Sharicca Boldon's first real "I'm a mom" moment arrived soon after the birth of her twins Matthew Brian and Samuel Christopher. She and her husband, Brian, brought the babies home to their row house in Barre Circle-and alone with the boys and their two cribs, double stroller, and several bouncy seats, Boldon thought, "Wow. Now what?"
She was on her own. "You don't have the hospital staff there to assist you," she says. "You have to figure it out."
For most first-time moms, that "I'm really a mom now" moment comes not long after childbirth rocks their lives.
It dawns on them as they settle their newborns into nurseries they prepared and when they wake up at 3 a.m. and realize they're the ones who need to figure out how to make the crying stop. It strikes them as they struggle with unexpected challenges: the pain of recovery from birth, the colicky baby, the feeling of isolation.
But they perhaps feel most like moms when they realize that as their babies grow and learn, they do, too. At least, that's what our three first-time moms found out.
Boldon, 31, faced her fears of motherhood by turning on a song she'd listened to when she was pregnant, Kanye West's tribute to his mother "Hey Mama." As West crooned, "I wanna scream so loud for you, 'cause I'm so proud of you . . .," Boldon danced with her babies on that first day home. "We're in this together," she thought.
Boldon always believed she'd be a mother to twins one day. She'd been seeing twin boys in her dreams since she was 9 years old. She had even told her husband, who works as an engineer in the transportation industry, about her twin dreams when the two of them were students at Penn State.
She was used to juggling plenty of responsibilities. She works full time as a digital marketing manager for Procter & Gamble Cosmetics in Hunt Valley. She also runs an event planning business called The Big Event. The fraternal twins, born February 6, 2007, threw her challenges she wasn't expecting.
Boldon worried about how she'd feed two babies at the same time and how she'd handle them when they were both crying. She got the hang of doing double duty. And so did they.
"If you guys want to eat, you have to hold your own bottles," she told her boys when she switched them to formula at four months old. And they did.
When they cried at the same time, she learned to prioritize their needs. Dirty diapers came first.
"If it's just, 'I don't want to play with that toy anymore,' then, you know, you have to wait," she says.
She also learned to make them feel her attention was undivided even as she played with them at the same time. As she stacked blocks with one twin, she'd be rolling a ball to the other.
She soon realized how much busier she was than her mom friends who just had one baby. They would talk about all the time they had on their hands while their babies napped for three-hour stretches twice a day.
"I remember thinking, 'Wow. I wasn't getting those long extended breaks like everybody else,'" she says.
While one twin might take a long nap, the other would most likely wake up after a half hour and demand her attention.
Boldon took almost a year off after the twins were born. It proved to be among her toughest challenges. "People always say that a year goes by really quickly with kids," she says. "I will say for the first three months I did not feel like time was moving quickly."
The sleeplessness and isolation got to her. "Staying at home was a lot more difficult than I anticipated," she says. "I had asked for a year off work, and after three months, I was like, 'I'm ready to come back.'"
She missed having contact with adults. "It's so demanding, you don't have time to take care of yourself," she says.
But when her twins turned six months old, things started to get a little easier. She and her husband took the boys by overnight train to a vacation on Martha's Vineyard with their extended family. And Boldon found she was able to get the boys ready for an outing in 15 minutes instead of the hour it used to take.
She also joined moms groups including Mocha Moms-a support group for mothers of color. In Sharicca fashion, she became membership chairwoman for the Baltimore chapter shortly after joining.
After almost a year at home with her twins, she hired an au pair and went back to work. She also started studying for her MBA, traveling to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for classes once a week.
And, as she revels in her twins' achievements, she's getting ready for a bigger family.
A brother or sister for the twins is due in August. This time, she's had no telltale dreams about the baby. "We'll probably leave it as a surprise," she says.
Dionne Mayers's big "mom" moment came when her husband Paul and mother left her alone with baby Jayden Aaron Christopher, who arrived October 28, 2007.
