Shortly after we found out I was pregnant, COVID hit and suddenly everything changed when it came to my ideas about how friends and family would help my husband and me as new parents.
My husband couldn’t even come inside the OBGYN building, so how were friends and family supposed to travel and assist us during this exciting and life-changing time?
I was only allowed one person in the labor and delivery room with me, and I had to wear a mask.
And, although I didn’t want anyone other than my husband in the delivery room, I do wish my parents could have come into our hospital room.
I wish they could have seen my daughter in those first few moments and days and held her. Their first grandchild.
But instead, they met us at a local park on my discharge day from the hospital and admired our little girl from a distance on a blanket. With masks and tears in everyone’s eyes because it was happy and sad all at the same time.
They waited to hold her; they waited to kiss her. Everyone did.
It was hard, but we were trying to be safe and protect her little immune system from the unknown.
I was on a complete roller coaster of emotions those first few days and weeks, and although that is normal it never really went away for me and that is what postpartum depression is.
If you want to learn more about my journey with postpartum depression, you can read this letter I wrote to myself.
How it could have been better.
Because COVID aside, what was hard about our situation (what is still hard sometimes), is that my husband and I don’t live near any family or friends.
So, during the newborn stage, we didn’t have many visitors because visitors really meant overnight guests. And we didn’t want overnight guests during that time.
People kept asking how they could help, but I didn’t know how they could. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sleep well. I was drowning and how could someone possibly help us from hours away?
I wish I had found a list like this somewhere on the internet during my endless Google searches during those first few months postpartum.
I know there are countless others in my situation that don’t live near family or friends or a local support system.
There are so many parents that try to do everything on their own. But you don’t have to.
There are so many ways to help new parents from a distance, particularly during the newborn stage, and the below list is a good place to start!
I wish I had thought of this before we gave birth because having something like this planned out already for at least those first two or three weeks would have been so helpful.
Sure, I made freezer meals, but you still had to do things with those freezer meals (like remember to thaw them, lol).
People frequently do meal trains after babies are born or loved ones pass away, but they are almost always on a local level (meaning people sign up for different days and times to drop off food at your house).
I’ve never seen a “virtual” meal train, but that’s exactly what we needed during those first few weeks.
We needed family and friends to help from a distance by ordering dinner from places in town and having it show up at our door.
The few times people did order us food it was amazing!
But, since it wasn’t planned, we had to help figure out the logistics for those people (where to order from, what to get, etc.).
If we had just done some planning before the baby arrived and made a Meal Train calendar it would have made such a difference.
We could have had restaurants and meals picked out that we liked, and people could have signed up for our “virtual meal train” to have food delivered to us.
Meal Train even has ways to just donate funds or send gift cards through Grubhub, DoorDash, and more.
I wish I had thought of and organized something like this before the baby was born because it is such a great way to help new parents from a distance.
Although having out-of-towners come down after the baby was born was hard, on the flip side, having people come down BEFORE our daughter was born would have been so helpful.
COVID muddied that for me personally, but now that things are getting back to normal, I think having family or friends down before the baby arrives is such a big help.
Have them come for the weekend and help you assemble the crib, make freezer meals and snacks, sort through baby clothes, and wash everything.
All those things are so time-consuming, and I wish I had people down to help with these things ahead of time.
If anything, at least for the conversation and company it would have provided.
I know everyone wants to see the baby, but sometimes the best way to help new parents from a distance is to help prepare and support the soon-to-be parents before the baby is even born.
This can go along with a virtual meal train, but one good thing that has come out of COVID is online grocery pickup and delivery.
It is everywhere now, at every grocery store. And online grocery ordering is awesome.
I personally order groceries online at least once a week to go pick up. It is so handy, especially with a young toddler and working parents.
But, during the throngs of the newborn stage, I wish someone would have just texted me one time and said, “Hey, are you running low on groceries? Can I order some fruits and vegetables for you from a local grocery store?” And, I probably would have said, “Yes, through Walmart, please!”
