Living in Brooklyn has given me a great sense of community. I think it's Brooklyn sometimes, but then I realize that it's actually living in the world of being a mom. I've always loved community but now that I'm a mother, I've actually realized that to get full advantage out of this community, there is an unwritten rule.
For all the new or expecting mothers out there, I'd like the share that rule with now, so you don't have to learn it the hard way as I once did.
As a new mother, almost 4 1/2 years ago, I was flooded with fears when we first brought my son home. I had never cared for a baby before, especially not over night. I didn't sleep for days no matter how tired I was, I was too scared. I really didn't know what I would do if something happened to him.
Eventually, I started to find my ground. I was figuring out being a mother, breastfeeding and changing diapers in the middle of the night. The best medicine was actually being able to string together three or four hours of sleep in a row.
Eventually, I came into motherhood - a slow and steady climb.
Around four weeks I met up with a group of women, one of whom lived in my building. We had SOOO much to talk about and it was so easy to fall into an instant friendship with these women - a bond I hadn't expected but LOVED.
As time went on I felt so comfortable in my skin. I had great friends, my son was thriving, he was crawling and talking and was so full of life. Things began to settle.
When Charlie - my son - was nine months old I sat one night in bed with my husband who had been experiencing what we thought at the time was anxiety. He has a very stressful job and combined with the new baby, we thought this was taking a toll on him.
But this time was different. This time, he couldn't explain to me what was going on except that he was having lots of skipped heartbeats and his pulse was racing. He called a friend who is a doctor and he said "if you feel like you should go to the hospital, you should probably go to the hospital". Extremely rational thinking, but our baby was sleeping in the other room and it was 11pm.
I immediately called my new friend of only a few months who lived in my building and asked her if she could come sleep in our apartment while I took my husband to the Emergency Room. If you had told me 10 months ago that I was going to have to utter those words after giving birth to my baby - I would have been terrified. I wouldn't have known who to turn to or how to handle it. But in the moment - it all made sense to me and I knew I had backup.
Terence and I spent countless hours in the ER. They monitored his heart and every time it accelerated to an abnormal rate my body began to shake. All I had ever known of an ER was bringing a friend to get stitches one night in college after cutting his hand on broken glass. You came, you saw a doctor and you went home. Not this time.
They admitted us at 4am into a room on the Telemetry wing. I was so exhausted I threw my jacket on the ground, laid on top of it and went to sleep. Two hours later I woke up to the doctor coming to visit Terence - finally.
Terence was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation but it took weeks to figure out what was really going on. He spent two horrible weeks in the hospital scared to death. I used every bit of childcare favors I could so that I could be with my husband who now needed me more than my baby. Terence and I laid in the small hospital beds together and watched terrible television just waiting for answers.
At home, my mother, sister, babysitter, daycare and friends took turns watching Charlie. At one point, I was so desperate and my husband was so in need of me that I begged my good friend from work to jump in a cab from Harlem and sleep in our house while I went to the hospital - she had just landed hours ago from a three week trip to INDIA.
What friends and family did for us over those weeks and months until Terence got his procedure done was life changing. The feelings I still carry for the people who dropped EVERYTHING to come to our house and help us out still chokes me up as I write this. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have our neighbor so close by. I sometimes imagine it - calling 911, the whole family in the back of an ambulance. Or maybe even worse, Terence, scared and alone being brought by himself to the hospital not knowing when we would be able to see him.
So here is the rule you've all been waiting for - the one I learned that day in the spring of 2011. Whenever there is a mother, or neighbor or family member or friend in need - you do everything you possibly can to help them out. If a neighbor needs you to drop off her three kids while she goes to pick up her husband who has a flat on the FDR, you welcome them with open arms and dinner. If your best friend from work needs to crash on your couch because they rented their apartment out on Airbnb - by all means.
God forbid you'll ever have to deal with the craziness we did back then, but take my advice, you WILL have SOMETHING come up. I guarantee it. And the more mama-karma you have built up, the better you'll be. Communities like Brooklyn and so many others throughout the world were not created blindly. We have chosen to surround ourselves with people because we know we need them. We know that without them, we are lone fighters against the power of chance.
So please, no matter where you are in your parental journey; trying, expecting, newborn, toddler or grown kids - it's never too late to grow the community your family needs.