|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.