Motherly wisdom from some new, and not so new, Pittsburgh moms
May 6, 2016 12:00 PM
Vivian Benter with Henry.
Compiled by Natalie Bencivenga and Sara Bauknecht / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For new moms, there is a lot of information coming at them from all directions. But what do they wish that they had really known about pregnancy, babies and everything that follows?
Vivian Benter is a new mom to baby Henry (13 months). She is a domestic engineer who lives in the Strip District with her husband, Bill.
I wish I would have known: That I should finish my backlog of uncompleted projects during pregnancy because once the baby is born, I wouldn’t have much free time.
Before babies it is important to cherish: The freedom to do whatever you want to do.
What did you expect from motherhood, and how did your reality differ from that expectation? I didn’t realize how much patience is required to look after an infant all day.
Keeping traditions alive: I speak and sing in Cantonese to Henry, which is my first language and a dialect spoken in the southern part of China. I hope Henry will be able to communicate with my family without any barrier. Cantonese isn’t taught in schools so if I don’t teach it to Henry myself he will lose the connection between himself and his family in Hong Kong. I think that learning Cantonese will be a good foundation for him to learn the more widely spoken Mandarin Chinese in the future.
Marisa Williams of the Hill District has had a busy year. The newlywed (who married Eugene Williams III on April 24, 2015) welcomed Eugene Williams IV seven months ago. She balances mommyhood with being the executive director at PNC YMCA.
Advice I wish I would have known while pregnant: 1. You will need maternity clothes and postpartum clothes. The “snap back” isn’t real! The celebrities are selling us a tall tale! It’s a process and guess what — it’s OK. Allow your body to heal, eat right and exercise. 2. Know that your due date is not real. It’s a fairy tale your doctor makes up in hopes of providing you an end date to your 10, count them, 10 months of pregnancy. I was 10 days late and still had to be induced. He was not interested in coming out. My Eugene was comfortable.
Now that you have a baby, what is something you wish you would have known? Moms are a sorority of true superheroes! I wish I would have been able to see their invisible capes after becoming pregnant so I could prepare myself for my pending transformation into Super Woman. Your time becomes so much more precious, and you turn into an amazingly efficient human.
For women who do not have children (but would like to someday) what is something to cherish now? Sleep, “me” time and a good pinot noir.
Is motherhood what you expected? I didn’t know if being a mom was in the cards for me. I was so focused on my career, community and just being a change agent for my little piece of the world. Then my husband came along and we were blessed to become parents to this amazing little boy. He has opened my heart in a way I never dreamed possible.
Victoria and Justin Huston welcomed their daughter, Daniella, eight months ago. They reside in Bloomfield and she works as an occupational therapist.
Thoughts on pregnancy? I wish I would have been told to relax. I was so worried about my pregnancy, the birth and caring for a child that I forgot to enjoy the last few months of it just being my husband and me.
I wish someone would have told me: That the baby doesn’t need to be held constantly. I was so worried that she would cry that I constantly held her, which really made independent napping difficult later down the road. I wish I would have known that my baby wasn’t going to die if I put her down!
What did you take for granted before the baby arrived? Enjoy getting up in the morning slowly. This is what I most miss: laying in bed for a few minutes after waking up, drinking coffee while zoning out, taking a long morning shower.
What is it like to balance work and motherhood? I personally feel I have the perfect balance since I work part time. I have such respect for stay-at-home moms because they never get a minute to themselves. Sometimes when I go to work I feel like I get a little break; I get to eat and go to the bathroom on my own, as well as have adult discussions. I feel like there can be a good balance between work and motherhood, however sometimes there may not be anytime left for yourself.
Let’s talk about breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is awesome! It is the most proud thing I have ever done (more than getting my master’s degree or buying a house).
Emily and her husband, Neil, have a daughter Katherine, who will turns 1 today. She’s a yoga instructor who lives in East Liberty. In 2008, she survived a severe accident in rural Mexico. She experienced debilitating headaches for 4½ years, until undergoing brain surgery.
Trust the process: I wish someone had told me that pregnancy, delivery and motherhood are all very ordinary. Everyone is here because a woman gave birth. I was actually growing a human; my whole body worshiped that truth. I took great comfort knowing that it must be something my body can do.
Dealing with “decision fatigue”: You have to make millions of choices with a baby. Some of them large (“What kind of parents will we be?”) and some medium (“Do we let her cry it out?” or “When do we introduce solid food?”). However, the bulk of my days are spent making very small choices. My husband and I call it “decision fatigue.” Early on I received great advice: there is no best choice.
Don’t worry, there’s enough love to go around: I expected to love my child, but that expectation worried me a bit. If a mother’s love is all-consuming, won’t it destroy other loves in my life? My love for my daughter is not the same love I feel for others in my life, which is good, because it doesn’t demand that the other loves diminish.
Finding strength in the struggles: Hard is not bad. Hard can be good. Pain doesn’t need to be avoided at all costs, because pain is formative. Because of the accident, I had a profoundly difficult start to my marriage, but I wouldn’t ever want to change that. We had to dig deep and cling to what we valued. We already knew how to love each other well during stressful times, so it was a smooth transition into early parenthood.
