When Lindsey Elliott woke on April 5, the beautiful weather made her feel sad. She had expected to spend that day surrounded by friends and family at a shower for the birth of her first baby with husband, Tim. But the COVID-19 pandemic meant she had to cancel it. The couple had experienced three miscarriages and really wanted to celebrate their son, who is due on June 5.
As they sat on the couch, Tim suddenly told Lindsey she needed to see something in the garage. As the garage door rose, Lindsey saw a line of beeping cars driving by, covered with blue balloons and signs congratulating them.
“I just lost it immediately,” Lindsey, 32, of Madison, Wisconsin, told TODAY Parents. “It just felt really good. We had 24 cars and it was really good that all these people had gone out of their way to support us.”
Tim, a reporter at WMTV NBC 15 in Madison, worked with friends and family to plan the surprise drive-by baby shower and Lindsey felt thrilled by how special it was.
“Everyone was saying, ‘I’m sorry we couldn’t celebrate the way you wanted,’ but I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she said. “They did create some sort of normalcy … It just made me feel loved.”
As Americans social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hosting a group for baby showers, first birthdays and welcoming a new baby home can’t happen. Yet, many families still want to celebrate their happy events.
Take Tara Erlinger and husband Jim. The couple tried for years to have a baby and lost three children to miscarriage. When they learned she was pregnant and due March 16, 2020, a year and a day after her last loss, they thought the “timing was just beautiful.” When it became clear that a delivery with friends and family crowding the waiting room could no longer happen, the Erlingers improvised.
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“We just made certain that we had publicized every moment,” the 41-year-old from Pittsburgh told TODAY Parents. “My husband is quite the storyteller. So whenever he would post pictures on Facebook, he would caption every picture to let them know exactly what was going on, exactly what we were thinking, exactly what we were feeling.”
When they returned home with baby Thomas, they felt moved to see friends and family had decorated the house with signs and balloons.
“It felt welcoming for us, but heartbreaking in the same aspect because you just want to be able to have your parents see the little one,” she said.
The couple takes the baby over to their parents’ homes and show off Thomas through windows or sits at the edge of the yard with their parents on the porch.
“We don’t want to get close because we don’t want to be in jeopardy. He’s only three weeks old, he doesn’t have much of an immune system,” Erlinger said. “But, oh boy, this child is totally celebrated.”
In January, Becca Gregory started planning a huge first birthday party for daughter, Luna, on April 5. She had booked a restaurant and purchased decorations for the theme, “Wild One,” which included safari animals and prints. About a month ago, Gregory realized she had to cancel the event.
“We decided to have a virtual party,” the 33-year-old from Pittsburgh told TODAY Parents.
About 30 people joined a Zoom meeting, many wearing party hats, and sang “Happy Birthday” to Luna and watched her eat her smash cake, which Gregory made from a box mix.
“I cried last week when I was buying cake mix because we weren't going to get her a big fancy animal cake,” she said. "It was hard but at the same time it's not like we're ever going to forget her first birthday because it was something totally unexpected."
While the party wasn’t what Gregory imagined, Luna had a blast.
“She was dancing and just had a good time,” Gregory said. “It gave us all something to look forward to with all the sadness in the world. It was just nice.”