gushed up for me as well. Our first grandchild, now 22, developed jaundice and spent all his non-nursing time in a light box for a couple of weeks. He was clear across the country, and for several reasons, I, the only grandmother, was unable to be there. Oh, the agony!

    Your four-generation pictures are a rich blessing. My mom didn’t hang around long enough for those. My daughter’s daughter was the fourth of my six grandchildren, and I’ve treasured each one as they’ve come along. But I hadn’t realized until meeting Sarah how special and powerful the maternal lineage bond is. I better understand men’s elation now at the birth of a son.

    I have pictures of maternal grandmothers going back four generations above me. Now I’m inspired to create a collage of pictures of that lineage. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Lydia is also blessed that Kate has the skill and desire to make adorable outfits like that dress. So few do today. Bravo for her!

    Many blessings on your coming year.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Oh Sharon, it must have been very hard for you and for your children when you could not be together for the birth of your first grandson, especially when he had complications after birth. I feel your pain even today.

      Yes, there is something special (not better) with maternal lineage. One of the insights I gained from writing BLUSH was that I was the third generation of only daughters (until I reached age six and was lucky enough to have four sisters, three of whom are living). Since Kate is my only daughter, the tradition continues.

      So glad you got an idea reading this post. Go for it.

      I am proud of Kate’s many practical skills and domestic interests as well as her flair for business. She is no carbon copy of me, so I get to enjoy a larger world through her eyes and hands.

  15. Melodie Davis on June 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Love the hand dyed dress and the ballet dancer pose. Or maybe Laurie has the right word, flamenco. I also LOVE the one of the four of you–so cool to carry that middle name through several generations.

    One moment of stark terror for me that turned out miraculously, when my last born was in my arms in the kitchen (about 2 months old) and I was trying to hold her on one arm and do something else with the other hand–what all mothers do, yes? Suddenly she lurched strongly backwards. Readers, I caught that child on her way to the floor. I can still barely believe I was that quick of hand–adrenaline no doubt.

    Your use of the word “terror” brought this memory to mind but first of all, that scream of your mother in your Blush memoir, where the result was not so miraculous. An unforgettably sad passage in your book, for sure.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Flamenco it is, Melodie.

      The picture of the four of us is one we’ll treasure forever, even if we get to take many more of them in future years, as I hope we will. That first week of life is so miraculous, and the story of how the picture was made will always be part of what Lydia asks for as she looks at it.

      Your description of catching your baby on her way to the floor put my stomach in my mouth. I had a few moments of similar terror when a child darted into a crowd or onto the street. Even sniffles and flu and constipation can be scary when the baby can’t tell you what is wrong.

      You put your finger on the source of my own deepest fears with that memory from the book, Melodie. There’s only one thing I can imagine that would be worse than losing a baby, and that is being responsible for the loss. That thought scares me to the bone as a granny nanny. But not enough to keep me from going to Pittsburgh. Keep us in your prayers.

  16. Kathleen on June 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    I’m so pleased to welcome a “Lydia Ann” to the world. This was my Grandmother’s name; she and her sisters were known as the “Happy Hooley-gans.” They were full of joy and humor throughout the ups and downs of life. The photos tell me that laughter and humor are already here. Names are significant. I note too the tradition of the middle name, Ann(a); a special tie that connects multiple generations of women in your family!

    Joy and fear: they go together, hand-in-hand. What is remarkable is that you are willing to fully experience both. Psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that dulling our fear, dulls our joy, that we cannot selectively cut-off our emotions.

    Blessings to all of the “Anns” as you celebrate Lydia and embrace the joys and fears of life.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      Kathleen, knowing that your dream daughter is named Lydia Ann will give a special luster to the name when I murmur it to her.

      Thanks too, for the reminder, hard-won from your own experience as well as research, that we can’t dull our fears without impacting our joy.

      Your warm wishes have found a home!

