Jewish Baby University Fosters Lifelong Connections…Virtually
“When the pandemic hit and we heard that JBU (Jewish Baby University) would be virtual, I wasn’t sure that we would be able to foster relationships with other parents the way prior in-person groups had.” – Jamie Shapiro.
Becoming a parent for the first time evokes a handful of complex emotions — happiness, surprise, excitement, fear…if you’ve been there yourself, you know what we’re talking about. There’s truly nothing like the emotional rollercoaster we associate with being a new parent.
Now just imagine welcoming your first child during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the reality for many 2020 parents, including one first-time mom, Jamie Shapiro. Jamie had enrolled in JBU in anticipation of welcoming baby Alina in June of 2020 and, to put matters simply, things didn’t go as planned.
Having heard of our renowned JBU program from several friends who had previously participated, Jamie was thrilled to meet other expecting parents and form lifelong connections for not just herself and her husband, but the child they were anxiously waiting to meet.
But as we know, COVID-19 reared its catastrophic head in March of 2020 and just like that, Jamie’s vision for her own JBU experience changed overnight. JBU, along with all other JCC Denver programming, went virtual.
When asked how she felt at the time, Jamie openly shared that she was disappointed.
“I got pregnant later in life than most of my friends, so I was really looking forward to participating in JBU one day when we finally got pregnant.”
By going virtual, Jamie understandably feared her experience with the program wouldn’t be the same.
“My friends who had participated made great connections with other parents and that’s what I was looking forward to the most with JBU. When the pandemic hit and we heard that JBU would be virtual, I wasn’t sure that we would be able to foster relationships with other parents the way prior in-person groups had.”
Thankfully, despite the initial shock, things quickly took a positive turn. Virtual JBU became the perfect space for this particular group of expectant parents to grapple with and manage the reality of having a child during a pandemic. Throughout the program, they were able to, “support each other through the anxiety of being pregnant during such uncertain times.”
Additionally, the JBU curriculum was notably helpful in assuaging the group’s shared anxiety around giving birth in a hospital that had the potential to be overrun with COVID-19 patients.
Jamie shared that the medical professionals who presented to JBU were able to share COVID protocols in the hospitals so the parents could “mentally prepare for protocols such as testing, masks, and what would happen if someone tested positive.”
But the sense of community didn’t stop in the virtual JBU classroom. This particular class decided to extend their virtual communication whenever possible to build a stronger sense of support.
“We set up some Zoom calls outside of the class times so that we could try to establish a sense of community because this was something we all wanted through JBU.”
After Virtual JBU ended and each family welcomed their new additions, the group maintained their connection through alternative digital means.
“We used WhatsApp to stay connected and this was quite effective. We created a group for all parents and then a group of just moms and we used it to ask each other questions about our babies’ development, support each other through challenges and sleepless nights, and share ideas for problem-solving and products/resources.”
Each family understandably had different risk tolerances as they tackled a pandemic world with a newborn, but eventually, these virtual connections were able to meet in the “real world.” As you would expect, it was a day to remember.
“Our first in-person meet-up was in August of 2020 when the babies were 1-2 months old at a park. We all wore masks and tried to physically distance ourselves, but it was so great to finally meet in person. We’ve had two other large group reunions (around their 1st and 2nd birthdays) and smaller groups of us have gotten together for walks outside or other activities.”
And wouldn’t you know it — J programming ultimately became another avenue for this JBU class to reconnect and continue their unique connection.
“Several of us also attended Baby Cafe and joined the JCC Fourth Trimester Facebook Group. Both of these are fantastic free resources for JBU participants after the baby comes and gives parents a chance to meet families from other JBU cohorts.”
It’s been two years (almost to the day!) since Jamie welcomed her first child with the help and support of JBU. In those two years, Jamie welcomed another bundle of joy — a baby boy born on February 24, 2022.
As she looks back on this period of time filled with unknowns, Jamie fondly remembers the support she was able to receive and the community she was able to build with virtual JBU.
“It’s wonderful that we are still in touch with and see each other two years later. Although contact with each other via WhatsApp is less frequent than in the first year after having the babies, we still reach out to each other to check in, ask questions, or plan a get-together. Now, three of us have second babies and are connecting over having babies in the newborn stage again and managing that with a toddler!”
Jewish Baby University is offered four times a year so please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the cohort that is right for you.
We recently added Jewish Baby University 2.0 for families expecting their second or third child. Visit our Family Page for more information about all the programs for young families.