From the category archives:

thoughts on pregnancy

By Gabrielle. Natural Bamboo Knottie on Big Cartel.

I’ve read Kelly’s birth story so many times, and my reaction is always the same: How in the world did she do it? There was her grueling process to become pregnant, the out-of-this-world reward, a low so devastating it’s difficult to even imagine, a fight to go on and stay strong, and an ending so sad yet so wonderful at the very same time.

Yes, it’s difficult to even imagine, but I know hers is one of those stories that makes us better afterwards. Kelly and her husband and their babies all remind me that life is so fragile, so achingly beautiful, and doesn’t make sense some of the time. Friends, please take time with Kelly’s story. I hope it nudges you to view your day a little differently, as it did mine. Welcome, Kelly.

Q: Tell us a little about you pre-pregnancy: what your life was like pre-Zoe and a little about the struggles you endured in conceiving.

A: Pre-pregnancy life was great until my husband Jeff and I started trying to get pregnant. We traveled, flipped a house, built a house, saw concerts, got engaged in our favorite city of New Orleans, worked for the same company, and were happy. I even wondered if I wanted children because things were great as it was!

After a year of loosely trying to conceive, I started to get frustrated and really wanted to get pregnant. I started working with OB/Gyn who immediately put me on a fertility drug to help me ovulate more eggs. This drug made me feel crazy! I did some very uncharacteristic things like throwing a temper tantrum when my husband would not stop playing the guitar one night?! Nothing happened. We then began some tests with no conclusive evidence of what might be the problem.

This was nearly two years of trying with no baby, and depression, anger, and jealousy set in around this time. Everyone was having babies but us. I isolated myself from everyone but my husband. Jealously is a horrible feeling to have towards people you love, but I could not seem to help it, no matter how I tried. I found an infertility support group that made me feel less alone.

The rest of the story will move you. I promise.


turquoise angel wing necklace

By Gabrielle. Necklace by Lake Shore Creations on Etsy.

Today, I’m pleased as can be to be re-launching the Growing a Family Series. When I asked about this column several weeks ago, your response was overwhelmingly: Yes, Please! And it’s no surprise to me. The stories in this column are about joy and pain, about growth and loss, about life and death. It doesn’t really get more universal than that, right?

For now, I plan to share a new story in this series twice a month, or maybe every third week. We’ll see how it goes. And for those of you who aren’t connecting with stories like this at the moment, please I know I plan to publish a second post on the days I share a piece in the Growing a Family series — so you’ll still have something fresh and new to read.

Now, to the first story in the relaunch. You’re about to meet Melissa. Her birth story isn’t the fairy tale that exists in most hopeful mothers’ dreams. There were no ultrasound photos with that “Hi Mom!” caption drawn on by the sonologist, no cute belly shots posted to Instagram, no nursery mood boards in varying shades of blues and pinks on Pinterest, and no joyfully anticipatory baby showers. Honestly, there were no real assurances that the ending would be happy for anyone involved. Especially not their first time around.

But that’s the way with adoption, isn’t it? As Melissa so aptly describes it, “I can’t ignore the reality that adoption is always about both loss and gain.” Such a glorious gift when you look at the process from an adoptive mother’s standpoint, but such a heart-crushing act of goodness when you consider what the birth mother is giving up.

Friends, I hope you enjoy Melissa’s story. More than that, I hope it inspires you to see things a little differently today – maybe from someone else’s perspective. Welcome, Melissa!

Melissa’s touching story, just ahead.


Birth & Adoption Stories

November 6, 2013

Gabrielle Blair

By Gabrielle. Image of me by Tracey Clark.

Did you know it was baby central over here at Design Mom? In the summer, our lovely Raleigh-Elizabeth became a mom when Hunter arrived, our wonderful Amy Hackworth is also expecting an addition to her family, and just recently, our delightful Koseli Cummings gave birth to her second child. His name is Sondre Christian and he is a joy to behold. Congratulations to the Cummings Family!

And it’s not just Design Mom contributors. My sis-in-law, Liz of Say Yes to Hoboken, is due this weekend — but the baby could arrive any day now!

All this wonderful baby news has me wondering if it’s time to bring back our Growing a Family Series. Do you remember it? All through my pregnancy with Flora June, and for a couple of years after she was born, we would regularly share birth stories, IVF stories, pregnancy stories and adoption stories sent in from readers. There are over 120 posts in the series! You can find them all here.

I’d love your thoughts. Would you like to see the series return? Any suggestions? How about frequency? Once per week, or maybe twice per month? And I’m wondering if it would be fun to change up the format a bit and make it more of an interview — like the Living With Kids home tours. I’d really appreciate any feedback!

