SALEM — When Rachel Sweeney went into labor Tuesday, her parents and her husband Ryan’s parents were eager to be a part of welcoming baby Grace Sweeney into the world.

But with Salem Hospital and its birth center closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was no way to make that happen. 

“I let everybody know when we got to The Birthplace that we weren’t allowed to have any visitors, no one in the waiting room, only my husband,” said Rachel Sweeney. 

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

After a long day of labor, the Sweeneys, both 33, were exhausted and still waiting for Grace to make her appearance. Then, they heard something. 

“Knock, knock knock,” Rachel Sweeney said. “They’re banging on the window.” 

Both her mother and mother-in-law, one of them on a ladder, were peering in through a window.

Outside, in the dark, were her parents, Deb and Keith Barker, and Ryan’s parents, Glenn and Heather Sweeney. 

“There was a privacy screen, so they got a ladder from my dad’s truck,” so they could see over it, said Rachel Sweeney. 

After Grace was born, the grandparents naturally wanted to return to meet their granddaughter. And they would have to do it the same way: Through the window. 

With so much sadness in the world at the moment, “we thought it would be a fun story to bring everyone some light,” said Rachel Sweeney. “The Birthplace just realized we were having visitors via the window, like a drive-thru. We have big families that are very close, and how else are they going to meet her?” 

For their first child (who was actually due on the 26th), the couple had hoped for lots of visitors and celebration. “We had to shift our expectations quickly,” said Rachel Sweeney. “We weren’t going to be able to have that experience we planned on.”

“That was our only option, and, our parents are kind of crazy,” she joked. 

Though Grace isn’t the first grandchild, she is the first girl on her husband’s side in a couple of generations, so “everyone was dying to meet her.”

By Friday afternoon, the Sweeneys were back home in their Salem condo. 

After Ryan Sweeney, a scientist at MIT, looked at some of the most recent research, he said the couple decided that just to be safe, they will also limit visits to their home. “That’s hard because you want people to meet your baby,” he said. 

“The hardest part right now is we have absolutely no idea when we’ll be able to be in contact with people,” said Rachel Sweeney. 

But because their condo is on the third floor, they aren’t planning any window visits. Instead, they’ll set up a tablet and maybe a WiFi-enabled camera so everyone in their families can see baby Grace. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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