Me (4) and my little sister (2)

When my sister and I watched The Business of Being Born, it helped us to articulate the instincts of our hearts around birth. And as any good Canadian, we also watched with interest to see the government solutions or programs in place for mothers. After all, even though we’re not the best in the world, we feel very fortunate to have our 15 weeks of maternity leave and our 35 weeks of parental leave (which can be split between both parents) giving a mother an entire year off with her new baby. We appreciate our hospital system, our legal home births, our midwifery model of care (particularly in our neck of the woods with the incredible program running at UBC) and supportive communities for breastfeeding and natural parenting. We have felt very supported as mothers in our family values by our extended community and our government’s policies. There are still changes that could be made but we do feel incredibly fortunate.

We were struck by a service offered in France though. In an effort to combat the rise of post-partum depression, the government will send a doula to you, not only for the birth but for afterwards. They show up at your house to do your laundry, light housework, grocery delivery, help with breastfeeding, pick things up and generally serve you in your home, once a week for a while.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?! we said to each other. Our government should totally do that.

Then, a few years later, here we are. I’m swollen with Tiny #3 and she’s just 7 weeks post-partum with her second little girl. This little tribe we’re raising doesn’t know the difference between cousins-brothers-and-sisters. We’re both on maternity leave and so we talk every day and then almost every other day, she’s here or I’m there or we’re at the park with a gaggle of babies. We push the littles on the swings while talking about the Rob Bell thing on Tuesday, we talk about the mission of motherhood and sometimes it’s nice to have someone that doesn’t judge you for being a big baby yourself. Sometimes she calls me at 7 in the morning and says, “yeah, we’ll be there soon – today is not a day to sit at home.” We bring each other food and she watches my tinies while I go to the registered massage therapist for some post-accident treatment. We swap books and stories and frustrations, the rules are the same at her house as at my house and let’s take some time to make fun of ourselves while we’re at it.

We’re sitting on the floor at my house and it looks like a toy bomb went off and she says, thoughtfully, “You know, I’ve been thinking about that thing in France. Do you remember? How to help combat post-partum depression they sent helpers or ministers to the home of the new mum? To do her laundry and help around the house?”

Of course, I do. That would be amazing. Our government should totally do that.

She meets my eyes and says, “I think that’s what community is supposed to do. This. Not just the laundry and the cleaning of your bathroom thing (but that’s nice and thanks). But this, what we’re doing here.  No wonder so many women struggle before and after birth. We’re so alone in our world. So connected, always connected, but somehow, feeling so isolated and alone.”

I can’t even imagine doing this – from the miscarriages we’ve experienced to this carrying life, this birthing, this mothering, this transformation, this living in the tension of it all – alone. I love my husband and I love my tinies. But I need the ministry of women, too.

I need my sister, who has been my life long best friend, every day. I need you there. I need someone to read what I write and I need to read what you’re writing. I need my friend, Susan, who showed up at my house with her two sweet girls to play and fully laden grocery bags with lunch for us all as well as a freezer supper for later. I need my friend, Sarah, to meet me for a movie and a fatty dessert once a month. I need my sister and I need my mother. I need Megan at work to laugh at my terrible jokes.  I need my old friends that I only see on Facebook because we’re scattered around the world now. I need my Auntie. I need Nish and Megan, Stephanie and Ashleigh and faithful commenters like Sarah R., Madelyn, Anne (no, not my daughter!) and Ed – these other “not real life yet” friends.

I need Jesus with skin on.

As I’m walking through Lent this year in 40 Days of Community, I’m realising afresh the ministry of community, particularly for women, as we mourn and rise, keep and bless, nourish and pray for each other. There are many that bash on women – they say we’re catty, that they “just don’t get along with women” and prefer men because “they don’t play games.” And that may be true, I don’t know.  But I feel healthier and better, stronger and blessed for the women in my life. I don’t always find these women where I’m supposed to, like in church, even though I know they’re there. I find you everywhere and here we are and sometimes you don’t need to overthink it, you just need to participate in it.

And we should totally do that, shouldn’t we? It feeds our own soul to bless another mama, to say hello to a neighbour, to show up at your sister’s house and do a load of laundry, to weep with those that weep and laugh with those that laugh. It feels like it starts small but it adds up, these small moments turning into a big gorgeous story of love and community.

I’m sort of a socialist but even I know that no government program can replace a true friend, a true sister and true community.

Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. Proverbs 18:24 (Msg)

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In which [it is Lent and] it is enough to be waiting in the cold
In which God uses the "foolish" things to confound the "wise"
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  • Sarah R

    Amen, Sarah! You’ve illustrated why I love the blogging community that I’ve found. Even though I don’t have my own blog, I still feel connected to the women who do have blogs and I have learned so much from all of you. I love knowing that someone, somewhere, is experiencing similar feelings as I am. It’s so supportive.

