I recently gave birth (yay!) during an unprecedented pandemic (boo!). Despite the craziness of giving birth, having a kid in and out of quarantine, and not having any family fly in because of travel restrictions, I still felt love and support from the people in my family and community. This came from some in the form of well wishes and cheery messages, and from others in the best form of all: FOOD!
Meal trains are a unique expression of support for new parents; they are both thoughtful and practical. It can help new parents in myriad ways, some of which people may not realize.
Meal trains can do the following:
- Allow the birth parent to rest and take care of baby
- Help mitigate the “baby blues”/ feeling lonely post-birth
- Help the birth parent take time to get help for postpartum depression when applicable
- Emotionally support new parents who weren’t able to have visitors in the hospital
- Physically support new parents whose family can’t fly in to help (due to the pandemic)
- Give the non-birth parent more time to lend extra support to the birth parent
This is relevant to all new families, whether it’s a first child or not, an easy delivery or not, a singleton or multiples (though I am constantly in awe of people who raise multiples!) Some ways the non-birth parent can help out with their extra time now that they don’t have to worry about cooking and cleanup from dinner include doing laundry, dishwasher loading/unloading, cooking other meals of the day, helping with the other kids, and taking care of the baby. The meal train helps the birth parent have time for taking a nap, taking care of the baby, resting, having a shower or cup of tea, going on a walk, and feeling generally like a human being again (the toughest goal of all in my opinion).
In addition to being a huge chesed for the reasons listed above, for three days after giving birth a woman is treated as a dangerously ill person and Shabbat is desecrated for everything that she needs, whether she says it’s necessary or not. From Day Three to Day Seven, the Shabbat is only desecrated if she says it’s necessary. From Day Seven on, we don’t desecrate; rather, until Day 30, she is treated as a non-endangered sick person. (Shulchan Orach; Orach Chayim, 330). For the three days after birth, this includes even lighting a candle on Shabbat for a blind woman (who does not directly benefit from the light). If a woman who has recently given birth is considered a dangerously ill person and helping a woman who has recently given birth overrides the mitzvah of Shabbat, we can understand how great is the mitzvah of making a meal for a woman who has recently given birth!
From a practical perspective, do ‘mommy meals’ have to be expensive? No way! Time-consuming? Not at all!
The best way to make a meal is to double or triple up an easy crowd-pleaser you’re cooking for your own family. Some simple options I’ve given or received include pizza delivery, kosher takeout from Shoprite, taco night, and pasta with meat sauce. I actually made an enormous pot of pasta with meat sauce for two mommy meals recently, and still had enough leftovers to feed my family multiple meals … this magic was made possible by my 3-year-old eating plain pasta for dinner as she is wont to do.
When people take the time to sign up for meal trains in the middle of a pandemic, the thought and effort are heartwarming. In our case, it was also rather entertaining since three of our mommy meals were dropped off by families where the mom was pregnant—and it warms my heart that a few weeks later when some of their meal trains went out, the community was there for them as well. If you have the opportunity to be part of this precedented mitzvah during these unprecedented times, I highly recommend it!
Tova Morrison, CPA, is an accountant and newly minted mom of two, living in Fair Lawn. In her spare time during the pandemic she enjoys long walks inside her home and spending lots and lots and lots of time with her kids.