A common thread

Every mother has a story to tell, whether it’s about her decision to become a parent, her determination to balance family and career, or her dedication to supporting her maternal peers. Read the tales of how these remarkable women—just like you—have come to be and thrive as moms.
By Lauren Brockman

Name: Erin McKenna
Occupation: Founder and owner of BabyCakes NYC
Age: 35
Residence: New York City, New York
Favorite holiday: Fourth of July
Strangest pregnancy craving: Beer (Don’t worry: She doesn’t drink it, just craves it.)
Best way to spend a Saturday: Working at the bakery then going out for a nice dinner to relax.

Career woman Erin McKenna never gave much thought to having kids. “All my sisters used to tell me from a young age how maternal I was and that I was going to make the best mom,” she recalls. “It made me so mad—I didn’t want to have babies!” But in the last couple years, the founder of the popular vegan bakery Babycakes NYC began to change her tune. “The chaos of the bakery started to plateau and I really wanted to start a family.”

Expecting her first baby—a girl—in June, the successful business owner has already begun learning about the trials of motherhood. “The first trimester was brutal for me,” she admits, “but I had to press on and keep up with all the appearances and commitments I had made prior to knowing I was pregnant … My mother always said it’s never a good time or convenient to have a child—and that that’s just part of motherhood.” After spending the first part of her pregnancy resembling a “walking corpse,” she regained her energy, productivity and creativity in her second trimester and started to feel like her old self again. She’s still waking up at 6 a.m. each morning, heading to the gym, and taking the train to the bakery on the Lower East Side to manage staff, taste the treats (for quality assurance purposes, of course), and work on the latest bakery projects, including a new cookbook and app.

How will McKenna handle her work duties once her little lady makes her way into the world? “I plan on keeping my visits to BabyCakes at a minimum for the first two months,” she says, hoping to keep up with emails from home. As far as lifestyle changes go, McKenna doesn’t anticipate too much of an adjustment: “I already go to bed at 9 p.m. every night!” Although the mom-to-be eventually intends to hire a sitter for a couple hours each day so she can tend to the bakery, she knows she needs to keep her options open. “Who knows what will actually happen?” she wonders.

With a growing business (BabyCakes cake, brownie and cookie mixes just launched, a third cookbook is in the works, and more storefronts are likely in the future), McKenna has a jam-packed professional agenda ahead of her. But her baby-to-be is her top priority; she’s on a mission to raise an independent, creative and self-confident daughter with a sense of responsibility, humility and grace. And as good as McKenna is at baking biscuits and brownies, there’s no doubt the bun in her oven will turn out just right.

Name: Kelle Hampton
Occupation: Freelance writer, photographer and blogger
Age: 33
Residence: Naples, Florida
Favorite place: Home
Strangest pregnancy craving: Split pea soup with a side of vanilla frosting
Worst advice ever received: Ignore it, and it will go away.

Kelle Hampton looked forward to being a mom for most of her life. “I was one of those girls who wrote ‘Mom’ under ‘What you want to be when you grow up’ on the first grade questionnaire,” she recalls. The writer, blogger and photographer was born to raise babies. And with two stepsons, Austyn (17) and Brandyn (13), and a daughter, Lainey (4), Hampton and her husband Brett eagerly awaited the birth of the sixth member of their family, who arrived just over two years ago. “Because Lainey’s birth was such an amazing experience,” Hampton explains, “I assumed Nella’s would be the same. And it was amazing—in a different way.”

Just after delivery, the doctor passed Nella into Hampton’s arms. “I saw her eyes and I knew,” she recalls. Nella was born with Down syndrome. Without any previous inclination of Nella’s condition, Hampton found herself in shock, unable to put what she was seeing into words. “Maybe if I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t be true,” she remembers thinking. But after “a night of detox” as she calls it, during which Hampton purged her grief through tears, words and immense emotional pain, she took her initial step toward acceptance. “I saw my baby as mine,” she says, “and she needed me.”

