Learning by example

Hours before I held Miles in my arms for the very first time I had a mini-panic attack.
I knew that life as I knew it was going to change in just about every possible way.
Was I really ready to be a mom.
I didn’t feel “grown-up” enough. Could I handle it? Would I break him? Ruin him?

Miles holding Michael's hand.

Miles holding Michael’s hand.

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I’d had an amazing example of a mom. She wasn’t perfect but that’s what was so perfect about her. She messed up, but things always turned out OK.
My mom and dad both worked — a lot — more than my twin sister and I would have liked and more than they wanted to. But they did that for Sarah and me, and the time that we did have with them was intentional. She made the best out of every moment we had together whether it was blowing bubbles with us in the yard, helping us do crafts around our kitchen table or snuggling in her “house” on the couch as we watched television.

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So in those few hyperventilating “can I do this” moments, I pictured my mom — a beautiful 27-year-old scared woman handed twin girls — and said, “I got this.” mom and twins
In a few months when I get ready to start all over again with Baby Doyle 2, those same fears and doubts may creep back up. Luckily, I have some amazing people I can turn to for support.
This Mother’s Day, I want to write more than the “Thanks mom, yadda, yadda, yadda” column. I want to share what motherhood looks like to the moms closest to me — my twin sister, our mom and her mom. I hope you can learn as much from them as I have.
“It’s instantaneous,” Bev Brown said of the love a mother has for their child. “And it goes on forever and ever, regardless of what happens. It is always there and will always be there.”

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Bev, 60, found out she was having twins pretty late in her pregnancy. The doctor said, “I think I might hear two heart beats. There’s this new thing called ultrasound that would probably tell us for sure, but I don’t know if insurance would cover it. Do you want it?”
She didn’t hesitate. The news was quite shocking at first but when she was handed two daughters at once, she just figured it out.
“People always ask me, ‘How did you do it?’” Bev said. “But the idea that I did something special or different, it is all I ever knew. You do what you have to do.”
Her biggest struggle wasn’t juggling two rambunctious, curious girls, instead it was the self-doubt.
“I struggled with the feeling of ‘did I give enough to my kids,’” Bev said, pointing out that it is something many working moms battle. “I had to always think about quality versus quantity because I didn’t get a lot of time. I wanted to give the most bang for the buck in the time I did have. And I notice that with the younger generation. I see you and your sister doing that — lots of quality individual time with your boys.”
Bev said whereas some women talk about a particular love of one stage in their children’s lives, she has loved it all.

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“It just keeps getting better and better the older you kids get,” she said. “Even now, I love the relationship we have. Yes, we are still mother and daughter, but we are also peers. And it is amazing seeing you guys as good mothers. It makes my heart feel warm to think I may have had some influence on that. Maybe I did something as a mom to help make you the kind of mother you are being.”

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My twin sister, Sarah Spurgeon, 33, said she didn’t realize how much becoming a mom would change her life. But now she’d never turn back. She doesn’t miss what it was like before.
“I love everything about being a mom,” Sarah said. “Life is so much more fun and exciting seeing the way Charlie reacts to things. Situations that were mundane before with him are so much more colorful and entertaining.”
With the excitement of motherhood also comes a whole new set of worries and anxieties.
“You worry about everything, every possible scenario, even the ones that aren’t that likely. You convince yourself that they could all happen and figure out what to do if they do,” Sarah said. “But then, when something actually does happen, you handle it. When it did for us, we dealt with it the best way we could and feel like we made the best decisions, and I’m proud of the way we handled it.”
At just four months, Charlie was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and eventually diagnosed with epilepsy.
“Being a mom, it is all about unconditional love,” she said. “My life is no longer just about me; I have become a better person for him. I’ve changed the way I do things from becoming a better driver to making different financial decisions.”

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Sarah said if she’s learned anything in her short time as a mom it is that no one is perfect.
“So take it easy on yourself,” she said. “And as difficult as it is, resist the urge to wrap your kids in Bubble Wrap.”

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My grandmother, Jo Ann Kirman, 81, got thrown into the parenting game quickly and learned as she went along. She had five kids in six years, all by age 25.
“Being a mom is the greatest thing of my life,” said Jo Ann, called Nana by her 10 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids. “It’s the best thing I ever did; and my kids are the most important things to me, the greatest joys of my life.”
“It was hard,” she said. “We lived on a farm. I was a farmer’s wife; I had to run men from one farm to another so they could move machinery. I had to go out and get tractor parts.”
Jo Ann said without help from her mother-in-law, Leota McLaughlin, she isn’t sure she would have been able to do it. Jo Ann’s advice for moms today is to revel in the moments with your kids because it goes so quickly.

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“They grow up so fast,” she said. “Time just gets away from you in a blink of an eye. Get involved in your kids’ lives, their activities.”
In her decades of mothering and watching her own children become mothers (and a father) and later her grandchildren, Jo Ann said she’s seen big changes.
“It seems so much harder today,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know how you guys do it.”
We just manage some way Nana, just like you did.
And as my mom often reminds me, “Slow down and breathe.”
“Your heart, it won’t stop growing,” Bev said. “You think, ‘How can I love this person this much?’ But your heart just keeps expanding. I can’t imagine not being a mom. And now, being a grandmother, it is just an incredible role to play. There’s nothing better.”

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