"It really, really hit me when my mom left, and my husband went to work," says Mayers, 39, who does freelance work as a sign language interpreter. "I was here by myself with him for the first time, and I was like, 'Wow, he's really dependent on me for everything.'"
Mayers says she cried that day. "They were tears of joy because I had been waiting for him for awhile," she says. "He's here, and he's here to stay. He's not going to know me as Dionne, he's going to know me as mom."
But she had a hard time decoding her colicky baby's feeding needs. "I had no clue. I thought I'd add a bottle, and he'll stop crying," she says. "It doesn't work that way."
Mayers discovered she wasn't making enough milk to breast-feed successfully. She switched to formula only to discover her baby had reflux and needed a special mix of soy-based formula, rice, and juice. She says she is used to fixing problems and then moving on to the next thing.
"Being a mother is completely different. I can't just fix it and be done," she says. "It's constant monitoring and checking. It's mind-boggling."
She admits that she sank into sadness. "I know I went through post-partum depression," she says. "I wasn't ready for that."
She says she was in denial about her depression and didn't seek any help for it specifically. She got through it by talking a lot with her husband, a pharmaceutical chemist. She says he was a huge help, handling all the housework at their Owings Mills home in the weeks after the baby was born.
Eventually, she mastered her son's feeding schedule. "Feeding him is a science experiment, but it's great," she says. "He's not colicky anymore, and when he cries, it's for a reason."
Jayden recently started day care, and Mayers is relishing his development. "He has two teeth coming in, and everything he gets a hold of goes straight to his mouth," she says.
As difficult as things were in the beginning, Mayers says motherhood is enjoyable because it is all so new. And now that her baby's colic has subsided and he's mostly content, she acknowledges, "I'm enjoying it much more now."
First-time mom Diane Boia truly felt her "I'm a real mom" moment the day she brought her baby daughter to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore for her traditional 40-day blessing.
She dressed Anna Marie Eleni, born on August 8, 2007, in a white eyelet dress with pink flowers and a matching bonnet and waited in the back of the church for the priest to come and carry her baby to the altar. "That was when it was like, 'I'm a mom now,'" she says.
Boia, 42, of Lutherville, was accustomed to being a caretaker. Shortly before marrying husband Tim, an assistant vice president for T. Rowe Price investment services, she quit her job as an attorney and started her home-based jewelry business D & T Designs Jewelry. Her home business allowed her time to help care for her father, 87, who has a chronic illness, and other ailing relatives.
When she discovered she was going to have a baby, she knew she was going to need assistance. She hired helpers from Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Doula Touch program to aid her through the birth and at home.
"I had absolutely no experience with an infant," she says. "The most I'd done was hold one of my cousins' babies. I'd never changed a diaper or fed a baby. The only thing I was good at was buying clothes. I had enough for three girls."
The doulas were mothers themselves who helped with everything from organizing the nursery to taking home baby laundry when Boia's washing machine broke. They also were a great help after her Caesarean section.
Boia says she wasn't prepared for how rough the recovery would be. "Boy, the pain was a lot. I couldn't get around as much as I wanted to," she says. "It was a lot harder than I thought it would be."
The first nights with her baby at home were also difficult. On the second night of crying, Boia says she thought, "Oh my gosh, we're not going to be able to handle this."
The doulas spent some of those first few nights with the Boias, helping them to recognize the signs of sleepiness in their baby. On the fourth night, magic struck. Anna Marie Eleni, who is named for her grandmothers, slept from 11 p.m. to about 5 a.m. as she has almost every night since. "We were really, really lucky," Boia says.
Despite the help of the doulas, Boia still felt overwhelmed. Life started to seem easier after she made it through the planning and execution of her daughter's December 9 baptism and reception for 70 people.
"That was ambitious, being a new, inexperienced mom," Boia says of the event, traditionally a large affair in the Greek community. "I knew I was doing all right when I could handle that and take care of her."
Once the baptism was over, Boia squeezed in a lot of snuggle time with her daughter, looking at books and playing. "I'm having a lot of fun with her," she says. "She laughs so much, and my heart just melts."