P.S. — You can read my story of June’s birth here.


Hungry Monkey

April 25, 2013

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image via Mila’s Daydreams.

Because I am a writer and I work from home, I’m afforded some great luxuries. Chief among these is that I get to define my hours to a certain extent, and lately, because I’m 32 weeks pregnant with our first child and have no reason not to, I’ve taken to eating breakfast in a warm bath with Morning Edition in the background, a cup of tea, and a good book at my side.

If you want to really hate me, I’ll elaborate that I’ve been eating fresh berries with croissants made by my mother, and I have two every morning — chocolate and almond. I figure this is going to be the last time in my life where I have some peace of mind in the morning, and I’m going to make the most of it.

(Since we’re friends, I’ll admit: my work schedule does make un-luxurious demands in other, cruel ways. I just don’t like to think about them when things are still peachy-keen in the morning.)

But for the last few days, this sleepy little ritual has been interrupted by the high-pitched sound of snorting. A very unladylike, ungracious snort, and one or two times there has even been some tea coming out of my nose while I erupt in hyena-like laughter. I can’t help it. I’m reading Hungry Monkey.

Given to me by my stepmother (my sole inspiration and role-model when it comes to all things food and whose great wedding present of a curated cookbook collection you read about here) this past weekend at my baby shower, Hungry Monkey is sub-titled “A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.” I accepted the present greedily, like a recovering addict would take to their formerly beloved drug, because all through this pregnancy, I’ve eaten like a stereotypical four year old. I like things that are white and yellow. I want nothing to do with green. Chicken fingers and plain white cupcakes with plain white frosting (or Funfetti, if we’re feeling really adventurous) have constituted their own food groups.

As someone who has lived her whole adult life on spicy curry soups, brussels sprouts tossed with mustard and capers, and Ethiopian injera, this has been moderately terrifying on a good day and depression-making on the worst. Is this kid so picky I can’t even tolerate any decent food pregnant? Are we going to be resigned to dinners of plain cheese pizza and pasta-with-butter-no-sauce for the next 18 years and eight weeks?

Is it okay to start crying now?

More Hungry Monkey, straight ahead!


Birth Photos

October 8, 2012

By Whitney.

Some of my favorite posts to read on Design Mom are the birth stories. I am always so moved by the emotion and beauty inherent throughout the birthing process.

I’ve been photographing births for a few years, so I was very interested in what this article had to say about birth photography becoming more popular. For many women, photos of their child entering the world are an absolute treasure, while others cringe at the thought of a camera present during such a personal moment.

Have any of you had a birth photographed…or desperately wish you had? Did the presence of a photographer make you feel at all uncomfortable or as though you had to remain somewhat photogenic through the entire birth? (That would be impossible, wouldn’t it?) I’m so curious to hear your thoughts!

Photos by Hardie Photography.

P.S. — Have you seen sweet Erin‘s home birth photos captured by Betsy King? I was in tears by the end! And remember Baby June’s birth? So fast, the photographer arrived just after the baby!


Julia has developed mucositis — a painful inflammation of the mucous membranes. Basically it means she has sores all along her digestive tract from her mouth to her bum. She’s on a morphine pump, and I can tell she’s miserable.

Martin Luther said “If you could understand a single grain of wheat, you would die of wonder.” I thought of this quote yesterday, and it made me think about my first time giving birth. It was such a brutal and magnificent experience all in one. I pushed for four hours with Julia. I was in agony.

Click here for more of Shelley’s story.


In lieu of a traditional growing-a-family story, I thought it would be fun to share this video today. Miranda of One Little Minute spent 9 months on Project Baby, and then another 9 months editing the results into a lovely video.

Miranda says, “I have been excited about making this little video of outtakes since day one of Project Baby. Looking back to those pregnant days makes me appreciate some of the little things that are easy to take for granted. Like my ankles. And tying my shoes. And sleeping on my belly. The little man was worth every ache and pound, though. He is gentle, curious, and happy.”

I love seeing the little onesie at the end!

P.S. — Here’s another birth video from Shannon.

Note from Design Mom: throughout my 6th pregnancy, I posted reader-submitted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family. My baby is hardly a baby anymore — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at


In 2008, I traveled nine thousand miles to northern India to make my dream of having a baby come true. There, at the world renowned Akansha clinic in Anana, I under went IVF and met Vaina, the woman who would bring my husband and my twins girls into this world through surrogacy. It was a wild and wonderful experience, one that I undertook after three heartbreaking miscarriages.

