Posts tagged sisterhood
Sisterhood Rising
And last week I saw Cameron Diaz at Fred Segal, and I talked her out of buying this truly heinous angora sweater. Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.
— Elle Woods
They say nothing lasts forever, dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
— Carrie Bradshaw
Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.
— Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

There are countless movies portraying sisterhood and the bond that we share, spanning everything from outfit advice to motherhood tips. But have you ever felt it: the kind of sisterhood that touches your soul? It pulls the laughter from the depths of your belly, makes your sides ache as the tears stroll down your cheeks, and you release uninhibited snorts of laughter. Such a jubilant form of happiness!

For many generations, women have supported one another and been each other's backbone. Prior to any feminist movements, women were forced to rely on men for the sheer purpose of survival. We were grouped together for tasks such as serving and taking care of others children; so many friendships were pushed upon us by circumstance. I believe the sisterhood so many of us have is presently built far differently than friendships and sisterhood of the past.

Now, more than ever, women are becoming the primary providers for their families. We are juggling the boss from hell, the bills that pop up for things you didn't know you had bills for, the never ending bake sales, and wanting to be the best mum ever. It all requires the support of a tribe. We could easily exist in our own homemade bubbles of the cycle of life, but we choose not too. We choose to seek one another out like lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

Think about the time spent with your own girls: Sunday morning coffee, weekend brunch once a month, or maybe a regular girls night together. What traditions help you thrive?

As a little girl I hungered for Tuesday evenings when my mum would have girls night with her sisters. They would stumble into the house, legs too sore from an hour of “keep fit” at the local high school gym, but giggling like teenagers over how they couldn't move like the “good old days”. I would sneak out of bed and hide behind the door, listening to their stories until one of them would notice me, and beckon me in. I probably stayed ten minutes at the most, but the memories are etched so clearly in my heart. I was in love with their bond, and I wanted to wrap myself up in it like a cashmere blanket. These women had found one of the keys of life. Making time for themselves lifted their spirits and gave them confidence, not just as women but as mothers, too.

Many cultures around the world embrace women. Our succulent personalities, the ability to release our emotions fearlessly, or our never-ending curves that give way for new generations, not to mention the vivaciousness with which we protect our children. Nonetheless, we are often met with resistance in our supposed land of the free. If we are too passionate about a work project, we are labeled as an emotional wreck. If we reject a man’s advances in a corporate environment, we must be PMS-ing because let's face it, who wouldn't want to be with an overly aggressive type-A male who stands far too close to every female colleague, eyeing her like a piece of meat.

This is why I tribe.

Finding a space for us to be women and partners, in addition to being mothers, is essential to our well being. There are scientific studies that show a woman has a higher chance of survival during an illness if she has a tribe. We need a group of sisters that are connected by soul. There is a clarity one feels after talking to a girlfriend. We can feel the sun shining brightly on us even in the midnight hour of our girls night.

My sisterhood is a tribe of women who move my soul each time we meet. Sisterhood saves you from pain, and at the same time allows you to relieve someone's troubles. Sisterhood is a friend that calls you out on your rubbish, a friend who tells you how proud she is when no one else does. She knows when you’re struggling and is connected so deeply she is able to feel your pain as her own.

We are in an age where the world is in its adolescence, struggling to find the way and travel a good path. Now, more than ever, each of us needs a strong sisterhood.

Surround yourself with friends who remain by your side, in sunshine and in shade.

JOURNALIST: Natasha Badkoubei

Community

Our daughter Saoirse entered our lives in the early hours of a December morning. We were surrounded by people: doctors, nurses, and a bleary-eyed med student roused from a couch somewhere to deliver our baby. The last thirty-nine weeks had all been in anticipation of this moment; her body mottled and slippery being placed on my chest. I watched my husband Andrew reach to touch the thick, dark fur that covered her head, felt her little heart beating fast against my warm skin. We had waited for her, and now she was here.

“So, what exactly do we do?” I asked Andrew later in our hospital room. We sat side by side on the edge of my bed, eyes fixed to our child sleeping in her bassinet.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”

It wasn’t much, but I felt reassured. In our ten years together we had managed distance, job changes, family health issues, and our own three-year struggle with infertility. He was right, we would figure it out. I moved closer to him on that hospital bed, our knees lightly touching. I saw our daughter sigh, and I was happy.

