Care and Feeding

Can We Ask Our Friends to Properly Quarantine for the Sake of Child Care?

I need someone to watch my 2-year-old when I go into labor.

A pregnant woman holding her belly, with a group of women laughing together in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I live abroad with our 2-year-old daughter, and we’re expecting a baby boy in July. Like every current and expectant parent, the pandemic has thrown us a real curveball. My parents had been planning to visit from the States for the birth of their newest grandchild, but of course, they had to cancel. At first, I didn’t worry too much about finding someone else to watch our daughter during the new baby’s birth; we have plenty of friends where we live, mostly expats like ourselves, who know our daughter well and could care for her. But as this period of social distancing has gone on, my husband and I are becoming increasingly nervous and frustrated. It seems that few, if any, of our friends are taking social distancing seriously, as they are often getting together with one another for play dates, small gatherings, or even larger parties. It feels condescending to say, but often it seems like we are some of the only ones really isolating ourselves!

I know social distancing is tough, particularly in a foreign country without much family around, but it seems so reckless. And from a selfish standpoint, one of my biggest worries now as my due date approaches is who will care for our daughter when it is time to go to the hospital. We have plenty of people we could ask and who would say yes, but given the amount of socializing they’re doing, I worry my daughter could easily catch the virus from whoever watches her and, in turn, infect us and the new baby. I know that my husband could stay home with her while I deliver alone, but I haven’t even broached this possibility with him. Of course, I selfishly want him there to support me, but also, how could I ask him to miss the birth of our child?

What is the best course of action here? Should we start vetting friends and see who’s been distancing themselves? Talk to some close friends who have been socializing and beg them to isolate more carefully in a couple of weeks to help us out? Resign ourselves to the only truly safe option of having my husband stay home with our daughter?

—Quarantine Quandary

Dear QQ,

I am so sorry that the upcoming birth of your child has been affected in such a drastic way. You should identify a few friends who may be willing to begin practicing proper social distancing habits a few weeks prior to your due date (I would suggest a month to be on the safe side—though, as you may well know, you should be prepared for the possibility that labor may begin at any time after the 34-week mark; ask your doctor for better guidance). Let them know how important it is to you and your husband that you don’t give birth alone, and that it would mean the absolute world for them to compromise their hedonistic refusal to protect themselves from a deadly virus in order to support friends during such a vulnerable time. (But don’t say the last part.) If they aren’t willing to be uncomfortable in the name of their own safety, it’s possible they are likely to see this sacrifice as a tremendous one to make on someone else’s behalf. And you could offer to help the person who takes you up on this request by covering delivery fees and tips for groceries, medications, and other essential items during the predetermined period of isolation, especially if they aren’t terribly close to you.

Alas, you should begin to prepare for the possibility that A) you don’t find someone you actually trust to take this stuff seriously enough, or B) you go into labor ahead of schedule and the designated person has not had an adequate period of isolation. I know it’s less than ideal, but it’s crucial to be ready for all possible scenarios and to keep everyone safe with an infant coming into your lives. Ask your doctor if there are any emergency babysitting services available via the hospital, but do consider that bringing your older child outdoors may expose her unnecessarily as well. Wishing your family the best for a safe, smooth, and uncomplicated event, and a healthy, comfortable delivery for you!

—Jamilah