Dealing with a pandemic would be so much easier if we had solid answers to any of our questions. Will we be safe if …? Can’t we just …? When …? Even when scientists give us what they know so far about COVID-19, their answers might change in the next week. That’s why when it comes to very emotionally charged issues like whether it’s safe for grandparents to visit their newborn grandbabies, it feels like we’re all left to make up our own coronavirus rules as we go along.
We could see this in action on the U.K. parenting forum Mumsnet, where the mother of a 3-week-old asked others whether their parents are meeting their newborns during stay-at-home orders.
“My baby is 3 weeks and hasn’t met anyone obviously, and we plan to do this until guidance changes,” CandleFlames wrote over the weekend. “I’m just wondering if anyone has had anyone meet their baby from outside of the household. Just interested, no judgement!”
We were curious too. Because our first instinct, given the fact that older adults are the most vulnerable to virus, is to say, “Hell, no! Those grandparents need to stay the eff home!” This is on top of our instinctive desire to cocoon and protect newborns from all visitors for the first weeks of their lives, tradition and well-meaning family be damned.
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Never imagined the first time my parents would meet my daughter would be through a sliding glass door. ❤️⠀ ⠀ When we had our daughter a few weeks ago both of my parents were sick with COVID-19. They were quarantined at home, and very quickly as things with COVID escalated all of our plans for support for birth and postpartum changed. I was feeling nervous for both of them and very nervous for how the first few weeks of postpartum would look.⠀ ⠀ Fast forward to today, they are both recovered and feeling healthy and the first few weeks with our baby have gone mostly well.⠀ ⠀ This is not what any of us expected. These times are challenging. I’m not immune to these challenges. I’ve cried about COVID, worried about my parents and all the others who are sick, lost sleep, grieved over the postpartum l had planned and more.⠀ ⠀ But I’ve also witnessed the kindness of strangers, the amazing care of hospital staff and midwives. I’ve seen healing, had a positive birth experience, felt love and prayers from others, and experienced amazing friends and family helping from a distance. ⠀ ⠀ These times are scary, hard, AND there is still good, light, and joy. ⠀ ⠀ Did I plan for my parents to meet their grandchild through a sliding door? No. But am I thankful that they could be healthy enough to meet their grandchild through a sliding door? So much yes.❤️❤️❤️⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Whatever emotion you are going through today, know it’s ok to feel it. It’s ok to feel the grief or the joy. You are not alone in it, we may be apart but we are in this together!
But this is no black-and-white issue. For one, the science is iffy on coronavirus and babies. There are studies showing that children experience only mild symptoms if any. Others revealed that newborns, whose immune systems are still developing, might be vulnerable after all. According to the CDC, infants younger than 1 year old make up 15 percent of pediatric COVID-19 cases, but also only .3 percent of all cases (they’re 1.2 percent of the total U.S. population). Just three infant deaths linked to the virus have been reported in this country — but three is too many, especially when you’re a new mom reading those stories. On top of this, health officials in Switzerland decided last week to believe a study showing that young children rarely pass on the virus, declaring hugs from little ones safe for grandparents. But that study is far from definitive, so many remain skeptical.
There’s also the fact that for many families, grandparents are a reliable and necessary source of support and childcare. They may already even live with the family, leaving little room for social distancing.
The answers on Mumsnet reflect exactly this range of options.
“I have an older child, and the plan was always for my parents to come take care of him when I went into labour so my husband could be my birth partner,” mynameisntlouise wrote. “We still went ahead with this plan last week. My parents got to spend the day with my toddler, and we were home the same day, so they saw the new baby when we got home briefly.”
Nelliepig outlined her plan: “Due in June and my dad has taken 6 weeks off work (my mum is disabled so at home all the time anyway) 2 weeks before my due date and then 4 weeks off after, so because they will have been self-isolating, we will be letting them see the baby. My boyfriend’s parents, absolutely not. If they don’t wanna use their holiday to isolate, then they can’t bitch they haven’t met the baby. Absolutely depends on the circumstances and people will make different choices for what suits them.”
“I gave birth in April and nobody has seen the baby,” CycleWoman reported. “I even ended up giving birth without my partner as we didn’t want anyone else coming to look after older [child] as none of our family has been properly following social distancing rules. It’s really sad that you don’t get to share the joy and have extra helping hands. However, I’m really enjoying the lack of interference!”
Three generations of social distancing as my dad meets his grandson for the first time 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/uyHHgBBXxb
— Emma (@emmabethgall) March 21, 2020
Several reported having their parents or in-laws greet their new grandchildren from outside their homes or at a safe distance in driveways and gardens. Some, who live far from their parents, have kept things strictly on video chat for now.
“The minute the lockdown rules are relaxed enough to allow family visits, I will be visiting my parents, followed by my in-laws,” RhymingRabbit3 shared, sparking a bit of a debate as moms wondered why she was more concerned with the rules than with the health of her parents and baby.
For every person who declared that their parents were safely quarantining themselves to make visits possible, there is another chiming in to mention someone they know who contracted the virus despite isolating themselves. Does this sound like a version of conversations you’ve been having with your friends and family too?
This seems like a good time to point to the wise words pediatrician Cara Natterson, MD, gave us a few weeks ago when we picked her brain for coronavirus health and safety advice.
“The most important take-home message for anyone is that the recommendations keep changing, and there isn’t really one right answer,” Natterson said. “If everyone does their best and no one judges, we’re doing better than if people weren’t trying their hardest.”
Even if you’re keeping grandparents away from your newborn, you can have them help you buy some of these essential products for babies and kids!