When it comes to parenting, these moms have been there, done that. Here’s what they’ve learned along the way.
Dina L. Clark
She’s a single parent to Kaleo Rodriguez, 13. Ms. Clark is the diversity and inclusion manager at Covestro North America.
Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing: Work-life balance is not an option but instead a commitment. Nothing that is worth anything will come to you easily. You have to determine what that balance is for you and your life, and then go out and find it. Plus, just because you are now a mother doesn’t mean that you should stop working on you or your happiness. Figure out what you want, stay focused and go get it.
It’s OK to slow down: As mothers we try to do everything. Allowing someone to help you is a brilliant move.
Mistakes are OK, too: Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall short of perfection. This journey of motherhood is just that, a journey. A favorite quote: “Making mistakes is better than faking perfections.”
What mothers can learn from grandmothers: Grandmothers let the kids eat dessert first — at least in our family. They realize that the rules aren’t as important as enjoyable moments. Don’t miss the fun!
She’s a mother of two: Elaine, 7, and Owen, 11. She’s also a Lamaze certified childbirth educator, prenatal yoga instructor, professional doula and the owner and principal educator at Shining Light Prenatal Education in Lawrenceville.
As a doula (and a mom), I’d like to see: Universal paid parental leave and better follow-up care in the early postpartum period. When partners cannot take adequate time off work, we see mothers who then must take care of the household duties and the baby and recover from giving birth. This also is a contributing factor to postpartum depression and anxiety and cessation of breastfeeding. Partners do not have the time to bond with baby and to learn to become a family if they need to return to work shortly after birth. This also can have a negative impact on new parents’ relationship.
Don’t sweat the small stuff: My mother-in-law told me, “Every person needs to eat a peck of dirt in their lifetime. You might as well do it when you are a kid.” I became much more flexible about my kids and what they put in their mouths and how they explore the world after hearing that.
No two kids, or parents, are exactly alike: There is a pervasive myth that there is one right way to parent. Every child is different, and every family is different. Therefore, we cannot parent the same way. We all want to raise healthy, happy kids. How we do that is as diverse as all of nature.
No one tells new moms (but they should) that: It’s OK to not enjoy motherhood. We all have bad days when we are exhausted, yell at our kids or have no energy to pull ourselves out of bed yet we have no choice but to do so. Let go of the guilt over these things. Let go of what you don’t enjoy about motherhood and focus on the parts you do enjoy.
Gisele Barreto Fetterman
She and her husband, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, are the parents of Karl, 7, Grace, 4, and August, 2. All three were delivered through at-home water births. She’s a nutritionist and the founder of Freestore 15104 and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, which provide families in need with free clothing and food.
Best advice received from other moms was: To eliminate “I’m really looking forward to” lines. This moment is the best one. Not next week, not when they are walking, not when they are off to school — just right now.
Embrace the advice you didn’t ask for, too: Smile and thank them and take it all in. They are all celebrating this special moment with you and want to feel they have a small part in your journey.
And your advice for others? Be kind and encouraging when you see a breastfeeding mother. As a mother who breastfed all three of her children well into toddlerhood, I know it’s an often difficult commitment to make and can come with lots of criticism. As for moms with formula, please give them that same kindness and encouragement — it is equally as hard.
A motherhood myth moms-to-be shouldn’t listen to is: That you’ll never sleep again. Yes, it’s totally true, but who needs sleep when you are raising good humans?
Roseanne Ruggiero Wholey
She and husband Mark H. Wholey have a daughter, Lauren, 18. Dr. Wholey also has four adult children from a previous marriage. Mrs. Wholey is a medical billing and coding consultant.
Let your child be your guide: Let the needs of your child guide you to make the best decisions. Don’t worry about the stares that you might get when you have to change a diaper in public or if your child vomits because your baby is far more important than others who may be judging you.
Speaking of judgment: The fact that breastfeeding in public still is making news is evidence of the need to support mothers. I did not understand the sheer exhaustion involved in raising a child until I became a mother. Mothers need all of the help that they can get. Workplaces, public buildings, parks, etc., should be more mother-friendly.
Something often left unsaid about the school years is: Be prepared to either donate generously or work on events and fundraisers for the school.
All of the sacrifices are worth it: You have one chance to do this right. In no time, your child will be off to college and you can have your time back again.
Anne Chen is an architect living in Fox Chapel and raising her son, Xing Carlough, who is 8.
Best piece of advice you ever received: From a former kindergarten teacher: “Don’t worry, regardless of circumstance, I have never seen a kid not potty trained by the time they get to kindergarten.”
I wish I could have told myself as a new mom: You really have no idea how not just your life, but your worldview, will change. I notice different things and I care about different things now.
Do you think moms have enough support in our modern world? I think more should be done to support moms and dads. Better maternity and paternity leave, flex time, health insurance, public education. I’m not complaining. I’ve been pretty lucky. Everyone should be as lucky as me.
Is there a work/mom balance or is that not even a thing? There has to be a balance. I’m still trying to achieve that perfect equilibrium. Ask me again in 20 years.
Natalie Bencivenga: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1582 or on Twitter @NBSeen; Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com or on Twitter and Instagram @SaraB_PG.
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