The gift of life: Experiencing the early stages of motherhood

Charlotte Chui

When guidance counselor Jessica Coscia reflects upon her experience as a mother, moments with her son spring to mind: calls of “Mama!” when she walks into the room, him coming up to hold her hand or give hugs and kisses, sitting in her lap, wanting to be read the “Dragons Love Tacos” book. Smile wide, teary-eyed, these moments spill out of Coscia fluidly, like she could easily come up with 10 more on the spot.

“You’re going to make me cry again because I’m a hormonal mess,” Coscia said. “This is what happens when you talk to a pregnant lady.”

Photo used with permission of Jessica Coscia.

While Coscia has a one and a half year old son, Bishop, she is also pregnant with her daughter, who she is expecting in April. Going through this experience for the second time, she does feel there is a notable difference.

“You don’t know what to expect the first time around,” Coscia said. “There’s so many people giving you advice and telling you different things — it can be kind of overwhelming and scary. You worry more when you’re a first time parent because you don’t have anything to compare to. But this time, I feel a lot more relaxed.”

Theater teacher Sara Capule, who is expecting her first child in February, has a similar relaxed approach. She takes potential difficulties one day at a time, choosing not to worry until she encounters these challenges.

“I think it’s very easy to have a lot of anxiety about the fact that my life will completely change once I have a kid,” Capule said. “But I just am not the kind of person to worry about things like that in advance. My husband and I are doing everything to be best prepared, so I can’t actually say I’m nervous about anything.”

While Capule did prepare by getting the nursery ready with animal-themed decor and learning about pregnancy through books and online research, she also focused on other aspects, such as making sure she’s taking care of herself and in turn, the baby. She found this a difficult adjustment since before her pregnancy, Capule would often try to push through when she was tired. In addition, Capule also anticipated the change in her relationships, such as trying to go on more dates with her husband before becoming parents changes their dynamic.

For English teacher Lindsay Stuart, preparation began as soon as she found out that she was pregnant with now eight-month-old daughter Allie.

Photo by Jacob Wee.

“I started making a list of everything I thought I would [need] and looking up a lot of reviews online and talking to people,” Stuart said. “In terms of learning different skills and being prepared for the experience, [my husband and I] took six different parenting classes at the medical center. That was really helpful because you would never know these things unless you were pregnant.”

Even with the factors that mothers try to account for, there are still unexpected difficulties, such as sleep deprivation for Coscia. Between constant feedings and Bishop waking up every two hours, Coscia didn’t really get any sleep in the beginning.

“People tell you that you’re not going to sleep and you say okay, but you don’t really realize how little you’re going to sleep,” Coscia said. “You are not getting any sleep the first couple months and that was kind of shocking. You’re kind of in a haze the entire time.”

Though Stuart did also experience this lack of sleep, the most surprising aspect was the initial transition period in getting to know her daughter, which didn’t happen immediately.

“As soon as you meet your child, you certainly love them, but you don’t necessarily feel like you know them yet,” Stuart said. “Because even though I’m her mother and she’s my baby, you’re still kind of strangers.”

Another unexpected aspect was the isolation Stuart felt in the beginning, especially as she was one of the first among her friends to become a mother. According to Stuart, the life-changing experience of motherhood was one that her friends couldn’t fully understand, and the loneliness of this situation was challenging.

However, Stuart feels that she’s also learned from some of the difficulties she’s faced. Though she sees herself as a Type A personality, motherhood taught her to accommodate unexpected changes.

The only way to survive is just to be flexible and be willing to change your plans at the last minute,” Stuart said. “It’s also taught me to forgive myself, be less of a perfectionist, because especially as a new mom who’s working full time, it’s just impossible to do everything at the same level as I did before. That was kind of hard for me to accept at first, but I think that’s the only way to try to do it all.”

Even with the changes and difficulties that come along with raising a child, Coscia is quick to note that the overall experience is undoubtedly still worth it.

“It’s hard when you first have a child,” Coscia said. “You have no idea what you’re doing, you’re sleep deprived, you’re trying to take care of a small child and it can be stressful and overwhelming, but you figure it out and it gets better. You take bad with the good and the outcome outweighs all of the exhaustion.”

Stuart holds a similar sentiment as Coscia. Moments like taking her daughter Allie to meet her grandparents on the East Coast and seeing Allie interact and respond to her only further enforce this opinion.

“As soon as they smile around three months, it’s so rewarding,” Stuart said. “You finally feel like they’re acknowledging you as a human being, as opposed to just a source of food. Now that she’s more active, just playing with her and seeing her explore the world is really worth it.”

Stuart’s treasured moments are also some of the aspects that Capule is most looking forward to.

“I can’t wait to see the kid smile and hear the kid laugh and I think all of those moments where it’s clear, like this is a little human being,” Capule said. “[During the first ultrasound], we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat, which I wasn’t expecting we would hear so soon. That brought to reality how real the situation was, that I was growing a human being.”

Even as a soon to be mother of two, Coscia still finds herself amazed at the concept of motherhood.

“As a woman, you can grow a child inside of you, and then you have this little person that you created that you then get to see grow and change,” Coscia said. “It blows my mind all the time. My husband and I are always like, ‘We made that kid. That’s crazy.’”