  17. Merril Smith on June 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    After spending the last few hours editing an article submitted by one of the contributors for my book (this revision still needs much revision!), reading this post just filled my heart with joy. Congratulations to your entire family–as it seems you’ve all welcomed Lydia Ann here. Amazing photos, too!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Anyone who is editing someone else’s words for a book needs a break! Thanks, Merril, for spending yours with me. I look forward to introducing Kate to my online friends as she introduces me to her Pittsburgh friends. I love weaving webs of relationship and know that you do also.

  18. Saloma Furlong on June 22, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Oh, do I ever remember the first-time parent jitters… the feeling of such a monumental responsibilities. But from the look on Kate’s face, I know that the love she has for this new life is going to conquer her fears.

    Blessings to all four generations!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Saloma. I have the same confidence. The fears are just another evidence of love.

      Thank you for the blessings. It’s great that we can be together again.

  19. susan scott on June 22, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Welcome to your wonderful world baby Lydia! A propitious start to your entry having so many of your loving family present! I’m convinced that you are smiling in the photo of you in your pillow case!

    Thank you Shirley for sharing this wonderful adventure with us!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you Susan, all the way from South Africa. Lydia is blessed by so many kind people. As you said, it makes her smile. Makes me smile too. Thank you so much.

      One of her nicknames must be “lucky Lydia.”

  20. Kathleen Pooler on June 22, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Shirley, you have captured the joy and the love that cycles through the generations when a new baby arrives. Of course the terror is there but love rules! Lydia is precious and the photos are heartmelting. I’m sharing in your joy. Blessings to all.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Thank you for this phrase, Kathleen: “love rules.” I know you know the feeling. Thank you for sharing the joy and blessings.

  21. June on June 22, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Congratulations to all! So are you called a Nona,Oma,Lola,Gran,Nan?
    It doesn’t matter what you are called. This new addition is a link to you. A link to your past. A child is a hope for the future. Blessings little one,blessings Lydia

    • Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I’m really old school, June. I just like “grandma.”

      Yes, Lydia shares an amazing maternal lineage that stretches, in two photos above, between 1839 and will go until Lydia herself reaches old age if she is so blessed. Could be as long as 2117 if she lives to be 100.

      Thank you for adding your blessing.

  22. Tracy Lee Karner on June 23, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I’m smiling my face off! Thank you for sharing all the photos.

    Congratulations to all, and may you be surrounded by love and beauty, always.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      I’m so glad for your smiles, Tracy. Thanks for joining the party. Love and beauty back to you.

  23. Sherrey Meyer on July 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    A hearty welcome to the family for Lydia Ann, and congratulations to all of you will walk along with her loving, teaching, directing, and protecting her. Each of us has a role in the birth and life of a newborn in our family. We may not know it on Day 1, but it will be shown to us as the baby begins to grow and its needs shine through. Enjoy many more days of loving Lydia Ann and all the other Ann’s!

  24. Rhonda Enzinna on July 6, 2017 at 2:36 am

    .Congratulations on your newest family member baby Lydia. Thank you so much for sharing your family pictures and joy. The baby is so beautiful. I also enjoy seeing Grandma. I can see from looking at her why your family members are all so good looking.

    I was blessed to know my great grandmother (who died when I was 19 years old). I got the chance to see how she enjoyed the birth of my son. Maybe that is why looking at the pictures of grandma playing with her grand child and holding the baby stoled my heart. My Great grandmother would have enjoyed looking at these pictures. She then, would probably have talked about the importance of knowing, documenting and sharing family history, as she often did. Your post brings good memories of my own family and joy to my heart. Thank you.

  25. Shirley Showalter on July 30, 2017 at 7:30 am

    July 30, 2017. My 69th birthday. Today’s Writer’s Almanac carries an Ellen Bass poem, “After Our Daughter’s Wedding” that describes the terror in the starkest terms. I considered sending on to Kate, but I don’t want these images to lodge in her mind so early in her motherhood. I decided to put the link here because it is such a good poem.

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