Social Distancing with a Newborn: It Takes a (Virtual) Village

They say, “it takes a village.” 

I’m not entirely sure who “they” is, but I am sure they’re right. 

It’s one of those cliché phrases I have heard my entire life. A statement you hear over and over and eventually take for granted. Like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” –it sounds obvious enough, so why bother pointing it out? At least that’s how I felt about the “village” until I found myself socially distanced and desperately needing it. 

In a time when physical connection is off the table, clichés have come out in full force. During separation we’re all grasping for meaning and unity. For some (like me) this can come in the form of cheesy mantras and sappy quotes. Words are undeniably my love language, so each quote about happiness, self-worth, patience, human connection, etc. resonates.

However, instead of resharing every last one and clogging up my feed I internalize them, play them back in my mind on repeat, and hope it makes a difference. I also tell myself that after all this I won’t take the most basic human interaction for granted ever again. This is a promise I intend to keep. 

Distance is hard for all of us. It doesn’t matter if you are old or young, single or married, surrounded by children or a new mom, or anywhere in between… social separation doesn’t discriminate.

Personally, I’ve always defined myself by my relationships. I actively subscribe to the belief that “no man is an island” and live my life constantly connected to other people. We exist for one another, to build each other up and generate more together. It’s my core belief that relationships are what the world is all about. And, that the point of it all is to be with each other. 

Two months ago, I became a mom. Suddenly every cliché ever has become a foundational truth. All the statements I’d heard other mothers use for years became facts. It’s true—I’ve never loved anything more, all my priorities have shifted, and you best believe I need my village.

But then, nearly 2 months ago we entered an unprecedented time of social isolation. At first, I pretended the whole world was merely joining me on maternity leave. It was easier to avoid the news, stay in the bubble of our home, and tell myself that the world wasn’t changing. However, denial only lasts so long, and eventually, you have to stop lying to yourself and ask for what you really need. Especially during the most unexpected moments. 

For the first month of her life, I hadn’t been aware of the community that surrounded us. I blame sleep deprivation (but seriously that sweet beginning daze makes it hard to do much else besides stare at your beautiful baby, so reflection and awareness time is minimal). I was grateful for all the visitors, all the love that surrounded us, but the subtle moments of comradery and support became a given… and one I quickly took for granted.

Watching my mom hold my daughter while I sat and listened to stories from her experiences as a mother became part of our daily routine. Dropping by a friend’s house or going out to lunch with my new +1 became the new normal. We were constantly with other people, sharing our joy with them to multiply the baby bliss. Passing Grace into someone else’s arms and watching them light up, interact with her, and connect with both of us became a lifeline. One I didn’t recognize until it was severed in this time of distancing. Now, each day we remain apart, that line continues to feel thinner and thinner. The casual everyday moments I took for granted have vanished. 

Whether you’re a new mom or not, connection doesn’t look the same as it did a month ago. So, what do we do? 

How can it take a village if the village can no longer exist?

We can’t go back to what was, not for the foreseeable future at least. But we can decide what will be. And while it may look a little different than what was, we can build the world we need. A virtual village of sorts. Stay with me on this…I’m making it up as I go. 

With the reality of a physical village being out, let’s build our virtual village with the same intention. Like any solid relationship, it needs to be founded in shared commitment. Here are mine, I invite you to join me, all are welcome in this cyber community:

I will curate the content the comes into my village.

This means opting to only follow the “mom” accounts that offer positivity and purpose. 

I will connect meaningfully with other moms.

Meaning I will reach out to the mothers I know who inspire me, who keep me sane, and who I know will respond with kindness no matter the hour or absurdity of my questions. In return for their insights, I will do my part to build them up too, appreciate them, and offer humor and support where I can. 

I will ask for help.

Yes, help may not come in a physical form at the moment but there are other ways to catch a break. In those hours where our darling daughter is screaming in my face and I cannot kindly hand her to grandma and take a breather, I will call my mom instead. (Another true cliché, a girl always needs her mom). 

I will document the days.

For a lot of families, this distance means missing moments. To keep all our grandparents connected I will continue to make a conscious effort to grab photos and videos daily. We’ve been using an app (23 Snaps) to upload all to so family can comment and share.

I will tell our story.

Before this, all started my mother-in-law gave me a stack of journals to fill in the days and months with our daughter. Making time each day to capture a memory or feeling with her brings purpose and importance to this chapter of our lives. 

I will make the call.

Similar to asking for help and connecting with moms this is a reminder to pick up the phone. Even if there’s no question or need, just to hear another voice and have adult interaction. Babies are great entertainment, but they tend to be terrible conversationalists. 

I will find my escapes.

Part of the village concept is having others who can give you a break or step in, in quarantine you’re flying solo. Finding outlets, like reading, to be part of a world bigger than your own brings sanity. 

I will control my response.

At 2 AM when you have to hype yourself up to get out of bed and walk into the nursery putting a smile on your face may be the furthest thing from your mind. I’m not telling you what to do, but I will say that small effort makes all the difference. We cannot control our babies, but we can choose how we show up for them. I know my girl picks up on all my feels, so stepping into her space with positive energy as much as I can bring us both joy. Plus, it helps remind me to stay present.

Most of all, I will not wish time away. Yes, right now is far from ideal, but it’s also the only now we have. It’s the only time my daughter will be two months old. It’s the only time she will smile and coo for the first time. It’s the only time I have to be just the 3 of us in this bubble, and remembering that is the only village I need. 

This is my grace period.

And I intend to soak it up. 

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