Birth Story….Becoming Mom. Meet Mary, my Mom!

Becoming Mom

Some women were born to be mothers, my mother is one of those women.  She dressed up with us for Halloween, came on every school field trip, had home-made snacks waiting for us when we got off the bus, had warm mittens ready when we came to the door with frozen fingers, had home-cooked dinner on the table every night, even when she went back to work.   Among thousands of other things, my mother gifted me three that left a lasting impact on me and shaped the person I am today.  

The first is Independence.  If someone asked me what do you remember your mother saying the most growing up, other than, wear sunscreen, it is, “When I hear mothers tell their daughters to marry a rich man, I tell my daughter to be rich.”  I can remember her telling me that over and over throughout my formative years.  And while boys may have come and gone and heartbreak had, I never once felt that I lost myself in any relationship.  During the early teens years when we all tried to fit in, I allowed that little bit of myself that was different to peek its head out once in a while. And with complete truth I believe I have led a rich life thus far.   

The second gift is Freedom.   For any mother, plus for someone who has anxieties, it could not have been easy to have a daughter born with wings on her back.  I’ve always wanted to go, go, go.  During a time when emails and cellphones were not easily accessible, I traveled to countries that had no internet, often costing $7 a minute for a phone call, were littered with land mines and I would try to check in maybe once a week, if the town I was in permitted it or I remembered.  Nobody was traveling to Cambodia when I went to Cambodia and more than enough people told her, “you can’t let her go” or “she will be in danger.”  And yet off I went, following the footsteps of so many women whose DNA courses through me.  I am sure most of my emails home were huge stress-inducers, but she still had pride in her voice when she told people the places her daughter had traveled. And when I moved across the country and people told her “my children would never leave me” she knew I had a dream to follow and wasn’t going try to force me to live a life I wasn’t meant to live, no matter how hard it was to hear the lack of support from other mothers.

Which brings me to the third gift, Support.  It seems a given that a mother would support their child.  But for some reason that just isn’t always the case.  No matter what has happened in my life I have always known she is always in my corner.  She has traveled far and wide to be there for me when I needed her most, even if I didn’t know it at the time.  I’ve seen her support her family and friends with true loyalty and fierceness. I like to think my mother passed that trait on to me, to be a supportive, mother, daughter, family member, friend, and member of society.

For a bonus gift, hands down it is my skin.  Thank god I never had to suffer the social angst of having teenage skin nor did I get any stretch marks carrying twins.  Thanks mom!

So on honor of Mother’s Day, I want to share my mom’s birth story.  Because without her I would not be here; not have my incredible siblings, children, niece and nephew and really my great life.  Love you mom!!! 

Becoming Mom
How many children do you have
How old were you when you had your first child
What was pregnancy like for you
During all of my pregnancies, for the first trimester, I was very sick. I didn’t have just morning sickness, I had all day sickness and would vomit a lot. That part of pregnancy was very difficult. I loved the idea of being pregnant, but I found that when some people hear you were pregnant, they would often want to tell you horror stories, miscarriages, still births, “terrible” delivery stories, etc. I have always suffered from anxieties, so much of this “sharing” sent me over the edge.
 When I was pregnant with my first child, I went to my OB for a regular visit (second trimester). He told me that he thought that he could feel a large tumor on one side of my uterus. If that was the case, as the baby grew, there wouldn’t be enough room for the baby, and I could lose the baby. This was pre ultra-sound days. He sent me home telling me that we would know more at my next visit. I was twenty-one years old at time and my husband was away for two weeks with the National Guard. As you can imagine, I was hysterical. I drove directly to my mother’s. My mom lived with my sister Anne, who was furious that any doctor would tell me that without more information. Needless to say, it was a very long month until my next appointment. When I did go to my next appointment, I saw a different doctor in the practice. After examination, he told me that all was fine. What the other doctor had felt was probably the position of the baby who might have been curled up in a ball. You can imagine the relief!!
Who educated you on pregnancy
My mother had nine children, and three of my older sisters all had children. I was very young when my sisters had children . I was around for a lot of their pregnancies, so I guess I learned from what I had seen.
Did you take a birthing class
Yes, I took one before the birth of my first child and a refresher course before the birth of my third child. I loved them, and thought they were very helpful.


