“Are you Tyler Cheney’s wife?” I’ve been asked this many times over the past couple months while walking in the valley. The teeny baby strapped to my chest is the giveaway. Cornwall is a small town, so I must be the woman who recently gave birth in a barn—who else would it be?

I knew our life would change. For the past nine years I’ve called the Upper West Side home, making a living by planning events and going to the ballet any time my bank account would allow. Zabar’s was our only pantry and a second home. But the walls of our fourth floor walk-up felt like they were closing in around us as my belly grew bigger and bigger. An incessant water leak in the bedroom was the final kick in the pants: New York told us our time was up. Two months before my due date, we moved to Cornwall full time, the town where Tyler grew up with his three siblings and his parents Lynn and Hugh Cheney.

On March 4, Hugo Cheney came into the world and made us parents; a week later Covid-19 would make sure anything resembling our past life was definitely over. Postpartum is not what I had imagined. I’m mostly getting enough rest and now have a partner who is working from home full time, but my parents still haven’t met their first grandson. I am mourning the plans I made and hope my son won’t be stunted from being held only by his parents for months on end. Mostly though, I feel grateful for so much quiet time with this new little person, and for this community that has completely astounded me with its kindness and support.

Constance and Jon Old have let us stay in their beautiful converted barn—without hesitation—while we search for a home of our own. When we sheepishly told them we were hoping to have a home birth, Constance exclaimed, “I hope our tub is clean!” We’ve received letters and cards welcoming Hugo and numerous baby gifts, including a giant bag of goodies from the Cornwall Knitters! Debby Jones has started helping us furnish a house we don’t even have. This is a confusing and difficult time for all of us, but we are so fortunate to be together in this beautiful community that has embraced and enfolded us with open arms. Thank you, Cornwall, for making me feel so at home.

Brittany McAllister

📸: Photo submitted of Hugo Cheney with his grandfather Hugh