But while happiness was my prevailing emotion, there were other things I struggled to articulate beneath the surface. Together in that room, just the three of us, I felt the full weight of the twenty-two hour drive that separated us from our closest friends and family. We had been away for years, the distance wasn’t new. But sitting there, watching the rise and fall of Saoirse’s chest, I felt an almost primal need to be surrounded by the women in my life. Geography made it impossible however, and so I focused instead on how grateful I was for the supports I did have. I had a hospital of kind and attentive staff, local friends who would have been there in a second if asked, and of course, Andrew.

I didn’t think about it again until later, lying in my hospital bed, exhausted but unable to sleep. I picked up my phone and scrolled through the messages that had come in while I was in labour. There were hundreds. Some were direct texts wishing me well, while others were photos or memes to make me laugh. But what constituted the largest section of these messages was a group text in which some of my girlfriends and family members were participating. In it they talked back and forth about what they thought might be happening, interspersed with commentary from Andrew like, “nothing to report so far,” and “hey, she’s kind of busy right now.” I smiled as I scrolled through. Reading my mother’s concern for a potential 30 hour labour, following along as my sister told her to put down the phone if she was going to write things like that. It was all so funny, and beautiful, and so them. While I had been bringing Saoirse into the world, this group of women had been closing a circle around us. Their love and support wasn’t hampered by our complicated geography. By the time my daughter drew her first breath, these women, and the other women in our lives, had already begun the work of building us a community. A community of women that I have found myself relying on again and again during my first year of motherhood.

It is a year that has gone by quickly. I was always dismissive of people who told me that time moves faster once you have children, but it feels true to me now.  The last twelve months of my life feel like a memory I can’t place; a blur of discovery, and exhaustion, and joy. But within this cloudiness, there are moments of great clarity, and many of them involve the women closest to me.

Twenty-four hours after Saoirse was born my sister flew in to see us. She was the first person to give her a bath. She dressed her in blue and pink at the same time and whispered, “there, that will confuse the patriarchy.”

Both grandmas visited in those first few months. We built a repertoire of lullabies, and favorite books, and neither of them offered advice I didn’t ask for.

My sister-in-law (along with Andrew’s brother) flew out to see us at Christmas. I didn’t want to impose, but she took Saoirse eagerly. She dressed her, changed her diapers, and reassured me that I was doing just fine.

When Saoirse was six weeks old I hit a sort of hormonal precipice. Our guests had started to ebb, and the loneliness that often accompanies new motherhood was setting in. Right when I was feeling my lowest, two of my closest friends flew in from two different parts of the country to be with us. One was pregnant, while the other toted around her four-month-old baby. It was the dead of winter, they had other obligations no doubt, and yet here they were on my doorstep.

When Saoirse was four months old we took her overseas. We traveled to seven different countries, and at times it was stressful. In Portugal, Andrew’s older sister came to visit. In her company I felt relaxed and happy. We drank wine and chatted about life. I felt my old self returning.

In Scotland we visited my aunt and uncle. A skilled knitter, my aunt helped me make a sweater for Saoirse, bright red with grey buttons. She stayed up late knitting pieces so that we could complete it. I think of her whenever Saoirse wears it.

By the end of that first summer of Saoirse’s life we were done traveling, but we still had a month to stay with family before returning home. We spent quality time with Saoirse’s other aunties: Andrew’s sister and my brother’s wife. Both women were very much in the same stage of life as us. Mothers to babies and toddlers they still found time for Saoirse, and to chat with me about motherhood.

I could write pages about these women, and the other women in my life who I am grateful for. Women who are the type of mothers I want to be. Women who are child-free but have lovingly and ungrudgingly accepted and embraced Saoirse’s place in our lives. The past year has been amazing, and hard, and made infinitely easier by the love and support that has been given so freely.

It is this support that carried us over into fall, when we decided to undertake our second IVF cycle. Unlike our first cycle things didn’t come together as seamlessly as we had hoped. Andrew couldn’t take a large block of time off work and so he could only be with me for a few days. The process could still work, but it meant a loss of support for me. He wouldn’t be there to help me mix and administer the injections. He wouldn’t be there to hold my hand.

I was afraid.

But I shouldn’t have been. Because the women in my life, they banded around me. They drove me to appointments and watched Saoirse. They told me I was brave when at nine o’clock every night I had to inject two, sometimes three, needles into the soft skin of my belly. For almost a month I spent time in cars, waiting rooms, after appointment lunches with these women, and they never made me feel as if they minded. Each one of them missed work, or spent time away from their kids, or drove from different cities to help me.

