Finding a Virtual Village – New Parent Support during COVID

We moved to Seattle a little over 7 years ago with very few local connections, and certainly none with young children (outside of my niece and nephew). So when we got pregnant with Julia, I relied on word-of-mouth from co-workers to help me find my village.

Everyone recommended we join PEPS. Their most common offering is the newborn group, which offers 12-week sessions for families to connect over the joys and challenges of new parenthood. We opted for the evening group, which includes both partners, although daytime groups for one parent (typically the birth parent) and other affinity groups are becoming more available.

Our experience was amazing. Even though some of the 8 families from our group have moved away, we still keep in touch with most of them either virtually or in person (pre-pandemic). Our first-time facilitator was also fantastic and her cheery and accepting attitude made sharing feel easy and natural.

I always wanted to return the favor and lead a group myself, but work schedules got in the way and then I got pregnant with James and the timing wasn’t right. Jump forward to late 2019 and I finally signed up to lead a group. I had gotten into the groove of full-time motherhood with two young kids and craved being able to give back and hold a newborn without having to wake up every 2 hours throughout the night.

Of course, you know how this story continues – the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything that could went virtual, which included support groups.

Personally, I felt some grief about not holding newborns or enjoying connections over dinner and drinks with the families, and also apprehension about leading a group virtually. I’m terrible at phone calls and avoid Skype/video chats like the plague. Not to mention – how could I provide a shoulder to cry on for parents going through new parenthood and a pandemic without being physically present?

After leading my first ever PEPS group (spoiler: it went really well, despite being entirely on Zoom; I just started a second group), I got to wondering whether other potential facilitators might feel the same way. I pitched an article to ParentMap about my experience in case it would help folks off the fence and onto Zoom.

My editor encouraged me to broaden the scope and I went down a rabbit hole of finding amazing organizations supporting Seattle-based new parents. Organizations, facilitators and participants shared their experiences navigating the pandemic with a newborn and I got all kinds of warm fuzzies thinking about how human connection can still happen virtually.

The article for ParentMap went live this week (link here). I would love for you to read and share it with a newly expanding family in your life who might be searching for support.

Note: The header image is from one of our first post-PEPS meet-ups with our old group – one family hosted a “Books, Bubbles and Babies” party. I miss getting together with families so much.