The fall of 2019 was clearly a busy time for many couples, judging by all of the babies I am seeing making their appearances this summer. It’s a super weird time to have a baby, and even though “quar-times” feels pretty similar to living in perpetual newborn land, there are definitely things that are different about having a baby right now. Seeing friends go through it and gearing up to have our own new little one in August, navigating this stressful transition in the new landscape has been on my mind. It’s a scary world out there for parents who are in that fragile newborn stage, and it’s made even scarier by the threat of COVID-19. If someone you love is having a baby during this strange period, how can you help?
Be Prepared to Quarantine
If your bestie, sister, brother, or cousin wants you to visit when the baby comes, they may ask you to quarantine leading up to the time of birth, or while you are spending time at their house. If you aren’t on board with doing this, let them know. If something comes up, check in with them to see if they are comfortable with it before making a decision. There are also many people whose jobs require them to physically go to work right now, or for other reasons may not be able to strictly quarantine. Communicate about your situation and be up front so that parents have all of the information they need to make the decision that works best for their family.
Respect Whatever Boundaries They Have Chosen
One of the most difficult things about this time is it seems like there are not hard and fast rules around what feels safe. Some people are staying home as much as possible and wearing a mask everywhere they go. Some people are living life pretty much as they were before, and everything in between. Parents with a newborn have to set boundaries around keeping their new little one safe in the best of times. They may ask those who are coming to see the baby to get vaccines, delay trips if they are sick, not bring older children, etc. These risks can seem even more scary right now, especially for new parents. If your friend tells you they only feel comfortable seeing you outside six feet apart with a mask on, or that they are limiting all visitors until a later time, respect that decision. And PLEASE PLEASE do not give them a hard time about it. Newborn land is already difficult enough with the sleep deprivation and fear of exposure without parents getting judged by their loved ones for the decisions they are making.
Food, Food, and More Food
Food is everyone’s love language when it comes to caring for new parents, but it is even more important right now. When every trip to the grocery store or to get take-out is a potential risk of exposure, the less parents with a newborn have to leave the house, the better. Ask if you can drop something at the doorstep, or get food delivered to them. If you are going to the grocery store, ask if they need any staples. Offer to pick up a curbside order for them. One silver lining of this time is a lot more restaurants are doing take out, which increases the variety of food available to send. Also check in two or three months in to see if they could use another meal. Typically the attention is dying down at this point, so they may not be getting as much support as they did initially.
Bring Entertainment for Siblings
If the family has an older child, you know they have already been struggling trying to keep that child occupied during this time. That may increase significantly once their newborn is here taking up more of their attention and potentially limiting the places they can go. While you are dropping off food or sending a gift for the baby, throw in something that their older child can do to stay occupied. A new movie, book, toy, video game, craft, etc. Parents will love you for it, and in the transition to the new baby, siblings need some love too.
Check in More Often, and for Longer
Having a newborn already feels so isolating. All of the days run together, your life is a haze of eating and trying to sleep in small increments. You are cut off from your typical social groups, work, or support systems. With COVID on top of that, those days are even more isolating. Texting, calling, video chatting, or sending mail to tell them you are thinking of them can make the time less lonely. Just like food, social interaction is a need that will likely go on even after the first month or two, so keep checking in even after that initial time has passed.
This is a scary time for all of us, but especially those with vulnerable little ones. Give a little extra love to anyone you know with a newborn. It takes a village, even if it’s a digital one right now.