As we approach the one year anniversary of To Mama, With Love, it seemed only right to spotlight the Mama who raised my siblings and I.
Let me tell you about my mama. She is my rock, my role model, my go-to person for recipes, life advice, a judgment free venting session and an afternoon cup of coffee. She has the best laugh, the yummiest chicken cutlets and most delicious blondies. She is sunshine in human form and now with our little one, the most incredible, gracious and patient Mima.
My mama is one of three girls; my loving two aunts share her sunshine, faith and amazing cooking- each with their own specialty. She had two (in my eyes) perfect parents and she would be the first to tell you they were different with their grandchildren (and had every right to be) then they were as parents.
She married her high school sweetheart in June 1986 and together, they moved to their forever home in 1989. My brother and I were born 1991 and our sister followed in 1995.
Let that sink in. My parents found out at 16 weeks there were two of us. Keep in mind, this was 1990/1991 so ultrasounds were a lot different and less frequent than they are today.
So what tipped them off? An Alpha-fetoprotein blood test that could indicate health issues with the baby or presence of multiples. There was no history of twins so both of my parents entered the doctor’s office with trepidation. They left with utter shock.
2 car seats
2 high chairs
As a first time mama, my mom shares that she felt excited and a bit nervous. The thought of “Can I do this?” went through her mind and she immediately decided she was not breastfeeding. Other than being very tired, she had a great pregnancy and she loved being pregnant. She experienced no morning sickness with her first or second pregnancy and in her words, “my babies were very happy in their prenatal environment!”
She carried my brother and I full term for twins (38 ½ weeks) and my sister a couple years later was late!
Growing up we heard a lot of stories about our mom’s pregnancy and I definitely have my favorites. This story of my mom’s pregnancy cravings is one of them.
When she was pregnant with my brother and I, she craved Entenmann’s Raspberry Danish and with my sister, homemade chocolate chip cookies. (I don’t think they’re related but to this day these desserts are still some of my siblings and I favorites). Anyway, on the way home from Lamaze class, my mom wanted a flying saucer from Carvel. By the time my parents got to Carvel, they were just locking up the door. My father, knowing how much this flying saucer meant to my mom, went up to the door and spoke with the employee; explained the pregnancy craving and was handed a free pack of flying saucers. My mom claims it was the best flying saucer she ever had!
1991- Twins were born
There were no complications when my mom was pregnant. Unfortunately, when my brother and I were born, there were. Her water broke, at home, on a Sunday night. She had no labor pains or contractions yet so they stayed home and fell asleep. Monday morning they went to the hospital and her second water broke (twins, remember). My mom was monitored and given time to rest, still no labor pains.
Early Tuesday morning, her labor started. She asked if she could take a shower and the staff permitted her to do so. However, when she was finished with her shower, she began experiencing chills and a fever.
The hospital staff responded by doing an internal ultrasound and monitoring her symptoms for fear of an infection. What they found though was that Baby A’s (my brother) heartbeat was erratic. So my mom was prepped for a C-section.
Side note, while she was being prepped for a C-section, she was also awaiting the arrival of her doctor who, by chance, was delayed because of a flat tire.
Because of Baby A’s erratic heartbeat, my mom was not able to be awake during the C-section. Baby A was delivered first, not breathing and with an Apgar* score of 0. The question of how long was he not breathing is unclear however he has experienced no delays or lingering brain effects**. Baby B was born healthy. My brother and I were taken to the NICU for monitoring and it was a while before my mom could see us and hold us.
When she awoke, she still had a low grade fever and the hospital staff were concerned that she could pass whatever she had to my brother and I. As mothers do, she did what she felt was necessary to hold her first born children and she proceeded to suck on ice cubes so her temperature would appear lower. Keep in mind, she had no sign of infection and the chills, she firmly believes, was because of the shower she had taken earlier that day.
Everyone was healthy and cleared to leave the hospital after a few days. My mom shares her first thoughts of coming home with twins and like many moms, questioned her abilities. She shared how these questions went through her mind; “how am I going to do this?”, “How will I know what’s wrong if my kids are crying?”, “How did they let me leave the hospital?” She remembers thinking, I am completely responsible for keeping my kids alive and healthy.
Then she came home and with help and her mission to take care of our basic needs, the questions stopped, giving room for instinct to take over. She also shared how she was too tired to think anymore so the questions that used to feed her thoughts, stopped and she just did the dang thing.
1995- My sister’s debut
If you’ve gathered anything about my parents at this point, you may see that they are not anxious people. My mom was already past her due date by a week…
And unlike our birth story, my mom’s labor with my sister began at home, again at night. My dad, as mentioned, worked in NYC and had long hours, even at this point in her pregnancy. My mom’s contractions were still irregular so my dad asked if they could wait till the morning to leave the house…He was very tired.
The next day my mom actually had an appointment scheduled with her doctor so they went there first and were instructed to go straight to the hospital. My parents are calm people.