Suddenly becoming a mom to a special needs child wasn’t easy: “It was hard for me to bond in the beginning because I felt like I gave birth to a different baby—not the one I had expected.” But with her baby girl now officially a toddler, Hampton finds she’s grown and flourished since those early postpartum days. “I’ve been continually surprised by my strength and capabilities not just as a mother but as an advocate and as a human being with potential to affect others,” she says. “Down syndrome is a part of our life, but it does not define us nor does it define our daughter. My favorite line from a friend is, ‘I have to remind myself Nella has Down syndrome because when I’m with her, I forget.’”

When asked if she could go back in time whether she would choose to find out about Nella’s Down syndrome during pregnancy, Hampton responds with a firm “No.” She explains, “My experience—as dark and sad as those first days were—is precious to me. Nella’s pregnancy was a joyful, anticipatory phase of my life, and her birth was a life-changing gift … I owe challenges and heartache for my perspective today.”

Name: Theresa Heller
Occupation: Storekeeper for the US Coast Guard
Age: 28
Residence: Williamsburg, Virginia
Favorite color: Pink
Strangest pregnancy craving: With her first, she only wanted pancakes; this time, it’s orange juice.
On her bucket list: Visit Sicily, skydive (again!), create a haunted house in the backyard.

Theresa Heller was an enlisted member of the US Coast Guard in New Jersey when she found out she was expecting her first son James, who will be 3 this year. At seven months pregnant, she was transferred to her current station in Virginia, where the Coast Guard proved supportive throughout the remainder of her pregnancy, delivery and bout with postpartum depression. Having recovered from her struggle thanks to a combination of counseling, medication and time, Heller assures she is now doing better than ever. In fact, she and her husband Bill, who is also active duty in the Coast Guard, are excited to be expecting their second baby this September.

Working in a male-dominated field, Heller recognizes that a compassionate, encouraging community of female colleagues is crucial to a mother’s success—it takes a village after all! To ensure other moms can count on the camaraderie they need, Heller manages a military moms’ group, providing a place for moms-to-be, moms and grandmas to chat, engage in discussions, and exchange ideas on how to handle the challenges of motherhood. She also oversees two lactation rooms on base. “I put my personal touch into each room to make it as homelike as possible,” she notes, explaining that looking after the rooms makes her feel connected to the other moms—even if she doesn’t know them personally.

Although her Coast Guard family has been a great source of encouragement to Heller during her pregnancies and beyond, there have been occasions when civilian peers, who she says sometimes don’t understand the demands the service puts on her, have left her feeling inadequate. “I have been looked down upon by civilian moms for not spending enough time with my son,” she shares, “but I love my job and the service I do is important for our country.” Although she wishes her position allowed her to be home with her son more often, she knows well, “It’s not the quantity but the quality of time you spend with your children that’s important.”

Still, Heller looks forward to her six-week maternity leave this fall and can’t wait to snuggle her new addition. (“James is not much of a cuddler,” she confesses.) But she knows the transition from one child to two will take some getting used to: “I’m afraid I’ll be spread too thin and not be able to handle two kids, work, a husband and a household.”

“I’ve always been a bit of a control freak,” Heller admits, noting that being in the military doesn’t help. Motherhood has mellowed her though: “I’m learning to go with the flow of things rather than try to control them … I know it will all work out in the end.”

Name: Josie Maran
Occupation: Model and founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics
Age: 34
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Favorite beauty product: Argan oil
Strangest pregnancy craving: Chocolate ice cream with pickles
First thing she does in the morning: Takes a deep breath, focuses on the day ahead, and sings her baby-to-be a song.

Supermodel, activist, actress, cosmetics queen … Josie Maran holds an impressive resume. But one of the most important job titles on the list? Mom. “Becoming a mother can really make you take a hard look at yourself,” she explains. While some women feel drained by pregnancy, Maran found herself particularly inspired during the time she was expecting her first baby Rumi Joon, now 5, who’s due to become a big sister in mid-July. “As weird as it might sound, being pregnant with Rumi Joon made me realize it was time to start my business,” recalls Maran.

As a model, Maran has spent countless hours in the makeup chair and regularly inquired about healthy, natural cosmetic alternatives. But without ever receiving a suitable answer, she decided her pregnancy was just the push she needed to take control of her skincare routine. “What I was putting on my body and skin during pregnancy was affecting my baby,” Maran says. She worried her routine could have negative consequences for her daughter.

