When I was pregnant with Bowie, I had no tribe so to speak. I was one of the first of my close friends to have babies and can remember the first weeks of motherhood being filled with isolation. I was so tired of googling things until a friend introduced me to a facebook group of moms. I was shocked! How did I not know about this when apparently 15,000 other women did! Even though I remained quiet on the facebook page, I followed along storing helpful tips and nuggets of information. Fast forward a few weeks and I joined Tribe (now Hello My Tribe) and I found my motherhood. I was immediately welcomed into this mom group of friends that included a weekly playdate and group text that continues to live on two years later, often being the lifeline of our friendship because we are all busy with toddlers and now, newborns. It was exactly what I never knew I needed. What all mamas need, a tribe. As guest contributor Brianna Berkowitz discusses below, your village can be whatever you need it to be-in person or digital but whatever form it takes, find it. If it doesn’t exist, make one. The mom friends you don’t know yet but are sure to meet, will thank you and you will ask yourself how you ever lived without them. xx Cristina
It Takes a Text Chain by Brianna Berkowitz
About 4 years ago I was extremely pregnant with my first baby, Luke. We lived in Brooklyn, NY at the time and having a baby at 29 in Brooklyn was basically considered a teen pregnancy. Oh, if I’d had a dollar for every time I heard a seasoned mom say something like, “But you’re so young. Your body will bounce back. Labor will be a breeze. Your boobs won’t sag at all!” (Wrong, wrong and WRONG but thanks for the false hope). Suffice is to say, I didn’t have a lot of mom friends who lived close by and while I’d heard that this was important, I did have a lot of great, really great even, girlfriends in the hood. I was infinitely more concerned with the whole watermelon to lemon ratio and the mysterious and horrific “ring of fire” I kept reading about in my labor books than making new “mom friends,” who, let’s be honest, I pictured being anxious, uptight stroller-wheeling beacons of judgement and harbingers of no-fun-zones (unrelated but related: if you are pregnant and reading the same labor books I was, just change the phrase “ring of fire” to “unicorn rainbow” everytime you read it and you will feel so much better. It’s not that bad. I mean it’s all truly awful, but that one part is not the most awful).
So, along came the watermelon out of the lemon, through the unicorn rainbow tunnel. And as it goes, there were a few bumps along the way straight out of the gate. Luke was in the NICU for a few days. My lemon was shredded. Breastfeeding was just barely tolerable in the way that walking on shards of glass with barefeet is tolerable. My first night home from the hospital was the loneliest of my life. I was absolutely terrified and traumatized. I did not know how to begin processing what my body had been through or what it meant to keep this tiny human alive who depended entirely on that very body that was so broken. So, late in the night on my second night home from the hospital while trying to distract myself from the sandpaper mouth of my sweet baby on my nipple, I joined a Yahoo group for moms with newborns in my neighborhood.
A few days later, an email came from a brave mom in the group suggesting we meet up at a bar in the neighborhood. A week or so later, I showered and put on makeup, kissed my mother goodbye (she was staying with us at the time), bundled up Luke in the stroller, and headed off to what felt like the first day of all the first days of school put together. At the bar I found a group of moms day drinking beers and awkwardly figuring out how to nurse in public while managing nipple shields and screaming babies. I had never nursed in public before, but surrounded by these equally clueless and a little bit tipsy mamas, I gathered the courage.
It is now 4 years later and I have moved to Austin. And yet I am in contact with 6 of these women several times per week, sometimes many, many, many times per day. It started as an email chain. Then it became a text chain. This year, when our phone bills started to skyrocket, we moved to a Whatsapp chat group aptly named “The Mothership” complete with a cute little logo of a U.F.O.
By all accounts, we shouldn’t be close friends. We are different ages, from different parts of the world. We have very different family and religious backgrounds. Our jobs range from creative directors at fancy ad agencies to human rights lawyers to part-time teachers (hi!). But when I showed up with my shredded lemon to that bar in Brooklyn, I had never been so vulnerable, so literally broken and so open to anyone who wanted to make me laugh or help me figure out how the hell to survive that first year of parenting.
I spent a lot of time with this crew of mamas for 18 months when we lived in Brooklyn. They taught me all the important mom skills like how to fly with your baby without losing your mind and/ or murdering your spouse and also how to parent while nursing a baby and a hangover (and not murdering your spouse). Sometimes we spent time together with our babies, but most important for me were the nights spent tucked into a booth in a bar in our neighborhood where we shared hilarious stories from our days before children. Stories about ourselves as people, not just as moms. In those lubricated hours of the night we learned about the selves that we were trying to slowly figure out how to incorporate into our current lives. The selves that were irresponsible risk-takers who threw caution to the wind. The selves that worked 12 hour days at our jobs to prove our commitment and passion for our careers. The selves that voraciously read books and strung beautifully intellectual sentences together analyzing those books.
We have been collectively sorting out (via text message) how to carry those selves across the threshold of motherhood for the last 4 years. And of course, it’s not always that profound. These are the women I text at 4 am when Crosby won’t sleep. These are the women I text while sitting outside Luke’s door as he hurls his books at it mid-tantrum. These are the women I text while sipping wine as the baby rolls around in a pile of toys and Luke watches garbage television. These are the women I text when I can’t stand that our babies are now kids and I need someone to philosophize with about the meaning of time and space. They are the only people who are allowed to give me parenting advice.
And another thing: these women are the funniest people I know. Yes, yes, at times we are those anxious stroller-wheelers I was worried about- shaking our heads in disgust at the obscene lack of stroller-friendly subway stations or the amount of money we spend on childcare (all of it). But most of the time, they are making me laugh with stories about chaperoning a school trip to Applebees or how best to respond when your child won’t stay in her f*cking bed and emerges for the tenth time to accidentally watch a drug overdose on the hospital drama you’ve sat down to enjoy.
I have not seen some of these women in years. Luke no longer has a relationship with their children. But none of that matters because they are my village that continually cheers me on through this shitstorm we call parenting.