What was your labor like
The labor with my daughter was very long. I started labor very early on Sunday morning and she was born on a Tuesday afternoon. When I called to report my symptoms to my doctor, I was instructed not to eat and stay at home until my labor to stronger. My labor was quite strong by Monday morning, so I was told go up to the hospital. After examination, I was told that I was in labor, but not far along for them to keep me. Home I went, embarrassed that I had bothered the hospital staff. I was so tired, so hungry and scared because I was sure that I would never know when to go back. When I did go back 12 hours later, I was totally exhausted and very dehydrated because I took the “do no eat” while in labor very seriously.
Where did you give birth
In the hospital for all 3 births
What was your delivery like
My first delivery was very painful. In those days, they gave what they called “spinals”.  The spinal didn’t take, so I felt all of the labor. What the spinal did was give me was nine days of terrible spinal headaches.  My following two deliveries were natural because I didn’t want to risk spinal headaches again.
With my second delivery, my son was a large baby so the doctor had to use forceps. Not having had a spinal, using forceps was very painful. With my third delivery, my son was head down instead of face down. Because this part of a baby’s head is much harder, as he pushed down, it caused my cervix to swell. I had to have medication and lay in one position for the remainder of my labor to try to get the swelling down so he could pass through the birth canal. It was a long, painful delivery. I came very close to having to have a section, but at last-minute, with the nurse holding my cervix back, he was finally born.
Was your partner in the room
Yes, he was there for all three babies.
How long did you stay in the hospital
2-3 days
Were you happy with your birth
Ha, I remember that when I was in the throes of the worst of my labor with my first child, I said to my labor nurse, “who the hell would do this again, who would put themselves through this again?  A year and half later, I was back in the same labor room with the same nurse giving birth to my son. She remembered me and what I said. We did have a laugh over it. I cannot say that I was really happy with the first birth, I was certainly relieved and delighted that my baby was really here, and most importantly, she was healthy and beautiful.


Did anyone help you
My mom stayed with me until my daughter was nine days old. I was very sick with spinal headaches. She did all of the cooking, helped with my daughter. My mother was a very calm person, and having her with me was wonderful. Having been around babies, and just loving babies my entire life, I was somewhat confident in my ability to care for my baby, though do remember asking my mom’s opinion on minor things, and it was so reassuring having her by my side. That time with my mom was so special. It was then that I realized that my relationship with my mother transitioned to not just mother and daughter, but she became my very dear friend. At that time, I realized that except for my husband, no one would love my child more than my mother. It was such a bonding experience for mother, daughter and granddaughter.
 My mom also stayed with me when my other two children were born. I will forever be grateful for those special days with my mother.
Did your partner take time off
No he didn’t stay home at all. No paternity days back then.
Did your Doctor give you support/advice regarding breastfeeding, postpartum
Absolutely not!! I really wanted to try breastfeeding with my daughter. During one of my last prenatal visits, I asked my OB about breast-feeding. He asked me if I had any doubts about it? I told him that I did. He told me if I had doubts then I shouldn’t breastfeed because I wouldn’t be good at it.
When my second child was born, I decided not to breast feed because I still remembered what the doctor said the first time, plus having a one and half-year old at home, I thought it would be easier to bottle feed. My pediatrician came in the room to check on my son, saw me bottle feeding him, and really let me have it for not breast-feeding. Told me I had bad a very bad choice and that he was very disappointed in me.                               
 When my third child was born, I knew that I wanted to breast feed. I did it, It went so well and I absolutely loved it. If I have one regret, it is that I didn’t breast feed all three of my children.
Where did you find support as a new mother
Without a doubt, my support came from my mom and my sister Anne. They supported me unconditionally.
What was your biggest challenge as a new mom
My first two children had a terrible time with colic. It was awful watching them scream and really not being able to do much about it. That and my anxiety/worry about something happening to my baby.  Other than that, I think all went well. I love infants and loved every change and watching them grow and develop.
Becoming Mom
What was your partners role
My husband was a very good dad. He had no experience with babies, but when my daughter was born, he did great. One of my sweetest memories was the day after my daughter was born. I was so exhausted and slept most to the day. I remember waking up at one point during the day, and he was sitting there feeding her. The nurse told me, they offered to feed her so I could sleep, but he wanted to do it. He didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but he wanted to feed his daughter. 
When we got home, the first time I went out, I can remember coming home, walking in to her room. My poor husband had a total look of terror on his face. She had pooped and he was in total panic. When I was very tired, he would promise to take a night feeding. Well, the man sleeps like he is in a coma. By the time, I kicked him several times, he would finally get up, all the lights went on, made so much noise heating up the bottle, the baby would be screaming and my stomach would be in knots. He always promised to do better, but never was. Bottom line, it was never worth it!! When our children were sick or hurt, he was wonderful, would step right in, stay totally calm and do whatever had to be done. At the end of the day, he wasn’t as involved as dads are today, but he did participate in their care. 
How old were you when you had your last child


