Meals for new parents is food for the soul

When I had my first baby, one of my friends coordinated a meal train where coworkers could sign up to bring our new family a dinner every other night. Those first few weeks of motherhood were such a chaotic blur that I do not even remember how many weeks this meal delivery went on for except to say that it was both long enough and over too quickly. There was an awkwardness in accepting such gifts every other night that made me grateful when it was over, but they were so generous, and delicious, that I also wished they would never stop.

While I delete almost all of the old text messages on my phone (obviously to make room for more pictures of my children), there are two that I have saved for the past five years. One of those text threads is from a co-resident who texted me from the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to coordinate a time to drop off my dinner. Afterwards, he followed up with this text: “Just carved my bird and the thighs a little undercooked despite pop up timer. If yours is same sorry. Just bake thighs and legs in Pyrex at 350 degrees for 20 or 30 min when u want to eat them. Enjoy.”

There are three reasons why I love this text so much that I saved it for five years.

1. Every time I read this text I remember how delicious that dinner was as if it were March 22, 2011, all over again. It was amazing. And the thighs were not undercooked at all.

2. No one understands sleep deprivation better than a resident or new mother. So I love that my co-resident knew the level of exhaustion I felt and gave me a dummy’s guide to reheating food. He basically typed, “I know you can barely spell your name, so let me make this as mindless and easy as I can to prevent you from burning down your home or ruining the dinner I made you.” Now that I am an experienced mother of two children who sleep through the night and no longer taking 30-hour calls, it makes me laugh every time I read this instructional text.

3. This one little text reminds me of how much love those first few weeks of parenthood brought us. All of the stress prior to my delivery regarding my work schedule seemed to wash away as my co-residents rose up to care for us through their cooking. Every dish delivered felt like a warm hug (and many did come with hugs!), and whether the food was as delicious as that one chicken or was the fifth lasagna, each was devoured and appreciated. Some delivered meals without getting to meet my son, as he was still in the NICU, but cheered me on during what were two of the most challenging weeks of my life. As co-residents, we endured many emotionally draining experiences, so they knew what inner strengths and weaknesses I possess and how to support me.

About a year ago, I saw from my kitchen window a former resident and his wife carrying their newborn baby home for the first time. I remembered fondly the meals that were given to me at this time, so I quickly cooked up a homemade soup and ran it down the street. No matter how simple or unsophisticated my culinary skills, I decided that I should not hesitate to replicate the meal-sharing love I received during that time of my life. These meals can be an invaluable lifeline to new parents, who despite an overwhelming love for their newborn can feel alone and a hot meal between friends is the best way to cure loneliness. Despite the possibility of undercooked thighs, one such meal, and text, has endured as a memory of how thankful I am to have had a community that fortified my soul when I was hungry.

Katie Lockwood is a pediatrician who blogs at Mommy Call.

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