Motherhood seems such a natural element of life that it's easy to take for granted what it really is -- a series of life-altering events.
For first-time mothers-to-be, it is a time full of excitement, uncertainty, stress, pain and triumph. Two local women, both in their eighth month of pregnancy, share their story as they prepare for the birth of their children.
Marie Kirksey, 24, graduated earlier this month with a degree in business administration from the University of Toledo. She cut her hours down to a part-time basis at H & R Block after the tax season ended and hopes to move to a bigger city to secure a job in financial services. Her boyfriend, Ray Easley, works at Kalahari. They are expecting a girl June 3 and have already chosen a name -- Marayah.
Haley Maschari, 22, is a graduate of Perkins High School and trained as a phlebotomist at EHOVE. She was working full-time at Firelands Vineyard until January, when her hours were cut back to a part-time basis. Her boyfriend, Ryan Miller, 29, owns and operates a roofing business. They are expecting a boy June 9, which they plan to name Roccojan Calvion.
Both say the realization of their pregnancies took them by surprise at first.
"We thought about it, but we didn't expect it this soon," Marie said as she sat on the sofa of the East Washington Street apartment she shares with Ray. "When I first found out, it was confusing, unbelievable."
Haley said she sensed she was pregnant long before the news was official, even though the first two tests she took came back negative. She felt confident enough to try a third test, which confirmed her suspicions and offered an explanation for the constant nausea she was experiencing.
Though conventional wisdom seems to advise waiting until the third month of pregnancy to share the news, Haley said she couldn't wait that long.
"We told everybody the second we knew," she said. "My mom (Gail Puckrin), was really happy and excited for her first grandbaby, and Ryan loves kids, so he's been wanting to have one for awhile."
Haley's father, Joseph Maschari, was not as easy to convince.
A traditional Italian Catholic, he expressed concern over the fact that she and Ryan were not married and questioned whether their interracial relationship would last. But it didn't take long before he welcomed Ryan as part of the family, she said.
For Haley, the telltale loss of appetite and frequent nausea she experienced at first would linger up until her eighth month of pregnancy. She felt sick all day, nearly everyday, which led to bouts of vomiting during her commute to work and on the clock.
Pregnancy also made her more aware of her eating habits. She made a conscious effort to drink plenty of milk and eat more fruits and vegetables. She also continues to swim five days a week at the YMCA. With a little more than a month to go, she's gained 14 pounds so far and expects to gain at least 10 more before the birth of her boy.
Marie said her sickness subsided after the first trimester, but other symptoms set in shortly afterward. She still copes with frequent backaches, swollen feet, irritability and constant fatigue.
She also indulges in cravings - especially for frozen green grapes and the occasional middle-of-the-night milkshake. She's gained about 50 pounds so far - the majority of which came last month as her baby reached the final stages of its development.
She said she considers herself lucky to have the support of her boyfriend, friends and family - including her parents, Irene Edwards and Michael Kirksey - all living within a short drive from her home.
A moment of realization
Both women say their pregnancies seemed to become more real the day they felt the tiny lives inside of them stir for the first time.
"It was a night in January, and I was on the phone with my cousin, asking her what it would feel like," Marie said. "All the sudden, I just felt it -- it felt like gas or butterflies."
Haley said her baby's movements give her insight into his personality.
"He's a night guy," she said. "The movement is really special because it makes you feel like you're getting to know him before he's even here."
She lifted her shirt to reveal a black, elastic "belly band," which allows her to continue wearing her favorite pair of jeans without buttoning them and holds them together over her distended stomach.
"When Ryan kisses my belly and sings to it, it's the most special thing in the world, and the baby knows the difference between our voices," she said. "He plays a drumbeat to Ryan's voice."
The movements have slowed as their babies have grown bigger, with less wiggle room, but there are still periodic kicks to remind them that at 35 weeks, their babies are now strong enough to survive outside the womb. They could come any day now.
The walls along a large corner of Marie's house are lined with stacks of diapers, a boxed crib and pink onesies, hats and socks after her baby shower a few weeks ago. She plans to pack her suitcase soon, just in case. She and Ray are also hoping to move into a house, where they'll have more space
Haley and Ryan recently moved into a house on Pearl Street and decorated their nursery room with an African theme, complete with a towering plush giraffe and Lion King memorabilia.
She's hoping her dog Sophia, a boxer/husky mix, will adjust to the new addition to their household and the extra attention she'll require. With her baby shower approaching, she hopes to acquire a few of the supplies still on her wish list -- including extra blankets and a Diaper Genie.
Both Marie and Haley are also taking Lamaze classes at Firelands Regional Medical Center to prepare them for the relaxation techniques they'll need for what they hope will be a natural childbirth.
Marie said she wants to try natural childbirth because it was the way she and her two siblings were brought into the world. She admits she's also more than a little intimidation by the industrial-sized needle epidural needle.
Haley, who is seeing a midwife at NOMS, said she wants to experience birth the old-fashioned way because she believes less is more when it comes to interfering with the process.
"Women have been having babies this way since the beginning of time, and I want to know what it feels like," she said. "I don't think I'm Superwoman or anything, but I think it's empowering."
Thinking happy thoughts
Though neither woman has had any known complications with their pregnancy, both are concerned about the possibility of needing a last-minute Cesarian delivery. They worry about the pain, the sleepless nights and the daily adjustments to their already-established routines. Still, they're trying not to dwell on those thoughts.
"I have lots of little cousins and nieces and I've read the books...I subscribe to American Baby and get e-mails from Parent Magazine...so I think I'll be ready, but this is different," Marie said. "Once they're here, you can't bring them back to someone else."
"You have to think positive, because a million things could go wrong," Haley said. "I'm looking forward to just meeting him, learning what he likes...I've been around babies before, but I don't think anything can prepare you for actually having your own."