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We asked, you answered. As we look back on the mamas we featured in 2023, we highlight the best, most vulnerable, and most inspiring answers to the question: "What was the most unexpected part of your motherhood journey?"
Mom of three and owner of multiple businesses Christa Lee, shared her thoughts on high risk pregnancies, postpartum depression, and the importance of sharing the good, bad, and ugly of motherhood:
“The most unexpected part of my motherhood journey was getting pregnant with my first. All the firsts are unexpected for every mom. But it especially felt different because my husband Eric and I were not yet married. Navigating all the outside scrutiny that came from being a young, unwed mother was very difficult. I felt as if I wasn’t allowed to enjoy my pregnancy (and I avoided talking about it a lot) due to fear of other people’s judgment and questions. I still hold on to a lot of guilt associated with those past feelings. I wish I wouldn’t have cared or allowed others to steal that precious time from me.
I was also brand new in my career as a hairstylist and trying to establish myself. I was only able to take one month off before going back to work. It makes me sad thinking about the pressure and financial need I had then. I missed a lot in that first year that I cannot get back.
When I had my daughter five years later, it was a textbook pregnancy (except she decided to meet us ten days late, making her birthday two days before Christmas!) I remember begging to leave the hospital on Christmas Eve and they finally released me at 11:00pm that night so I could get home to my 4 year old who was waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. I was at a much different chapter in life and was able to take 12 full weeks off with her before returning to work at the salon.
My third pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks. I don’t think those who haven’t been through this type of loss can truly understand the depth of grief and sadness it entails. I had two successful pregnancies prior and I was in disbelief that this was happening. Telling my older two children was one of the hardest conversations I’ve had to navigate. I felt like I was taking something so precious away from them, at the same time as I was grieving the loss myself.
After miscarrying, Eric and I started trying again, and about 6 months later we got pregnant. My fourth pregnancy was a rollercoaster, to put it mildly. At 10 weeks pregnant I started bleeding at a pool party and, sure I was having another miscarriage, was rushed to the doctor. I was told that my baby was perfectly healthy, but I had a very large subchorionic hemorrhage causing the bleed.
The bleeding never stopped. I developed a second hemorrhage, I was monitored closely as a “high risk” pregnancy, and for the next sixteen weeks I bled on and off. On an otherwise normal Friday afternoon right before Thanksgiving, while picking my kids up from school I noticed I was “leaking” fluid. I made a call to one of my close friends who is a Labor and Delivery nurse and she encouraged me to head to the Emergency Room immediately. It turned out my water was slowly leaking and while on the table at the hospital, my water completely broke. I was what they call a “PPROM” patient and had to be admitted to the hospital until delivery. I was only 26 weeks pregnant! I was shocked, sad, and scared. I was terrified of it all. Missing the holidays, missing my daughter’s birthday, and of course what was going to happen to my baby.
After an 8 week hospital stay, they decided it was safe to induce me. Palmer Edison was born on Jan 13th, six weeks early, safe, and healthy. He remained in the NICU for a week and then we were able to finally bring him home."
Note: Christa’s story shares her raw experience with postpartum depression. With up to 20% of new moms and 10% of partners experiencing a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), it’s easy to wonder when changes in mental health teeter on something more serious. It can be helpful to learn how to determine if what you are experiencing is part of the expected journey, or more troublesome. Reach out here if you could use some extra help.
Jules Theis is a Canadian born mama of two boys, living in the South of France, where she has been a writer, digital creator, and founder of a social media management company. For her, motherhood drove home the importance of healing our own inner child:
"One aspect of motherhood I could have never expected, in a positive way, was the aspect of healing I got for my inner child. I had never heard the term ‘inner child’ until I had my own child, and I could see how much of myself as a young kid was reflected back in him. Like me, both of my sons are expressive in their feelings and have big emotions. So big, in fact, that the whole house knows about them. When I was a child, my big emotions were met with a great deal of time-outs and silencing. My emotions always caused me a lot of shame, because I didn’t know what to do with them. Now as a parent I have been able to heal the shame my inner child held onto, by mothering my childrens’ emotions the way I wish my own had been thirty years ago. This has unexpectedly allowed me to express my emotions as an adult as well, and has opened up many conversations not only between my kids, but my husband as well.
Together we have come up with ways to work through the heavier feelings through breathwork, taking a minute away to calm down or talking about it. I’m no expert, though I do know we all share the need to feel seen, and this is how I approach anger, sadness, joy or fear. As Dr. Becky Kennedy says, kids just want to know that we believe them, and this starts with emotions."
New mom Chela Descardes shed light on the reality that nearly 25% of pregnant moms face, sharing the pain and grief she experienced through multiple miscarriages, and the resulting fear she had around enjoying pregnancy with her son, Cairo:
"The most unexpected part of my journey was the pain of multiple pregnancy losses and the grief and anxiety that followed me through pregnancy. I'm already an anxious person so there were so many periods of pregnancy that I was just a nervous wreck.
