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From the Trenches

Motherhood comes with laughs, love and laundry

Just like every one of your children is unique, motherhood has a unique meaning to all the women lucky enough and brave enough to give it try. Whether you’re a mom through childbirth, adoption or marriage, it’s all motherhood. As you prepare to enjoy Mother’s Day, and hopefully take a well-deserved break, we hope these stories from bay area moms inspire you and make you smile.

First-time Mom

By Wendy Ryan

The challenges I faced becoming a mom has helped me learn what’s important in life. I struggled with infertility for more than five years. When I finally got pregnant, I found out I was having twins but miscarried one of the fetuses seven weeks later. The doctor was sure the other twin would not make it through the night. But somehow the baby survived. Then, almost three months before my due date, my water broke and I was put on bed rest in the hospital. At 32 weeks I had an emergency cesarean and my daughter was born a preemie at just more than 3½ pounds. Raquel then spent almost two months in ICU hooked up to a feeding tube, heart monitor and other machines. It was the longest 42 days of my life. When Raquel finally came home, it truly was a dream come true. So when I look into her eyes, I’m reminded of what a miracle she is.

Returning to work with a newborn at home has made life much more challenging! I try to stay on top of things. I grocery shop and run errands on Saturday and cook and clean on Sunday. But there still never seems to be enough time in the day. Anyone else feel that way?

A few short cuts I try include putting together all of my meals for the week on the weekend. I wash all my fruit and vegetables and cut them up. I also grill a few days worth of chicken or fish and prepare salads for the week. That way I don’t have to do it daily. Bringing food to work has made it easier to eat healthy.

Exercise always makes me feel better. I teach spin classes which helps get my lazy butt out of bed, even when I don’t feel like going. But it’s all about creating the habit because it helps keep my stress in check.

My Blackberry is my life saver. It holds my calendar of day-to-day activities and it’s a great news source. I get breaking news emails and tweets from many news outlets, stay connected to Facebook, text and email. What did we do before these?

For me, sleeping is essential as I cannot function if I don’t get enough. So I try not to have any caffeine in the afternoon as I have a hard time sleeping if it’s in my system too late. I find the healthier I eat, the better I sleep. The saying you are what you eat is so true and it transfers into all parts of my life – my attitude, energy, sleep level and stress.

I try to stay grateful. It’s so easy for me to focus on what I don’t have rather than what I do. What helps? I have inspirational quotes sent to my work email, personal email and Blackberry. Just when I feel down, one of those uplifting quotes comes in and it can really make me re-evaluate whatever I was fretting about.

So in honor of my first official Mother’s Day – thanks to all you moms who do it all and make it look so easy. You are an inspiration to me.

Ryan is the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. anchor for ABC Action News. She also is a member of the I-Team and goes inside bay area restaurant kitchens, revealing violations and potentially unsafe situations in her Dirty Dining reports.

Peace amid chaos

By Linda Hurtado

I always knew I wanted to be a mother but never imagined I’d have five kids. I’m the workaholic career woman on the fast track. I fell into motherhood quite naturally, though, and in a variety of ways. I married a man who had two children. So I became a stepmom to two wonderful girls. I gave birth to two more girls and recently became a second mom for a relative of my husband’s from Cuba. We have had five kids in the house at one time, toddlers and teenagers. There have been $200 weekly trips to the grocery store, endless papers to sign for school, more nights at the softball park than I can count, broken arms and fractured friendships. Through it all, I’ve had to be the calm eye in a rapidly turning storm.

It’s exhausting and satisfying and I wouldn’t have my life any other way. But what I have found in the years I’ve spent mothering is that organization is key for me.

Peace in the chaos of the morning starts by preparing the night before. I lay out all of my kid’s clothes, sign their planners and make their lunches before I go to bed. I’d be late every day if I didn’t.

I work out in the morning. Sometimes I have to get up at 4:45 a.m. just so I can jump on a treadmill in my garage and get in a 30-minute workout. Exercise will start your day off the right way. You get your blood moving, your muscles stretching and those happy chemicals in your brain dancing.

Teach your kids to be helpers. My kids make their beds in the morning and keep their rooms clean, most of the time, so those are rooms I don’t have to clean. They also are expected to help with dishes and laundry.

Ask for help if you need it because it takes a village to raise a child. I have my mother-in-law on speed dial, recently hired a tutor for one of my kids and my husband contributes a lot.

Find a hobby and lose yourself in it. I joined a fiction writer’s group and love the time I spend with a group of women who share my love for the written word. It’s something I do only for me. Don’t feel guilty about doing something you love outside the family. As my husband always says: Happy wife means happy life.