Beyond the risk of toxins and chemicals found in many cosmetics brands, Maran also wanted her business venture to set a good example for her daughter and be a reflection of the values she hoped to pass on. “I started thinking about what I wanted my daughter to think of me and what impact we as a society are having on our future generations.” It was these thoughts and ruminations that inspired Josie Maran Cosmetics’ tagline—“Luxury with a conscience”—and acted as the jumping off point for what is now a line of pure, gentle products that are both sophisticated and luxurious. “The packaging is as compostable, biodegradable and recyclable as possible,” Maran explains. “Awareness of environmental issues was a natural part of my upbringing,” she says. “My father is a green builder; my mother, an artist; my grandmother, a human rights activist and professor at UC Berkeley.” And Maran hopes to continue the legacy established by her socially conscious clan: “I want to instill this same awareness in my children.”

Through her quest to create a high performing, eco-conscious cosmetics line and her decision to take on such a venture while expecting, Maran has demonstrated that professional accomplishments and motherhood don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Moms can have both incredible careers and incredible children. “I always believe that when you’re ready to take on the world, great things can happen,” says the expectant mom. “Be confident and strong. All women should feel empowered. If you want to go out and do something, do it!”

Name: Rebecca Woolf
Occupation: Writer and blogger
Age: 30
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Favorite item in her closet: Black Ferragamo riding boots
her grandmother purchased and rocked in the ’70s.
Strangest pregnancy craving: Turkey sandwiches (She’s a vegetarian—usually.)
Proudest moment as a mom: Leaving the house with all four kids by herself. At press time, it had happened successfully twice and both times she claims to have given herself 15 high-fives.

Rebecca Woolf was 23 when she met her future husband and a married mother of one by the time she turned 24. “I got pregnant unexpectedly and completely contrary to plan,” she explains. “I was nowhere near ready to become a mother … though no one is ever really ready.”

Since her firstborn Archer made his debut six-and-a-half years ago, Woolf and her husband Hal have added three daughters to their brood, Fable (3) and twins Boheme and Reverie (8 months). But embarking on her adventure toward motherhood at an early age continues to shape her approach to child-rearing. “When I became pregnant with Archer, I was still going through my ‘screw authority!’ phase, and I don’t think that ever really changed. I’m a terribly stubborn parent,” she confesses. “But it’s served me well. I listen to myself first.”

Woolf’s confidence in parenting against the grain has served as an inspiration for the devoted readership of her successful blog Girl’s Gone Child, which she started just after her son was born. The down-to-earth mom refuses to be called courageous for her daily choices though: “I’ve always been able to separate what is right for me and what’s right for everyone else, but I don’t think that’s necessarily anomalous.” Still, her sense of conviction serves as an example for other moms to make the right decisions for their families. “There’s so much pressure to perform as a parent and we all want to do the right thing,” explains Woolf. “Unfortunately, we have been taught to listen to ‘experts’ before we listen to our peers or even ourselves. I believe that I’m enough.” To moms who feel like they have no idea what they’re doing, Woolf promises, “No one has any idea what they’re doing. That’s kind of the point to life: trying to figure it out. All we can do is look inward, listen to our voices, love our children.”

Initially, Woolf suspected having kids would mean giving up everything, but she’s found that’s been far from the case. “Nothing drives me more than my children; nothing pushes me more than my family,” she says. Despite being a mother of four in Los Angeles (“We’re definitely a local anomaly!”), Woolf has built an impressive career as a full-time blogger, publishing not only her own blog but also regularly contributing to other publications and even launching a nursery inspiration web series with HGTV.com called “ChildStyle.” With the help of a supportive partner and full-time nanny, she’s learned to juggle both work and play—while maintaining a healthy dose of chaos to keep things real.

Does she ever worry about losing herself in the midst of the commotion that comes with living under the same roof as a school-age boy, toddler girl and twin babes? “I used to,” she confesses. “But contrary to outside influences, motherhood is a great place to find yourself. I certainly did.”

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in imported, Motherhood, Parenting