Click here to read more of Adrienne’s story.


image here

I woke up with a stomachache. After two hours curled in a chair reading, I padded down the long hallway from the living room to our bedroom, shaking my head. I had seen my doctor the day before, and I could still hear her words: “You aren’t dilated at all. You haven’t dropped. It will be another week or two at least.”

I reached the bedroom and nudged Peter’s shoulder. “I might be having contractions.” He rolled toward me and squinted into the light. “Really?”

“It’s probably false labor,” I said, trying to sound calm. I glanced at the clock. Six a.m. “But I want to get the nursery ready. Just in case.”

Click here to read the rest of Amy’s story.


A Birth Story from Nikki Moran

February 22, 2012

Mini-calendar by Monkey Mind.

Friday May 7th. I am 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I am not really enjoying pregnancy like I previously was. The baby is not fitting as well as he used to and every move he makes is getting to be more and more uncomfortable to me. I want him to come out now.

I head to my regularly scheduled doctor appointment. I whine a bit to my doctor. She checks me and I am 2 cm dilated, starting to efface, and the baby’s head is quite low. She asks, “Would you like me to sweep your membranes?”. I enthusiastically reply yes. This is exactly how I got my first baby out — my dear doctor swept my membranes, at which point my water broke, and then 12 hours later I was holding Seth in my arms.

Anyway, membranes are swept. She tells me to head home, go for a long walk, eat some spicy food and a pineapple, and partake in other activities that will not be mentioned at this time. I head home and finish sewing the camera bag I had started that morning. I figure I will need it soon. Plus sewing seems like more fun than that other stuff. I finish the bag, have a long walk, and go to bed, where I sleep all night.

Click here to read the rest of Nikki’s story.


Crocheted hearts by Sabahnur.

I have read countless birth stories and spoken to plenty of new mothers and each time, I am scanning the page or scanning their eyes in hopes of finding a story like mine. One that isn’t beautiful or precious or ends with a picture of a blissful mother cradling her child. And not one where the child is unhealthy or, God forbid, doesn’t survive. I am looking for the one where the baby is perfect, the delivery was textbook and yet the mother holds her new baby in her arms and feels…nothing.

Let me back up. I struggled for over a year to get pregnant, finally turning to IVF. I was very lucky and got pregnant on my first try. My pregnancy was the absolute best time of my life. I was healthy the whole time, rarely tired and stayed active. Years of struggling with my body image and appearance gave way to a feeling of absolute peace with myself. I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. A life where I often hated even looking at myself in the mirror was replaced with one where strangers were complimenting me on the street!

The world just rose up to greet me, in so many ways. I loved having my belly touched (I know so many don’t!), I loved discussing my due date, baby’s gender, name choices…you name it, there wasn’t any intrusion into my personal life that I resented. I was so proud, so excited to bring a baby into this world that was so full of loving people.

Click here to read the rest of Colette’s story.



February 1, 2012

You probably know by now how I feel about mothers and their babies! I can’t help but marvel at the miracle of life, and every story surprises me more than the last. My smart friend Emily recently shared the all-virtual International Museum of Women‘s newest project with me, and I’m already hooked. I can’t wait to see what it becomes.

It’s called MAMA: Motherhood around the Globe, a collection of compelling stories, policy-changing ideas, and gorgeous artwork from more than 60 countries. It’s incredibly eye-opening to hear from mothers of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and drastically different cultures talk about motherhood.

I’m curious. How did motherhood happen to you? For those who aren’t there yet, how will you determine the right time — if ever — to bring a baby into your life? I’d love to hear your stories and opinions!


Heart-in-hand gloves by Yastik izi.

I gave birth 7 1/2 years ago. It was an ordinary labor and delivery, free of complications. Because it was my first, the 10 hours it took from start to finish felt average and acceptable. My boy came screaming into this world weighing 8 lbs. 7 oz at 10:14 am. My husband and I beamed from ear to ear, but no different than other first time parents I’m sure. It was a Wednesday and the last day of March. The weather was typical of early spring in these parts: overcast with a few beams of sunshine.

Click here to read the rest of Mariah’s story.


Happy Family artwork by Spunky Fluff. (I adore it!)

After being married for a few years, my husband and I were living across the country while he attended graduate school. On February 2, 2004 I found out I was pregnant. We were so excited, we had always wanted a big family, and this was the start! On February 4th, my dad’s birthday, I called home to let our families know that I was having a miscarriage. It was very early on, and just one of those things. But, it was at that moment we both realized that the second you see the positive sign on the pregnancy test… you become a parent.