What do you see the biggest difference between raising children today and when you were a new parent?  What is better today, what was better then?
I think the biggest difference I see now is that new moms rely so much on what they read on-line or in books. When I was having children, my friends and I relied more on our mothers, sisters or friends. In other words, we were much quicker to ask for advice from someone with experience rather than what a book will tell you. My mother’s outlook on raising was very simplistic and much less complicated. I had many books, and would occasionally look something up, but I definitely leaned more from my support system.  For me, back then was much simpler and easier.
What is better now, is definitely how much more fathers are involved. As it should be, many dads really do a lot. I also think they know a lot more about what is going on with their children. That certainly wasn’t the case when my children were growing up.
Within the realms of society what was your biggest concern for your children (i.e. education, environment, danger, a “hot” topic )
Since I was always such a worrier, my biggest concern was certainly always, “what if something happened to them”? When they were little I worried terribly about their safety and illness. As they got older, it was drugs, drinking. When my daughter went to college, I remember the fear of date rape drug made me crazy. 
As most kids, mine thought I always over reacted with my worry. I was very open with talking to my kids about all of the things that I thought could do them harm. They would often shut me out, so I was always cutting out articles and hanging them in their rooms. Of course, I would never know if they would read them, but I just knew that I had to do anything and everything to keep them safe, and if they did read the article maybe they would learn something. To this day, my three brats still laugh at me for all of those articles I hung in their rooms.
Best advice given to you when you became a mom
Oh my mom said so many great things to me. One, regarding potty training, she told me to start when they were very young. She said, it is easier to train a puppy than a dog. All of my children were potty trained my age two. Two, don’t try to be their friend. She said, they will have a lot of friends, but only one mother. She said, when they became adults, that would be the time for friendship. 
Best advice you can give to a new mom
Keep it simple. Be willing to listen to the advice of other mom’s (including your own); at least be open to what they have to say.  
My other advice, put down the electronics, especially when you are all together as a family. Whenever possible, sit around the dinner table (without television or cell phones) and have family time. Except for rare occasions, we sat down for dinner every night. It was the one time, my children shared the most. Some of my most treasured memories are all of us sitting around the dinner table together.
Also, work together as a parental unit, not mom against dad and vice versa. I never kept anything from my husband. If my children made a “bad choice”, they knew that they had to deal with both of us.  Lastly, but maybe most important to me, I truly believe, “children do learn what they live”.  They watch their parents very carefully and take it all in.  
What was/is the greatest joy in being a mother  
So many things. I loved being a mother. My mom always said, children are like rosebuds, they open a little at a time. They made me laugh, they certainly made me cry, but I cherished them. I was one of those crazy moms who would be so sad when they would go back to school at the end of the summer. My three children have grown up to be strong, independent, good people, and my husband and I are so very proud of all of them. I don’t believe that just happened. My husband and I worked very hard at parenting. I can tell you that I put my heart and soul into raising my children. I certainly wasn’t a perfect mother and I made many mistakes, but what I can say is, as a mother, each day, I did the best I could.
What do you know about your birth  
I was the youngest of nine and born when my mother was forty-six years old. Child number eight, my sister Kathleen was nine years old. My mother told very few people that she was pregnant and never received prenatal care until her last trimester. I know that I was a born in a hospital on a Sunday afternoon. I weighed over nine pounds and my mother was put to sleep when she delivered me.

Birth Stories…Becoming Mom. Meet Jen


Jen is one of my oldest friends.  We have known each other since the 6th grade.  Together we went through puberty, braces, bad hair styles, boyfriends, summer concerts, Middle School, High School, two Spring Breaks.  We went to college together, ended up sharing an apartment, even worked at the same job during college.   Together, we traveled in an RV across Australia, backpacked throughout South East Asia, drove across the country listening to Elvis on repeat.  With just one look, I always knew what she was thinking and she I. She was the one who got me settled in LA and after a lot more traveling, she landed home in Boston.  While the miles are great between us, the history is very deep and full of love, secrets, tears and laughter.  I don’t have too many other people in my life with whom I have experienced so much of life with.  She is strong, smart, independent, adventurous, courageous and funny, and in my opinion has carried those characteristics into motherhood.  I knew she would be my first friend I would ask to share her story.

How many children do you have?  
3 (ages 7, 5, 3)
How old were you when you had your first child?
What was pregnancy like for you?
Pregnancy was okay. I was anemic for all 3 pregnancies but the third was the worst. Nothing seemed to improve my blood counts until I had a few blood transfusions. It was also hard because it was the third child so I had to care for my older children despite being beyond exhausted
Who educated you on being pregnant or what to expect during your pregnancy?
I read every book and website possible for my first pregnancy but never cracked a page for the next two. I also have sisters and friends I could turn to for any questions.
Did you take a birthing class?
I took a hypno-birthing class but I am pretty sure I did not use a single technique I learned during any of my deliveries. I went straight into survival mode and pure instincts…..all book learning went straight out the window.


