To say that the past three weeks have tested my mettle would be an understatement.

For the majority of those 21 days, at least one person in our family was unwell. First, Glen hurt his back and spent a considerable amount of time dressing Daphne's Barbies for her while lying on the living room floor.

Then, something I ate left me with a severe case of food poisoning. Following that, each one of our kids battled one back-to-school virus or another. They had more sick days in the first three weeks of school than we had all of last year.

Unwell family members really wear a mom down. More than once I wished I had a do-over for the month of September.

On top of the physical challenges, it seems like every single news story I heard or read layered on mental and emotional anguish.

I didn't sleep for three nights after the details of Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping and murder were reported. I'm still uneasy. I was eight years old when Jacob disappeared. His last school picture - on the back of our milk cartons - joined me for lunch more days than I can count. Like every other Minnesotan, the mystery haunted me. Solving the mystery still seems unreal. And now, as a mom, there's a heightened level of worry for my own children.

An entire city block in our town caught fire last week, destroying historic buildings constructed by the town's founder back in 1887. The fire left families without homes and businesses without a place to do business. This was our town's second major fire in six months. Last March, our church burned at the hands of an arsonist.

Then came the news of the stabbings at the shopping mall in St. Cloud. This was not like hearing about attacks in other places. I shop at that mall several times a year. As the story of the events unfolded, I could picture the scenes exactly. There was no need for imagination.

Intermixed with all this are reports about our presidential candidates. I really don't think I need to say any more about the despair this causes. It's hard not to feel at times like the whole country - and maybe world - is going to hell in a handbasket.

But when everything looks bleak, the bright spots shine brighter.

I think that's why I was overcome with joy when my sister called to say that her water had broken.

When my sister called to share the good news that they were expecting their third child, she asked if it would be possible for me to help with the birth. I said that if the stars aligned I would be there. She understands that a dairy farmer's life - and a mother's - can be unpredictable.

She had been my helper during Dan's birth - the first baby born to us four sisters. Her baby will probably be the last baby. For most of the 11 babies born in between, a sister has been there to help. I held onto the idea of being there, but knew it might not happen.

She was 11 days early when her water broke, but the timing was perfect. It was a Saturday afternoon, so our kids didn't have school. Glen's parents were able to help and we were ahead of schedule with chores for the day.

I showered quickly and hopped in the van for the two-hour drive. Her first two babies were born after rather short labors, so I crossed my fingers that I would make it in time. And I did.

After a quick and uneventful labor, their baby boy was born.

In that moment, watching my nephew take his first breath and let out a bellow of discontent at being suddenly removed from his mother's cozy womb, I was filled with the awe and wonderment that always comes when watching life begin. But this time, watching a human baby enter the world, the feelings were magnified a hundredfold.

In an instant, the pain and anxiety of birthing were erased by the joy of seeing a baby.

It was a moment of hope.

It was a moment to remember that love abounds and good things still happen.

That was even more evident after watching the outpouring of love from my sister and her husband for their new little boy. Love overflowed again when his big brother and sister arrived.

It was a beautiful experience and I will forever be grateful to have been there.

In a world that sometimes seems so lost, we can still find hope, love and goodness.



References available upon request.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.