After two months of anxiously weighing the risks of letting my parents and in-laws hold my newborn son in the midst of a pandemic, I finally caved. Here's why my husband and I felt like it was the right time.

By Lex Goodman
July 14, 2020
Grandfather holds his grandson for the first time.
The author's father, Nelu Ardeljan, was the first grandparent to hold her son, Grayson.
| Credit: Lex Goodman

My family was quiet about their desire for grandchildren when my husband, Mark, and I married, but they showed it in obvious ways. My dad and stepmom bought a child-sized Tesla toy and my mother-in-law promised to make personalized baby quilts. So when Mark and I told them we were expecting our first, they promised to visit and babysit and buy him as many cute outfits as we'd allow.

Then coronavirus hit at the end of my third trimester. And Los Angeles, where I live, was soon in lockdown. Suddenly, Mark and I shifted our conversations from where our first adults-only trip would be to when we might feel comfortable letting our parents hold our son. Typically, hell hath no fury like a grandparent denied their right to nuzzle a newborn, but at the advent of the virus, all rules went out the window. It wasn't just about our son Grayson's safety, but also theirs.

It all felt abstract until I crossed the threshold into our home after giving birth. The realization that there were no reinforcements arriving to help while I physically recovered immediately dawned on me. That left me and little Gray to figure one another out without the help of my husband's retired nurse mother, doctor father, and educator sister—not to mention my newly baby-obsessed parents.

Once we found our rhythm (as much as you can with a newborn), the question of when and how everyone would meet Grayson arose. Our family was understanding of my hesitation. Never ones to hold back their opinions, they were uncharacteristically quiet about their eagerness. Ultimately, both sets of grandparents and my husband's sister met Grayson from a respectfully cautious 10-plus-feet apart in our yard about two weeks into his life. Although they were far enough from him that they could barely make out his face, I was anxious in the weeks that followed. What if, despite the distance and the masks, someone had become infected due to our decision to ease up just a bit?

More weeks passed, then a month. I found myself starting to desperately need a nap, a free hand, and a glass of wine. I considered the likelihood of any of us becoming sick if our parents held our child. It seemed low, considering we'd all been careful. But, because I'm often a worse-case-scenario person, I continued to avoid the hanging question.

Eventually, while I remained in my newborn cocoon, lockdown began lifting in Los Angeles at the time, and the outside world began turning again. My parents went to dinner. The moms in my mom group started bringing in outside help. My mother-in-law gently mentioned that it should be fine to hold Gray as long as everyone thoroughly washed their hands and donned a clean shirt and a mask. I continued my obsessive reading of the news, looking for any answer about when it might undoubtedly be safe. No such answer existed.

The author's mother-in-law, Jan Goodman, holds Grayson.
The author's mother-in-law, Jan Goodman, holds Grayson.
| Credit: Mark Goodman

Finally, during a 3 a.m. nursing session ahead of Father's Day, something inside me said it was time. I've always struggled to find a gift my dad will actually like, but this felt like a sure thing. So, on my husband's first Father's Day, we passed the baby to our parents. I was still nervous, but thanks to my 2-month-old son's smiling face, I found myself feeling, dare I say, optimistic.

Watching my husband hand our little boy to my father (who has never been a fan of children but now calls almost every day to check on Gray) was one of the highlights of my life. Not even the Bane-like face mask my dad donned could hide his joy. When Gray smiled up at him, I felt a sense of relief wash over me. We had made it through our first two months as parents with no help. My husband and I were no longer alone in this.

After everyone had gone, Mark and I agreed that we had waited for the perfect amount of time. There are no one-size-fits-all answers in this new COVID-19 world, but for us, it felt like the right time. Now, if I need an hour to myself or an extra set of hands, I can call in the reinforcements. Finally, I can focus on (a.k.a. worry about) typical new-parent things, like sleep stretches and diaper counts.

When I take Grayson to see his grandparents now, I'm amazed at how easily he smiles with them—even with the masks. I never thought I'd see the day when my dad changed diapers or my step-mom wiped spit-up off of her designer dresses without a care. I've watched these two "we're not fans of babies" people fall completely in love with my little boy. And the feeling is mutual­­­­­­­­­­. He's positively elated when he's in their arms.

The same goes for my in-laws. My father-in-law breaks out into giggles when Grayson sits in his lap and my mother-in-law and Grayson have adorable babble conversations like old friends. She's even made a sweet habit of giving him a toy or stuffed animal from my husband's childhood collection each time she sees him.

With our parents fully ingrained in our son's life, Mark and I are looking forward to a summer of distanced pool days and barbecues instead of one spent completely alone in our home. And when my husband jokingly asks if I'm sure I want more children, I always reply that it can't be much harder than welcoming your first child in the height of a pandemic. Let's hope I'm right.