Finding Community Support Postpartum in the Pandemic
Updated: Jun 14, 2022
Kith + Kin in Brewerytown, Philadelphia might look like just another indoor play space, albeit an incredibly zen and Pinterest-worthy one. But its founders, Eden Coffey and Jess Jones, have a loftier purpose in mind. Like EmmaWell, Kith + Kin took root in 2019 out of a desire to support postpartum moms and their mental health.
After bonding over the intensity of becoming new mothers and the struggle to find connection with others in this stage of life, Eden and Jess put their heads together to create a welcoming social hub where both little ones and parents could unwind and find a new best friend. Besides being a playful gathering spot, Kith + Kin opened its doors to the community with an accessible array of toddler classes, parent workshops, and support groups.
The specter of COVID-19 could have made their dreams come crashing down, but Eden and Jess swiftly pivoted and restructured their business for the new climate. Though their play space is currently restricted to small groups and private parties, their social calendar is packed with virtual offerings for new parents and outdoor family music jams in real life. Between juggling a newborn baby and a new normal for the business, Eden gave us the rundown on her personal experience and Kith + Kin’s evolution in the pandemic.
Congratulations on your new baby! What was it like both being pregnant and having a baby during a pandemic?
Besides the initial fear and anxiety of the unknown and what it would mean for me, my family, and my business, I really tried to take advantage of what was handed to me: time, and lots of it. My older son was out of school, so we got to spend the last four months of my pregnancy together - time that I would have never gotten with him - and for that I’m so grateful.
I had my baby at home under the care of a midwife and it was a wonderful, intimate experience with just my son and husband. It was amazing to be in the safety of my own home with my support system - an experience that I know so many birthing people can’t have in hospitals right now with the Covid restrictions.
Compared to your firstborn, how has the postpartum period been different this time around?
So different! I had bad postpartum anxiety after my first son. It took me months to feel comfortable even taking a walk or drive with him, thinking something could go wrong.
This time, I have so much more confidence, but I also know my triggers, and I’ve decided to face them head on. I was also more open to help, and my support system really showed up!
One thing I didn’t plan or prepare for was meals in the immediate weeks postpartum, but friends (even some I haven’t seen in years) were dropping food at my door almost daily. It was AMAZING.
What are your favorite things to do with your toddler?
I love hikes in the woods with my boys. The baby usually naps while I wear him, and I have the best conversations with my older son while we hike. Something about walking together and being in nature brings out the best conversations.
Do you have any advice for parents balancing the needs of a baby and older child, as you currently are?
That’s a hard one, and one I am definitely still working on. The first couple weeks, I thought I would never learn to balance my attention between both of them. It made my brain hurt to try.
But every day gets easier. And even if I just catch five minutes of alone time with my older son while the baby is occupied, it feels like an accomplishment and I get the sense that he feels the connection too and it is filing his cup as much as mine. So that’s my advice: take it one day at a time! Your family will eventually fall into a natural groove without it being forced.
What is Kith + Kin's birth story?
Jess and I met as new moms. We didn’t know many other parents in our neighborhood and instantly clicked. Parenthood became instantly lighter because we had each other for the ups and downs.
We dreamed of creating a community space where parents could find each other and access resources to make their journey a little bit easier. We also wanted to make a stellar play space for the kids, a real respite from city living.
Once we found the space, things started unfolding quickly. We sought out experts in the field of maternal and infant care and development, and we built up a team of providers ready to serve in our space. The community grew organically, and it's been really beautiful to watch.
What changes did you make to Kith + Kin after COVID-19 temporarily shut down the business?
The very first thing we did was move all of our support groups online. It was a really scary and uncertain time, and we wanted to make sure parents had as much support as possible.
We also made moves to stay as connected as possible with our community. We created a “Day In The Life” interview and had our followers take it so we could feature everyday parents and how they were handling the shutdown. That was really fun and I think helped us all feel like we were in it together.
We opened up a line of communication for everyone to share resources like diapers, cleaning products, toilet paper(!) - things that the stores were temporarily out of.
We also collaborated with an art teacher we work with to make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day craft kits to make those holidays still feel special. Slowly, we added other workshops and classes online as well, and it helped not only keep the support going but the spirit of Kith + Kin alive as well.
How do you think a new parent's reliance on community support has evolved as a result of COVID-19?
I think our innate human instinct is to be held by our community when we become new parents. Add the stress of a pandemic, and I think the need is tenfold. It is not possible to parent in silos, no matter what is happening in the world. There have to be outlets for human connection.
What are your thoughts on the "pod-like" play and support groups that have naturally cropped up due to social restrictions?
Honestly, in the beginning, it was a hard pill to swallow knowing that our support groups would go virtual, and that play would have to revolve around certain restrictions.
But, there have been some silver linings. For example, instead of getting the baby ready and having to jump in the car and plan around naps, parents in our support groups can join in from the comfort of their bed or couch. It’s easier to just show up as you are, whereas before there might have been barriers to getting much-needed support. I think humans are adaptable and have the ability to thrive in all conditions, so it’s been interesting to adapt as a parent and a business at the same time to our current situation.
How can new parents find connection with others in the same stage of life right now?
Definitely find a support group, and exchange numbers with those you feel you connect with! We have seen so many blossoming relationships come out of our groups. And we are definitely not the only ones offering services - there are some really amazing groups all over the city! Find what speaks to you, and get connected!
How have your efforts to decrease financial barriers to accessing your resources helped families in the community?
Pre-Covid, our “Parent Share” (formally known as “Onward Mama”) was a three-tiered initiative that provided discounts to ACCESS cardholders for all of our play and membership options, gave scholarships to parents interested in an educational workshop, and invited donations from the larger community to help alleviate the financial burden on families accessing our space and programs.
These days, we are using most of our Parent Share Funds to help with tuition to The Little Kid Club, which is our new day program for kids and working parents that includes play and co-working in our space.
Do you have any suggestions for parents experiencing social isolation?
Reach out! Text or call a friend, meet up and take a walk, make a connection with a parent crush on social media (I’ve made many new friends that way!) Express concerns with your care provider if you suspect you are suffering from or need resources for postpartum depression. You are not alone - please reach out to someone!
What can parents do at home to inspire fun, meaningful play?
I think nature has been our great shining light in all of this. Getting outside over the summer saved so many of us from the extreme cabin fever of the early lockdown. Now that it’s getting colder, dress for the weather and stay outside! It holds endless opportunities for play.
Bring found treasures from the outdoors in, and make art or start a collection. Have a dance party, learn a new recipe, redecorate! These are really challenging times and our kids feel our stress. Connection right now is so important. Even a couple minutes can reset both parents and kids and remind us of what really matters.
With Warmth and Wellness,
Your EmmaWell Team