    • It’s hard to explain sometimes how it *is* a community but once you’re in, you get it. Now about you and your blog… 😉

  • Love it! Your posts almost always are my thoughts written out in a better way than I could ever formulate… my 3rd baby is 11 months now and there may be another in the near future… and I’m so happy that I have a few of those friends that just pop on over and wash my floor or my dishes or clean the bathroom or watch the baby so I can sleep… etc… they ROCK!! And we should ALL totally do that!

    • Those friends are worth their weight in gold. It’s ministry not just to our physical needs but for our spiritual ones as well. Such a blessing!

  • Unfortunately, I’m usually surprised that going out of my way just a little bit for someone can have such an enormous impact. Ministry to one another often takes the form of small things in our daily lives. Thanks for sharing your story, as I know it resonates with many of us. If only I could convince myself that I’m not the most important person in the world… 😉

  • It is very hard to do it alone. It would be amazing to have friends like that! I’m just glad I have my online friends, maybe someday I’ll get better at making friends in real life. Right now I just have a tendancy to feel guilty and “apologize for breathing” as my husband puts it. No one in our family offered to help after our last birth, or this upcoming birth, but I will be forever grateful to our church for bringing 2 weeks worth of meals. Cleaning? Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen! Lol!

    • “Apologise for breathing.” Sounds familiar. it’s a hard thing to admit you have needs or you’re not always a “shiny-happy-Jesus-girl.” I’m sorry your family is still having a hard time reconciling your growth and change but yahoo for meals! And if I was there, I’d be scrubbing your tub, friend!

  • This makes me feel sobbish.

    We should totally do this.

    Thanks for getting it. Wish I could come post-birth-doula for you for REAL, but it sounds like you have a wonderful network in place already.

    • I love that word “sobbish.” Totally a real word, despite the red squiggly line underneath it. We should totally do this. And we will do this. Someday, right?

  • “I’m sort of a socialist but even I know that no government program can replace a true friend, a true sister and true community. ” That is my favorite sentence in this post.
    Wonderful. And yes. We should all totally do this.

    (also–tell your husband, although I am sure he knows: spring football practice has started! Go Big Red! –fellow dyed-in-the-wool-Husker-fan)

    • This might be Brian’s favourite comment on my blog EV-AH! Ha! He’s been glued to a site called “Husker Max” for all of the details of recruits etc. Very excited about the upcoming season, indeed.

  • Yes! I remember reading “What Every Mom Needs” when I was in the throes of prenatal depression with my second and all of a sudden realizing that my husband couldn’t be everything for me. I love him desperately, but he could not replace community. When I allowed myself (a total social butterfly who always had a huge circle of friends) to recognize that it was okay to need more than just my husband, it freed me to be a better wife, mother & woman.

    I’m not sure where we got the idea that we need to go it alone, but we need to beat that one back! Community matters. Friendship matters. Thank you for this beautiful reminder!

    • I think it’s part of our individualistic culture which thankfully we’re starting to realise isn’t true. It does, in fact, take a village not just to raise a child but to raise a mama, too. I haven’t heard of that book before, Alise…thanks for mentioning it.

  • Wow. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. It blesses me tremendously and gives me hope and inspiration for better community in my life.

  • tracey

    Great post. I just have to add that we live in the Netherlands, and they have the same program, different name. Amazing.

    But you’re right. It’s no replacement for the community of friendship.

  • And now I’m sitting here, a teary mess. Yes, yes, yes – Jesus with skin on. The community of women. Us.

    I love you. You are my people.

    Also? Our commune is gonna rock the world.

  • Melissa Brotherton

    Yes!! Yes! This! And those people who want communes are called hippies. 🙂 I just want a group of people to do life with. Maybe I need to start my own commune. Haha!

    • Communes do sound quite lovely somedays, don’t they?

  • I really enjoyed reading this post, Sarah. In this so-called modern world of global technology, people are becoming disconnected with each others needs. Community should be about standing up for each other and serving each other to the best of our abilities. My daughter goes to the Vancouver Waldorf School and I’ve recently committed myself to cold calling parents at the school that I’ve never met in an effort to bring the community more together. Picking up the phone really isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and I’m meeting all sorts of new and interesting people. Cheers, Sarah, and take care.

  • Arianne

    Catching up on you today. This was beauty. I have relationships like you do w/your sis, but none are here local. It’s so hard!

  • Stephanie

    I need you too, Sarah Bessey. Thanks for being an inspiration, a friend.

    P.S. How many siblings do you have? How far away does your sister live? Do you share similar parenting philosophies? I’m curious.

    • Just my one sister (like your girls). She’s only 5 minutes away (and she lives just down a hill from my mum and dad so we’re all right here – very much on purpose). We are kindred spirits, for sure. We shared a room all through growing up and were even university roommates. We’ve always been best friends but since having our babies, it’s even better.