Days Before Surprise Baby News, Barbara Bush Shared Her Future Plans and the 'Silver Lining' of 'Unusual' Year

The former first daughter, who welcomed a baby girl on Monday, told PEOPLE last week that living with her husband and her parents during the pandemic offered rare and "beautiful" downtime

Days before giving birth, Barbara Bush talked to PEOPLE about her plans for the future, what it was like to live with her parents this past year and tearfully remembered her "Gampy," the late George H. W. Bush.

While Barbara, 39, remained mum that she was expecting, word of her pregnancy was just around the corner. On Monday, she welcomed daughter Cora Georgia, her first child with actor-writer husband Craig Coyne; her parents announced the news on Tuesday.

Her PEOPLE interview last week was on another subject — the annual George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards celebration, which she co-chairs. (The event, honoring change-makers, will be held Tuesday night in New York City and streamed online.)

During a chat with twin sister Jenna Bush Hager and their cousins Lauren Bush Lauren and Wendy Wear Stapleton, all co-chairs of the awards as well, Barbara looked back at her life and work amid COVID-19, the lessons she's learned and what's next.

Pre-pandemic, the Global Health Corps board chair had been in Boston for graduate school — then she and Coyne hunkered down with her parents. Barbara told PEOPLE last week they were recently on the move though, having "spent the majority of the last year" at the Bush ranch in Texas.

Her sister was quick to interject. "They live in their basement," Hager joked.

"That's not true," Barbara said.

"Metaphorically, you do," Hager, 39, added.

Okay: "Metaphorically, we live in their basement," Barbara, 39, said. "We always lived in their basement metaphorically, but on a literal standpoint, we did live with them for the majority of the past year."

But the couple's time at the ranch had come to a close.

"That's a big step, moving out of your parents' house when you've moved back in, in your 30s, but we're doing it," Barbara said.

As it has been for many people, navigating the pandemic was a challenge for Barbara and Coyne. But she says temporarily staying with her mom and dad, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, was a "silver lining."

Barbara Bush and Craig Coyne
From left: Craig Coyne and Barbara Pierce Bush. Jamie McCarthy/Getty

"We thought it would be for a handful of weeks," Barbara said. "We didn't anticipate that it would be for the majority of a year. But it's time that we never otherwise would've had."

"There's something really lovely about the simplicity of being with someone every day," she said, adding, "We could have quiet moments with them and we would take the dog for a walk after dinner every night."

In hindsight, it was a precious period of peace.

"The downtime of just being together has been really beautiful," she said. "I know it's something that I'll always remember and likely will never have again. That's been a real bonus during what has been an unusual and complicated year."

Barbara said last week that she and her husband were in Maine for the moment — where she gave birth on Monday — but have plans to move back to New York City, where she won't be too far from her sister.

In a joint statement announcing the birth of their grandchild, the former president and first lady said Tuesday that Cora was born "not far from our family home where Barbara and Craig were married [in 2018]."

"Cora is healthy and adorable, and we are proud and grateful," the Bushes said in their statement.

Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush. Nicholas Hunt/Getty

Speaking with PEOPLE, Barbara — who keeps a lower profile than her Today co-host twin — was focused on spreading the message about her beloved grandfather's legacy, which is being honored at Tuesday's Points of Light Awards gala.

"This is not a quote from our grandfather, it's from Mr. Rogers: 'Look for the helpers,' " she said, admitting that she was "tearing up" thinking about the late president. "I feel like this past year and a half has been a good reminder to look for the helpers, which is, of course, why we're honoring those that will be honored."

"I think many of us thought at the beginning of this year, that this year was going to look different," she continued. "Of course, that's not exactly what happened, which is why it's so important to ... look for people that are trying to stay positive and serve others and make a difference in whatever way they can. Obviously, that was incredibly important to our grandfather."

The former first daughter is devoted to her own good works. Before the pandemic, Barbara traveled often for her job with Global Health Corps, which she co-founded. She hopes to get back to international travel when it's safe.

"It's been really healthy to be grounded, but a big adjustment. I miss my colleagues," she said. "Our work has not been slow at Global Health Corps. Unfortunately, this past year has really showed why we need more great creative, young leaders solving problems in global health. If anything, it's been a validating notion of why this work matters."

As Barbara explained, "I'm really looking forward to those reunions. Zoom is great and being virtual is great, but I miss laughing with people and having meals with people and just spending time together."

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