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The threat of contagion has made visiting those in hospitals difficult, even when the one in the hospital is there for an event so common that every human that ever existed on this planet has experienced it at least once — birth.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, expectant mothers and other patients are allowed only one visitor. Wanting to be present for the birth of their grandchild, Lynn and Steve Onstot implemented a creative approach suggested by their daughter Monica to cope with the restrictions in an upbeat way.

While they waited for their oldest daughter, Sarah, to give birth to their grandson, they set up a tailgate-style party in a portion of the Mercy Hospital Joplin parking lot. With a view of the window of the birthing room, the family broke out folding chairs, blue balloons and a determinedly buoyant attitude as they waited.

“We already knew at the beginning of the summer that just one person could be in the room with Sarah, so that’s when I sent the idea to (Lynn and Steve),” Monica said. “I sent it mostly as a joke at first — it seemed like something my family would do. And they ended up liking the idea. We knew what room she was in, and so we picked a spot where we knew she could (look down) and see us.”

That portion of the hospital’s parking lot erupted in cheers Thursday afternoon at the climax of the vigil, the birth of a healthy baby boy. The hospital staff was so impressed with the approach to the challenges of the coronavirus restrictions that Mercy is looking to cordon off an area for a baby tailgating zone. According to Kathy Schoech, director of women’s and children’s services at Mercy, the Onstots’ party was “really the talk of the entire hospital.”

“We’re in the process of designating a tailgate zone — we’re having signs made up ... (encouraging) families to come out and celebrate like this,” Schoech said. “Some people may actually bring their grills out; we just want people to make great excitement, lots of fun and good memories out of this. Our goal is for (people) to routinely look outside and see this.”

Baby tailgating demonstrates that a family can deal with the pandemic with humor and poise while still observing the precautions necessary to keep people safe in the time of COVID-19.

It is an approach we would all do well to emulate.

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