Hurtado is the 5 p.m. anchor and medical reporter for ABC Action News. An 11-time Emmy award winning reporter, she met her husband while on assignment in Cuba. When not interviewing local newsmakers, you’ll find her at one of her kid’s sporting events.

A Mother’s heart

By Peggy Stines-Munnings

A mother’s heart is a child’s classroom. —Henry Ward Beecher

I am the lucky mother of two girls — Maelle, who recently turned 6, and Noemie who recently turned 4 — who I affectionately refer to as my little mamas. Being a mother has been quite an adventure filled with alternating periods of pure joy and frustration, but one that I must admit I have embraced enthusiastically. Parenting to me is like writing a script to a movie without having a clear idea of the ending but working toward a beautiful one and also preparing for an alternate ending.

My story started a couple of years before I was blessed with my children. I read parenting book after parenting book and thought I knew exactly what to expect. Little did I know that it does not matter how much you prepare. When it happens, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Again, so does the love that overtakes you.

In their short lives, my children have taught me more about myself than I have learned in my lifetime: patience that I never imagined I would need and never knew I had; an unconditional love that I never thought was possible to feel for one person, let alone two small children; and the ability to adapt to the constant flux of life.

Being a mother is my most important and fulfilling role. The feeling that I get from raising my girls cannot be compared to anything I have ever experienced in my life; I am constantly reminded that I am responsible for the adults they become and their contribution to society. If I do nothing more than give my girls the tools to become happy, confident, compassionate, well-rounded women, I will have succeeded.

I take the demanding task at hand very seriously while enjoying the innocence, magic and silliness they bring to my life every day. I look forward to seeing my girls grow up and become citizens of the world. Until then, I will continue to write my story and will treasure every second of this wonderful, yet challenging journey, that I am so fortunate to be on.

Stines-Munnings is originally from Haiti, moving to Tampa to attend the University of South Florida, where she met her husband Damien. She is a resource specialist, working with the underinsured.

Love Remains the Same

By Lisa De Laurentis-Rogers

Motherhood began for me in an unconventional way.

I was 20 and had recently returned to Florida from Chicago, living with my mother and two sisters. Soon after, I was introduced to a 12 year-old girl named Sofia who had traveled from Greece with her mother and sister. I convinced my mother to let them stay with us. As time passed, Sofia and I grew close. A short time later, Sofia’s mother was struck by a car and fatally injured. In the months that followed the tragedy, many decisions about the fate of Sofia and her sister were made. It was at that time that I decided to adopt Sofia.

We had a lot of fun with our unusual situation. Many people thought we were sisters because of our eight-year age difference and many still do. But our relationship runs deeper than that. Six wonderful and meaningful years later the adoption was finally complete. However, the formal document was merely procedural because Sofia and I already shared a special love and respect for one another. We have experienced the same challenges and joys shared between any mother and daughter, and others unique to our situation, but my relationship with her is one I’ll always cherish and is among the most important in my life.

Fast forward 20 years and again I’m a mother, only this time on the verge of turning 40. My husband Nyle and I had been married just shy of a year, but had been trying to have a baby before we were even married. Quickly we recognized that it might be more difficult than we expected, and we visited a fertility specialist. After many tests, we learned we had a less than 5 percent chance of having a baby of our own. My heart had always longed to share the world with a child of my own. Needless to say, we were devastated.

A few days later, Nyle and I went on a cruise for our November wedding anniversary and on Christmas Eve we learned I was five weeks and two days pregnant, truly a gift from God.

Madeline came into the world in 2004 a whopping 9 pounds, 7 ounces and 22 inches long. Every decision I make is with her in mind and I strive to provide her with the love and guidance she needs to make her way in the world. She is the love of my life. Sharing the world with her is amazing and seeing it through her eyes is even more beautiful. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love her nor have I ever felt the happiness she brings me as I watch her sing, dance, discover and accomplish or hear her belly laugh, recognize her confidence or wipe away her tears. And oh, those hugs and kisses.

In this hurried life of balancing career and family, I cherish her every moment. She has such a zest for life and I am so proud of her kind spirit and gentle heart. Madeline has changed my life in ways I never knew possible. In the same breath I’d give up my life for her, while hoping for more years to watch her make all of her dreams a reality. I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters in my life. Although both very different experiences, one thing remains constant and that is love.

De Laurentis-Rogers, originally from Chicago, graduated from Eckerd College. She is a hospital sales specialist and enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the theater and boating.

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