Grocery shopping for someone else doesn’t need to be hard or complicated.
At the end of the day, just get some fresh fruits and vegetables, maybe some type of grain (like bread), and call it a day. You don’t have to ask someone for a list of what they normally get at the grocery store.
If $30 worth of produce showed up at my doorstep, I would be so happy with whatever was in there. Because most everyone likes bananas, apples, berries, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce…all the things you probably consider staples in your fridge.
Don’t complicate online grocery ordering for someone else, just ask what store they typically visit and order some things. And, doing something small like this is a great way to help new parents from a distance.
Also, on my list of things I wish I had thought about before the baby arrived is cleaning the house.
But you just don’t know (or maybe we are naive as new moms?) how time-consuming having a baby is.
Aside from not caring (which I totally do way more of now, lol), having a maid come and clean the bathrooms and the kitchen counters once or twice during those first few months would have been amazing.
And I wish I had thought to tell this to someone when they asked how they could help my husband and me as new parents. Even just one visit from a maid during those first few months would have been so nice.
But it didn’t occur to me that this was a way someone could help us from a distance during the newborn stage.
So, if someone from afar asks how they can help, ask them if they can hire a maid to come clean for a few hours, seriously.
Or better yet, put it on your baby registry!
If I saw something like this on someone’s baby registry, I would contribute some money to that fund in a heartbeat because I’ve been there and know what it’s like.
Everyone wants to know how the baby is, how mom is, how the family is, what the baby looks like, if the baby is sleeping okay, how breastfeeding is going, what was baby’s weight gain like at the doctor the other day, has the baby smiled yet, and on and on and on…
It’s just because they love you, but boy is it draining.
Pick one person (or maybe one for each side of the family between you and your partner) and have that person be the point person. The one who gives people updates or sends pictures.
Even better, offer to BE that person for your friend or family member; it’s a great way to help new parents from a distance.
Ask for phone numbers or email addresses of important relatives and friends before the baby comes.
Send an update to everyone once or twice a week with some new photos or ways you can help the new parents from a distance.
Having just one person to talk to about the baby is SO much easier than 20.
I know you want to talk to everyone yourself, and I know everyone else in your life would much rather hear from you directly than from Cousin Rachel, but don’t add that stress to your plate.
At least for the first few weeks. Don’t worry about updates and talking to everyone. It’s not forever and they will understand.
And, if you truly want to be your own pinpoint person, then pick some type of social media or photo-sharing application and use that.
Tell family and friends that is where you are going to post pictures or updates about the baby for the time being and leave it at that.
Don’t do anything extra or make exceptions for Great Aunt Clair who doesn’t have Facebook.
You can’t cater to everyone and at the end of the day, people will understand (and your parents can probably text or email those Facebook pictures to Great Aunt Clair anyway).
And, way back when I was first born (you too probably!) we couldn’t even share pictures on a cell phone…cell phones weren’t even a thing!
So, keep that in mind too.
We survived for hundreds of years without daily or weekly or even monthly baby updates.
Despite all these virtual ways to help new parents from a distance, people are still going to want to come visit and hold the baby, it’s just what happens when there is a baby.
So, after all the virtual help, when the inevitable visit does happen, just ask people to stay in a hotel.
Unless you have enough room in your house with a dedicated guest space (both bedroom and bathroom), having people in your house can be a challenge, especially when there’s a new baby in the mix now too.
And if money is an issue, maybe you can offer to help financially if you are able.
Or just try to prepare ahead of time.
Work out and plan the visit months before the baby is born, that way family has enough time to book a hotel and get a decent price as well as save up or allocate money if they need to.
There are so many ways you can help new parents from a distance during the newborn stage. Even sending a self-care gift box to a new mom is a great idea.
And as new parents, don’t be afraid to ask people for help, even from afar. Family and friends often understand more than we give them credit for.
They will get it if you don’t want visitors, but still need help from a distance.