Early in my pregnancy, my doctor confirmed my son would be my third miscarriage in a row. We moved cities during that dark grieving period. We were blessed and surprised to find him swimming around on the screen at our first doctor's appointment here in LA! But other scares came up, and pregnancy was hard. While that part of motherhood was unique and difficult, I also feel beyond blessed with my previous experience in childcare. I've been helping moms as a babysitter, nanny, and daycare worker for most of my life! I also became a hands-on auntie last year- the best!! My experience and confidence with children has brought so much ease into motherhood for me. Physically and emotionally adjusting to the shifts in lifestyle and changes in my body have been challenging these past few months. But being his mom is not so hard for me. It's so uniquely natural that the transition out of pregnancy and into mom life has been filled with so much joy! I am so grateful for that."
Note: Pregnancy loss is a common experience for many moms, and being able to talk about it can be helpful. Miscarriage in early pregnancy, in particular, happens in about 10 percent of known pregnancies, and about one in four women experience a miscarriage over the course of their life.
Mom of four and Matrescence Social Media Manager Natalie Burrow recently navigated a cross-country move and a surprise fourth baby, all while transitioning into her new career. She has leaned in to embracing the unexpected, and finding joy in the journey:
"My most unexpected event was my fourth baby! We fully thought we were done after three, but life had other plans and sent us the greatest gift we had no idea we needed. To be honest, it was a shock and took some time to fully wrap my mind around. But I knew deep down it was meant to be. When we were teenagers, long before we knew anything about the reality of having kids, we'd talk about how one day we'd have four...funny how things come full circle!
Trying to understand how we'd manage four kids felt overwhelming, and knowing I'd have to give my body over to the process of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum again was difficult to accept at first. My mind was so prepared to be moving on to the next chapter. Shortly after my second trimester began, things really shifted and it ended up being my most enjoyable pregnancy of the four. He's been here 3 months now and every day I look at him in total awe and adoration thanking the universe for knowing better than we did. Sometimes the biggest dreams to come true are the ones we didn't even know we wanted.”
“It’s shocking how little this country cares for pregnant women and mothers, in particular Black moms. The statistics of Black maternal mortality in this country are horrifying - the worst in any developed nation. This was recently amplified by the tragic deaths of Tori Bowie, Kira Dixon-Johnson, and Sha-Asia Washington, all of whom passed away unnecessarily during childbirth. Experiencing firsthand the ways in which pregnant women and new mothers are ignored and almost discarded in segments of American society was particularly painful.
For every micro-aggression and more that I endured, however, I also encountered individuals and collectives working to combat them. I intentionally selected my OBGYN, who, as a Black mother herself, wears a pin every day over her white coat that reads, “Black Patients Matter.” I felt beyond confident being under her care, and when it was suggested that I be induced into labor two weeks early, the deciding factor was the knowledge that she would guide me through labor and would deliver our baby into the world.
It was also so incredible to experience how, unprompted, our tribe of friends and family reached deeply to support us by cooking and cleaning, sending baby clothes and gifts, spending time with us and Sloane in the newborn days that can sometimes feel so lonely. They helped to celebrate with us this new moment of exciting unknown, while unquestioningly supporting all of our decisions along the way.”
Brittany Valdes built an entire community to support working moms. The founder of The Mom Economy advocates that “women shouldn’t have to choose between their babies and their business.” and shares how we are working to build the next generation of leaders:
“As a mom of three boys, I’m always thinking of the actions and contributions I’m making and how it’s modeling the next generation of leaders. So, I’ll tell you what I tell my boys: “First, don’t let anyone tell you what your ‘barriers’ are.”
We live in a world and culture where everyone wants to tell you what you need or don’t need to be successful. You want to know why moms are resilient? It’s because we use barriers as leverage. When most people try to go around obstacles or find the path of least resistance, us moms find a way to use it to our advantage. You don’t build resilience without hard and yes, painful work. Your muscles won’t grow unless you add weight. Adding the amount of weight that you feel like you can’t carry alone. As a mother, female and entrepreneur I take on more weight that I can possibly carry which means I have to have community. I can’t do it on my own and I know it. I make it my priority to surround myself and invest every ounce of my existence into the people who I love and those who are in my circle.”
Kristine McGlinchey left her corporate career as a publicist so that she could be more present for her new daughter. Now an author and founder of OM Mommas, she shares how she seeks out mindful parenting and teaches others to focuses on our own wellness first:
“The most unexpected part of my initiation into motherhood were the limiting beliefs and energetic blocks that came with it! I didn't realize how conditioned we are as women to associate fear and negativity with the whole process, from pregnancy into birth and beyond. It affected me so much that I birthed my free community OM Mommas alongside my daughter, as the village that every mom never knew she needed!”
What was the most unexpected part of YOUR motherhood journey? Share your story on our Instagram and join the conversation!