When they arrived at the hospital, my mom was examined and the staff determined that the baby was in distress and had her first bowel movement while my mom was in labor and doctors were concerned about Meconium Aspiration– there could have been a problem with my sister’s lungs. ***
So again, my mom was prepped for a c-section and asked, this time, if she could stay awake. The hospital staff obliged and gave her an epidural. Yet, the epidural didn’t take and try as she might to hide that fact, she had to be knocked out for the birth. She was disappointed.
My sister was born healthy, Apgar score was in the normal range and my mom was able to see her when she woke. My parents left the hospital two days later with a beautiful baby girl.
Coming Home with Twins
For the first two weeks, my mom shared that she had a lot of support. My dad was able to stay home and help with everything! Feedings, diaper changes, sterilizing and preparing bottles- with two kids, they had a system down to a science. When he went back to work, she was alone with her twins all day. Of course, my dad helped out as soon as he got home and during nighttime feedings although it wasn’t always easy with his long hours and commute to and from NYC.
After we were born, my mom shares that her very first goal was to be able to take a shower everyday. She realized she had to develop some sort of routine to take care of two babies and her. Once she got a shower everyday, she adjusted her goal (if you know us, you’re probably rolling your eyes at those Vastas and their goals) to a shower before noon. Then she was determined to get herself and both babies dressed and out the door for a drive. Some days she would drive to my grandmother’s house in White Plains and stay for a couple of hours. There, she had an extra set of hands and some help. Aside from great company, it’s one of the same reasons I drive up the street to my mama’s house; help, comfort, company, someone who just gets it.
In her words, as she became braver, she managed making simple dinners before my dad got home from work and took my brother and I food shopping with her.
My Mama’s Perspective
When asked to describe the best thing of being a mom, my mom said EVERYTHING! She loves being a mom and now, she loves being a Mima (Grandma) too. If she had to pick one thing, it would be teaching your kids and seeing them accomplish and learn something new. Whether it was teaching them how to walk or tie their shoes, play soccer or even learn how to drive…seeing the success in their eyes and knowing you had a part in it has been her favorite part.
The hardest thing…discipline. She says being a mom is the hardest job and the most rewarding. She wasn’t our friend (she is now!) but growing up she maintained that boundary and realized that raising kids and disciplining their actions came with difficult lessons. If you do your job right (as parents) your kids will become your friends as adults.
As a mother, she still worries from time to time and the one thing she stressed to me was how kids today are not experiencing enough outdoor playtime and not as much family time. She is not a fan of the current school curriculum and feels there are topics that are better suited for family discussions than teacher and student. She shares how she would much rather raise her children in the timeframe she did than today, especially with a pandemic– she wonders how a pandemic will affect children (of all ages) social skills.
That being said, she was and is the mom she thought she would be. She says, “I know I didn’t do everything perfectly, far from it, but I think I did a good job”. She went on to say how proud she is of my siblings and I and how her life would be incomplete if she wasn’t a mom.
She also loves being a MIMA and says her role has changed in a good way! She says she gets to have a lot more fun as the grandmother- yes there’s still responsibility and discipline but there’s also a lot of spoiling; “that’s a Mima’s job!”. As a Mima, she’s secondary, she’s not the primary parent; in her words she gets to reinforce and support our teaching- it’s a completely different experience!
Being a grandmother also brings up feelings of her own mother. She told me, “I hope to be the grandmother she was with my kids. They loved being with her and she always made them feel loved and wanted and enjoyed spending time with them”. (We had a good cry after that comment & I can say, she & my dad are doing an amazing job– our daughter runs into their house and into their arms…they’re on the right track).
Her mom, my grandma, was born in Italy and came to the US after marrying my grandfather. She left all her family behind to go to a country where she didn’t even know the language. She struggled at first and it was very hard for her but she was a very strong woman. She was also very caring and loving. In my mom’s words, “that’s what I tried to emulate and teach my children–that they had the inner strength to be or do whatever they wanted in life and also to be a good honorable person too”.
Her best advice for new mamas… “don’t get hung up on doing things the ‘right’ way. The right way is your way. Do what works for you. Your job as a new mom basically involves a few things…feed your child, love your child and keep them safe. The rest will fall into place”.
It was truly an honor to write this reflection and story of my mom’s journey as a mother and hear her perspective, now as a mama myself. Each time we talk, I hear and learn something new – even if it’s the same story I’ve heard before. A mama’s job is never done and she’s right; if you do it with respect and love, your children will come back to you. We all have because we want too & that makes a difference too. I love you to heaven and back Mama. Always.
*Apgar is a quick test performed 1 minute and at 5 minutes post birth. The test at 1 minute rates how well the baby tolerated the birthing process and the test at 5 minutes rates how well the baby is doing outside of the mother’s womb. For more information, see the Resources section.
** When my brother and I were two, my parents were called by individuals conducting a study on babies born with low Apgar scores to determine if the low Apgar indicated any developmental delays or caused any lingering brain damage. In my brother’s case, it didn’t. He turned out highly (sometimes annoyingly) intelligent.
***When a baby has a bowel movement in the womb or during the birthing process it’s called Meconium Aspiration and the baby might develop a dangerous lung condition. Some babies are at a greater risk for passing meconium before birth if the mother has preeclampsia or if the labor/delivery is particularly stressful. For more information, check out the Resources section.