When Tony-nominated singer and Broadway veteran Melissa Errico releases her newest CD this Mother’s Day, a collection of children’s songs entitled “Lullabies and Wildflowers,” it will be as much of a professional triumph for her as a personal one for the women of the Bowery Babes. Formed in 2005, when the first-time mom and wife of tennis pro Patrick McEnroe realized that her downtown neighborhood lacked even a preschool despite its rapidly gentrifying influx of families, the Bowery Babes is a support system and activity group for soon-to-be and new mothers. Growing from the original twelve members Errico met at a prenatal yoga class, to now over three hundred families with three additional spin-off groups, it has become so popular that even uptown and Brooklyn mommies and tots have joined, commuting to events from as far away as Park Slope.
“I hate the idea that when women get pregnant, they feel like they’re leaving something. I want them to feel instead as if they are joining something,” she says of formation of the group. “And I wanted to keep people from thinking they have to move to the suburbs or the Upper West Side to raise a family. Besides, it would be such a cliché to be a Broadway actress living on the Upper West Side”, she adds laughing.
Although Errico doesn’t consider herself a community activist, she has successfully campaigned for and put together activities that take advantage of what resources that the Bowery does have.
When Whole Foods opened its Houston Street location, Errico organized a class for the moms to learn how to prepare organic baby food on Wednesday afternoons. Other activities include at-home classical mini-concerts dubbed “Woodstock for Babies;” chef and knitting nights; and mothers-only beauty days at Bloomingdale’s Soho.
But it’s not “all just about being fabulous and in New York” as Errico puts it. When one member of the group gave birth prematurely, the Bowery Babes rallied around her and took turns delivering meals to the hospital every day for 12 weeks. “Being a new mom in general is isolating, whether you’re in the suburbs or the city,” notes Bowery Babe mother and Chelsea resident Kate Neckel. “So it’s wonderful being able to go online or pick up the phone and connect with other people going through the same things.”
Now that her own daughter, Victoria, is 2 years old, Errico is quietly dipping her toe back into the music world with a collection of lullabies that were inspired by the group. “I wanted to incorporate this amazing energy and feeling of friendship we have into the music,” she says.
Over her manager’s objections, Errico recorded and financed the album herself. It was the first time she had done so in a career spanning 15 years and performances that prompted one New York Times critic to proclaim her “the voice of enchantment.”
She also called upon the expertise of the Bowery Babes’ many media-savvy members to help. “There are stylists, models, actors, lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, entrepreneurs, really everyone,” Errico says of the women.
“They created artwork for the CD and assisted with the photo shoot, so even if they didn’t help with the music, they were still greatly involved with the creation of the album.”
For more information on the Bowery Babes, visit groups.yahoo.com/group/bowerybabes