For a little over half of my life, I lived in Mennonite communities where, even when we didn’t live close to our families, our friends cared for us in so many ways. When I was so sick during pregnancy that I spent weeks on the couch, people brought us meals and cleaned our house.
After the baby was born, a single friend spent two weeks living with us, so she could help me care for our newborn, toddler and home. The church families brought food and mom-friends listened to my birth story. Our friends held our new baby and exclaimed about how cute he was. They gave gifts of diapers and clothes for the baby, new toys for our toddler, and even remembered me with chocolate, lotion, and new clothes. They offered advice when our newborn cried for hours every day.
Moms in the nursery at church normalized my experience as a mom. They were there to help me decide whether or not a rash was concerning and to encourage me that I was doing a good job. When I had a bad day I knew who to reach out to for encouragement.
We had people who celebrated birthdays with us and remembered us at holidays. A young girl from church would sometimes come play with our boys, so I could catch up on housework. I had friends who would get together for coffee and Biblestudy; it was always encouraging to me and helped me remember what was really important in life.
My husband worked each day to provide for our family financially. In the evenings he played with the boys and worked around the house. He also took care of bills and insurance and taxes. At night he would sometimes help by changing diapers and sometimes bringing the baby to me for a feeding, so I didn’t need to get out of bed. His support made it possible for me to be a SAHM.
Even though my family lived far away, they would call to check in on us and were encouraging from a distance. I often called my mom. It was so nice to know that there was someone who was always happy to hear from me and who was eager to listen to stories about the boys. She was there when I needed advice on parenting.
As we did life within community, we also had the security of knowing that our church family would rally around us if we were ever in a crisis such as a car accident, medical emergency, or house fire.
Wherever they are, moms show up with so much love for their babies, a desire for a flourishing family, and a willingness to do what it takes to get there. In order for families to thrive, we all need a network of people who provide support for moms and their families.
A TMC Mom’s Story
After I found out I was pregnant, my grandma told me I needed another place to stay because her house was already full. With one more person and another bed and all the stuff a baby needs, there just wasn’t room for all of us. I asked around until I found a place to stay for awhile or with whoever could let me sleep at their place.
My friend was at the birth with me. It was her first time seeing a birth, but I was glad she was there. I had an epidural, but they kept messing it up, so I didn’t get relief from the pain until close to the end. It was better after that. All the pain was worth it, though, for him. At the hospital they told me that I needed a car seat before I left. People had given me a lot of clothes for the baby, but I didn’t have a car seat. The social worker helped me get connected with a program who brought me a car seat and diapers and bottles and other stuff I needed.
After I had the baby it was kind of overwhelming. I don’t always know what to do when he’s crying. My mom helps when she can, but she has a job and other things she has to look after, too. She said I can live with her for right now. We all kind of help each other out. I tried breastfeeding for awhile, but it was hard and I was doing it all on my own. I use my food stamps to help by food for everyone, but it’s not enough for all of us and sometimes at the end of the month we’re hungry.
He’s two weeks old now. I can’t stop thinking about how much I need to go back to work because I need to make some money to take care of all of us. All these bills are piling up. I’ll probably go back to work this week.
I love holding him and having him next to me. It gets lonely during the day, too. I’m trying to stay away from the people who were pulling me down because I want to be better for him. My friends don’t hang out with me much since I had a baby, and I don’t have anyone to talk to. The other day my baby was crying and crying. He wouldn’t stop. Usually I can find something on TikTok, but I didn’t know what to do.
Sometimes I just need someone to tell me I’m doing a good job. I’m not sure what I’m doing all the time, but I’m trying the best I can. It’s hard, but I’m going to do what it takes to give him a better life than the one I had.
The moms we serve live in underserved communities where they have faced more challenges than most of us can imagine. God’s plan included care for mothers who are parenting alone. (See here and here) This is where the church has a wide open opportunity.
It is one thing to support a mom who is pregnant. It is quite another thing to continue to walk with her after the baby is born and to holistically support a growing family. Providing the comprehensive support system a mom needs after a baby is born may go beyond what one individual can provide. But what if you added into her support system the support you can provide through giving, volunteering, or being a friend? Imagine the change we would see if everyone helped in their own way to provide support for a mom?