What was your labor like?
 They tried to induce me first, a few days before my due date because my platelet counts were dropping, but the baby had other intentions. I was in the hospital for four days being induced and nothing took. Finally the doctors gave up and discharged me. You have no idea how disappointing it is to be sent home from the hospital still pregnant. That night, my water broke at home and 46 hours after that I gave birth to my first baby boy.
Where did you give birth?
 I had an incredible team of midwives and I tried to give birth at a Birth Center but every pregnancy I fell short of their guidelines and delivered in the hospital. I labored until 10 centimeters dilated at the lovely birth center with my second child, but when my water finally broke, there was meconium in my water and they rushed me across the street in a wheelchair to the hospital minutes before my son arrived.
Tell me about your delivery:  
Each delivery got a little easier. I had bronchitis during my third delivery and I think I coughed my daughter out
Was your husband in the delivery room?  
Yes. He was very involved and his adrenalin was raging. He was literally screaming in my face like a trainer in my corner the night of a prize-fight. I kept yelling at him to quiet down because I couldn’t hear my midwife or nurses.
How long did you stay in the hospital? 
I hate hospitals! I pressured them to let me leave the second I was allowed. I was discharged 12 hours after the baby was born for 2 out of 3 babies.
At the time, were you happy with your birth?
Labor and delivery is never what you expect no matter how many children you have. At the end of the day, I was handed a gorgeous baby and could not have been happier no matter how it all unfolded.


Who was on hand to help you?  
My husband helped as much as he could and we had lots of helpful visitors whenever they could. I had a doula who I found invaluable after the babies were born
Did your husband take time off?  
He is self-employed so there is never really time off but he was around as much as he could.
How did you feel postpartum?
 I felt great postpartum. I think I was so happy to not be pregnant anymore that anything was easy after that, especially since my anemia went away after giving birth.
Did your doctor give you support regarding breast-feeding and postpartum? 
My midwife, the hospital staff, my doula and the hospital’s breastfeeding groups were amazing.
What was your biggest challenge as a new mom? 
None of my babies took a bottle easily and I never forced it because I wasn’t working and breastfeeding on demand was easier. It felt like forever before I was able to spend a few hours away from my baby and it was exhausting!
What was your partners role?
 He was especially helpful with the older children taking them to work or out for fun while I was able to care for the newborn. He always said he felt useless because they all nursed so much in the first few months.
 Birth Story..becoming mom


What do you see the biggest difference between raising children today vs. when your mother raised you? What is better today, what was better then?  
 There is much more accessible information out there about parenting, from pregnancy to adulthood. In some instances having access to information is incredibly helpful, such as smoking during pregnancy. But other times, it can be too overwhelming and is creating mothers who are constantly second guessing themselves, judging others and overall probably trying a little too hard. I am pretty sure that my mother considered my childhood a success because I had food in my stomach, a roof over my head and hand me down clothes on my back. On the other hand, I am losing sleep at night because it is March and I haven’t signed my kids up for swim classes yet this spring. Personally I am trying to balance all the information out there about how to be the perfect parent and tap into some of my childhood memories of my mother giving me the space to entertain myself, make mistakes and solve my own problems.
Within the realms of society what is your biggest concern regarding your children (environment, race, education, etc)?
 I love their innocence so much and it disturbs me too much to think of anything other than a perfect world for them to live in. I just hope to give them the tools they need to survive this imperfect world because what may concern me today, will change one hundred times by the time they reach adulthood. I honestly can’t imagine what they will need to face at that point.
Best advice given to you?
 I can’t remember. I think I was too stubborn to listen to any advice.
Your best advice to a new mom?  
There is NO right answer, every baby and child is different even in your own family. As long as the child isn’t in any danger, do whatever works for you and your family who cares what the other people in your lives have to say. Co‐sleep, Cry It Out,Breastfeed or bottles, or whatever you need to do to get some sleep and not feel like a crazy person.
What is the greatest joy in being a mother? 
It is a relationship like no other. They can be so crazy and horrible that I want to pull my hair out and five minutes later a smile melts me heart and all negative feeling are completely erased. Every little thing they do, that millions of people have done in the past is somehow fascinating and marvelous when my own child does it, from smiling, to walking, naming stuffed animals, hitting a baseball and learning to read. There is never a dull moment and I love watching their individual personalities emerge and seeing the world through their own individual eyes.
Any personal thoughts?
 Haven’t I said enough already!
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