The idea behind a meal train is to allow your community to schedule a time to bring you food during times of healing, grief, or celebration. Food is a symbol of love, of met needs, of connection. It’s a resource to care for ourselves, our families, and our friends. It’s a reminder to slow down and to tend to our bodies. Naturally, it’s a great way to welcome support during postpartum.
I highly recommend setting up a meal train for yourself as you/your family recovers from birth.
Boundaries & Meal Trains
Receiving a meal from a family member or a friend does not give them unlimited access to you and your baby. It doesn’t even need to guarantee them any access to you and your baby.
Postpartum is an incredibly delicate time in the life of a person who gives birth. Taking care of the mother/person who gave birth should be the #1 priority during this time.
The community’s focus should not be on the baby, it should be on supporting the partner or the person who gave birth so the new parent(s) can focus on caring for the baby.
When sending out your meal train/announcement email, use that space as a place to lay out all of your boundaries. Then, place a cooler on your front steps/outside of your door & a sign on your front door. Let your community know that if the sign is on the door, they should just leave the food in the cooler because the family is resting.
Another option is to put a sign on your bedroom door. That way if people want to come in an help clean, they can do so and you can still maintain your privacy.
Setting Up Your Meal Trains:
There are lots of websites that offer easy meal train set up. We used mealtrain.com, but if you give a quick search online, you’ll find lots of options. Using an online scheduling service is a great way to make meal delivery & dietary instructions accessible and easy to understand.
Another option is to appoint a point of contact. After being hospitalized, our friend Amber stepped in as a point of contact for us. All of the folks who wanted to help us, bring us food, offer cleaning support, or any other gift, contacted Amber to set up delivery. Plus she was able to keep everyone updated throughout my time in hospital so Daren & I could focus fully on healing & parenting.
Amber put out a request call to the group anytime we needed something and was able to pull in resources from those who had space to give. She brought us meals at the hospital and filled our fridge & freezer with food from our friends for when we returned home. At a time when we didn’t have much energy to write emails or texts, when we couldn’t keep track of who knew what, Amber’s support made a massive difference.
Before going into labor, it’s a great idea to consider who your point of contact would be if anything were to happen.
Here are some things to consider before asking your ideal point of contact:
Do you feel safe with this person?
Is this person reliable/punctual?
Do you feel comfortable being vulnerable with this person?
Can this person listen deeply without offering unsolicited advice?
Would this person respond well to your boundaries/needs in the moment?
Do you feel comfortable being naked in front of this person? (you never know what situation you might find yourself in or who might see what if it’s an emergency.)
Would you feel comfortable with this person in your home when you’re not there?
Have a chat with your ideal point of contact before going into labor and ask if they would be available to hold this space for you if anything were to happen.
Digital Meal Train:
Along with our meal train for our local community, we also decided to create an online meal train. Daren and I have lived many places throughout our relationship which has left us with dear friends all around the country and world. So many people wanted to be a part of our support team after Daelu was born and really, we needed all the help we could get after I got sick!
Our digital meal train was focused on helping us keep our pantry stocked. For this, we simply created an Amazon Wish List with all of our ideal pantry items and I can’t begin to express how important and helpful this was! We still had food from our digital meal train 3 months later!
Sending Out Your Meal Trains:
Before going into labor I made sure everything was prepped and ready for my meal train. I wrote out the emails for both our local community and our community at large, added all the links & documents, compiled all the email addresses, and saved it as a draft. When Daelu was born, Daren added the relevant information that we couldn’t prep ahead (like birthdate, weight, length, etc.) and sent it off to our community.
We waited to send the meal train info until it was time to make the birth announcement to ensure that meals would be delivered during postpartum. If we had sent it out ahead of time with our ‘guess date’ (how I refered to my ‘due date’ because all due dates are really just guesses), there’s a chance some meals would’ve arrived while I was still pregnant. Daelu came early (49w5d) so we would’ve been okay, but for mamas that may go 2-3 weeks or more past their guess dates, I imagine receiving meals early would be a bummer. Yes, it’s helpful during late pregnancy, but I found meal support to be vital during postpartum.
Remember, you’re allowed to set your boundaries and make requests for support in your most ideal way.
You’re not being too much or unreasonable, you’re being clear. There’s a difference. People who aren’t accustomed to boundaries may flip out a bit, but know that has nothing to do with you. And in fact, by standing your ground, you are helping them learn what’s available to them too.
If someone isn’t able to meet your boundaries or offer support in the way you’d like, they don’t have to. Being clear up front will go along way when you’re in a vulnerable space.