Because of these women we have a second chance to be parents. Because of these women I have seen the tiniest of flickers on an ultrasound screen, and heard the sweet thump of my new baby’s heart. I am not yet twelve weeks, that enchanted time when everything begins to feel safer, but I want to greet this experience with the same honesty and openness we approached our last cycle with. So I’ll speak our truth, no matter what comes.

We made another baby. A being threaded together with science, and magic, and the beautiful intentions and love of the people around us. I don’t want to be wary, or guarded, or let the challenges of becoming a mother in the first place overwhelm my happiness. No matter what the coming weeks and months bring, I know I can withstand it.

We will figure it out.

Because how can we not?

I’ve got my village of women after all; the most beautiful expression of community that exists, and the most powerful arsenal there is against fear.

JOURNALIST: Beth McKinlay

A House of Air

To be sacred allies in this journey is to say I stand aligned with your struggle, though it may not be mine. In this, I have known a great many kindred spirits.

There is a mother in Chicago who makes meals in a dingy basement apartment, culling items from the fridge before they spoil, and braving the winds of adversity. She sips red wine when her daughter falls asleep and examines her pores in the mirror. Together, we have scraped at the dirt, planting happiness for wild bouncing fidgets.

In Philadelphia, beneath the steamy covers of depression lies a soft blue-eyed soul. During the best moments, straps her boy to her back and trudges amongst the people, determined to find sunshine. At her worst, digging pennies from couch cushions in unwashed PJs, she swerves along the line and doubts her own mind. Our vulnerability clasps hands in the darkest nights.

I’ve seen a girl walking in the woods, all smiles and brightness. Her eyes glitter when she speaks of her husband and mushrooms, and she seems to hold a river of joy in her toes. I envy the big windows of her new home, her grand love affair, and the simplicity of days spent entirely with her belly-grown babes. And yet, I know the wonders of baking and the sweetness of wide, exploring eyes. We are united in our splendor and amazement with the natural gifts of earth and time.

Far away, on a tree-lined coast, where rocks wash ashore, is a woman swaying to a ‘60s sound and preparing bowls of yumminess to carry her through the day. She delights in flowers and has a new, roll-y love to tuck beneath her arm each night. The mornings break and find her snuggled between the children who bookended her growth: one before loss, and one when the hole was filled again. She forges a path for me to track, forcing me to believe a companion might suit this lone wolf. Across a thousand miles, we’ve sung Buffy Sainte-Marie into the wind, and wished for love.

In the land of grey and knits is a tall tree standing firm. She has taken root in the rain, and spreads herself across the mountains. In her shade grows the sweet elves of her creation, and I return over and over to marvel at the width of her sturdy trunk. We have grown up tall in these years.

In truth, I’ve never stood beside most souls I call my equal. The circle which has enveloped me, brought me comfort, and held my hand when I sat most alone are a group of sisters I’ve yet to meet. I carry their hearts in my palms, finding strength in the constant reminder that I do not mother alone. Our foremothers blazed a trail so that our stories had space to breath and air to ride.

I am another footprint in the long path of women who’ve come before. They have nurtured, stoked, and bundled a fiery love for their babies allowing those same little ones to wander and come to rest elsewhere.

Sister souls line the routes of motherhood, but the distance and seeming disparities can dim the light of our bond. Certainly, there are achy moments and days and seasons which seem to grand and deafening to conquer. I am aware then, of the great wide open space and silence surrounding me. The atmosphere grows desperate, and I can struggle to find consolation in the same creatures who felt family only days earlier. This is the isolating call of insecurity, doubt, and comparison, which threatens to dismantle and demolish the makeshift and invisible temple of companionship that encases the shared experience of mothering.

Perhaps, like me, you feel a pull to strangers and see bits of your sweet and worthy self in their reflection. Perhaps you groan with exhaustion and deadlines and business tangled in the life you wish to be leading. Perhaps you cannot find the words to solicit the support you need. Please, please know that we are here. Kindred spirits are walking right beside you, filling the world with dazzling light and genuine relief. Look up! See that we are like you and are making our way just as delicately. We are united in this motherhood.

Tug on the ties which bind you, and feel me standing strong for you on the other end, guiding you towards goodness.

Jump, and know the landing will be soft.

Scream, and hear our echo.

I am with you.

JOURNALIST: Adrienne Oliver