On February 4th, we cried, and we shared a bag of powdered donuts and a kit kat. As ridiculous as it sounds, I can’t eat a powdered donut and not think of that dreary afternoon. Two more miscarriages later (total now 3), I went to the doctor to begin the process of determining why I could not stay pregnant, only to discover that I was pregnant again! We were now in our second, and final year of school. It was touch and go the entire 9 months. The doctor watched me like a hawk. But, we made it back to Texas — our home — in early June.

Click here for the rest of Lacey’s story.


My husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I was fatigued and nauseous and huge, but in spite of my condition I wanted to get out and do something. It was a wintry March evening and the chill kept us from venturing too far from home. The night before our anniversary, we visited a tiny Middle Eastern eatery, where we consumed the greasiest plate of shawarma and fries ever made. Afterwards, our families gathered in our one-room apartment, where we shared a double fudge chocolate torte and toasted our marriage with sparkling grape juice.

Click here to read the rest of Aya’s story.


My birth story ought to start with a bit of an introduction. My husband is a paediatrician and for the last two years has been working with the very small and very ill babies resulting from premature and traumatic (or problematic) births. Having braced ourselves for a long period of attempting to conceive, we were overjoyed and slightly taken aback when success came in the form of a peed-on-stick after only four months post-wedding and 5 weeks off the pill!

Since then, his experiences (and medical knowledge generally) have impacted considerably on my pregnancy and the decisions we made leading up to the birth. In some cases, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. With my husband, a large amount of knowledge was very dangerous indeed: he was anxious and over-informed for most of the nine months. With my artistic background (and general unease around most things medical and sanitised) we were clearly going to be approaching the delivery of our first child from very different directions!

Click here to read the rest of Helen’s story.


A Birth Story from Jenny Post

November 16, 2011

I learned I was pregnant on September 1, 2010. After being out to lunch with a friend, I arrived home and scooted upstairs past my husband Matt to take (yet another) pregnancy test. At that point I had been disappointed a few months in a row and when I glanced at the test on the sink, I was initially let down: A single bright pink line. But then I looked more closely and my heart started racing. There was also a faint pink line.

I double-checked the instructions to confirm that any second line, no matter how light, was a positive result. I stood there smiling uncontrollably for a few minutes before I made my way downstairs to tell Matt. It took every muscle in my face to not smile and give it away. I wish I could say I had some clever and creative way that I told him the news, but I don’t. I just sat down next to him on the couch and said, “Hi. So…I’m pregnant.” Smiles, laughs, hugs, kisses. A lot of, “Wow. Like, wow. We’re going to have a baby.” Then I went to Barnes and Noble and bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Apparently pregnancy had made me a walking cliché.

Click here to read the rest of Jenny’s story.


Image by Hazel Leggatt.

I was starting to blow up like a balloon and could no longer really see ankles. All my shoes were too tight and each day when I walked into work (I worked for an insurance company at the time, in the medical management department, so my boss was a nurse) my boss would say to me, “I sure wish I knew what your blood pressure was!”

I was retaining fluid with each second and getting frequent headaches. I went to the pharmacy to pick up some Tylenol and while I was there I decided to stick my arm in one of those blood pressure taking machines. My blood pressure was in fact through the roof so I called my doctor’s office.

Click here to read the rest of Molly’s story.


Want to know (every detail of) how baby Jack made his long-awaited arrival into this world? Read on.

Jack Dalton’s birth story simplified into ten (easy, painless) steps:

Step one: Complain about how much you want labor to start already. This will annoy your husband and everyone around you. Oddly enough, this also will be the only time in your life when you actually have a strong desire to feel excruciating pain. Go to bed already and forget about it. The baby’s never coming out and you’re going to be pregnant forever.

Click here to read the rest of Jack’s birth story.


Where our family story begins is hard to figure. There are dates we can point to as significant — a discussion on a coffee shop patio, our acceptance into an Ethiopian adoption program, the day we finished our paperwork and were put on the wait list officially. There was a dream I had that I am sure was connected to my daughter. And then there was the day we saw her face and knew that if we would be allowed to adopt her, we most certainly wanted to.

We knew before we got married that we wanted to adopt. We talked about having one child by pregnancy first and then adopting one or two more. Then I got pregnant, and miscarried shortly after I took the first positive pregnancy test. While some families might have mourned the loss deeply, I instead suddenly realized that I had never cared as much about being pregnant as I had about being a family to a child who needed one. It took a long time for my body to heal and return to normal, and in the end I felt that it just wasn’t important to me to try again. It was, however, deeply important to me to adopt. On a beautiful spring day, my husband and I discussed and decided that we would proceed with adopting our first child.

Click here to read the whole story.

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