Maternal Instincts

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Moms these days come in all shapes and sizes—even striped, as we all learned this winter with the publication of Yale law professor Amy Chua’s divisive memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, the women profiled here bear nary a claw—just immeasurable amounts of love for their children.

PAIGE BROKAW and ALEXANDRA

Paige Brokaw of East Sacramento approached pregnancy with calm. Just before she entered the final phase of labor in late December, though, the 30-year-old Capitol staffer panicked. “I was not only terrified of giving birth but of having a baby,” she recalls. “Then, when she came out, everything felt so natural.” Aside from a brief hospitalization for an infection, Alexandra’s first four months have been a remarkable time for the new mom and her husband, Brian. “It’s not that [we] weren’t a family before,” Paige says. “But she really makes us feel more complete. It gives us a stronger sense of purpose.”

NADINE DIEFENBACHER  and JEREMY, NENA, QUEEN, MURPHY and TONAE

“I have to chuckle when people tell me they look like me,” says Nadine Diefenbacher, 50, of the North Natomas area. “If you only knew.” Jeremy, 27, is her biological child. The former nurse met Nena (now 23) when the then-toddler was hospitalized and up for adoption. Queen, 17, and twin siblings Murphy and Tonae, 15, came a decade ago via Sierra Forever Families—after a dozen foster homes. “We made the decision that, whatever behavioral issues they present, we’re going to make it work,” says Diefenbacher, whose husband of 27 years, Joel, grew up in foster care. “They’re just as much ours as if we had birthed them.”

 

GEORGIA BATES and PIPER and PRESTON

Georgia Bates didn’t try to have children until she was 40. Five years and seven infertility treatments later, she was emotionally, financially and spiritually spent—yet not about to give up. “I just had this ‘unexpressed love,’” explains the Land Park speech therapist, who is lesbian. Piper and Preston arrived, after the eighth try, in February 2010. Despite temporary health issues for the newborns and their mom, everything has fallen into place. “That was the missing part of me,” says Bates, now 46. She has had nothing but support from friends (including her former partner, Kim Bushard, who watches the twins twice a week), family and her faith community. “I’m very, very blessed,” she says.


NISSA SWANSTON  and CHARLIE, RYAN, MARIN, TAYLOR and HUDSON

An only child, Nissa Swanston yearned for playmates. Her children probably won’t. “We knew we wanted a big family,” she says, referring to husband Hud, one of five kids. Daughter Charlie, 7, came first, followed by daughter Ryan, 6. Twin daughters Marin and Taylor, 4, were next. Then Swanston bought a book on conceiving a boy and followed it religiously. Success! Hudson is 16 months old. The 36-year-old Arden Oaks mom has put her environmental consulting career on hold, sleeps seven hours a night and keeps smiling. “I never wanted to be a frazzled mom,” she says.

ADRIANA GALVEZ and GABI

Adriana Galvez babysat through high school (full time in the summers) and knew she’d have children some day. The Elk Grove resident also had an amazing role model: her mother, Ann Venegas, who died of cancer in 2005. “I saw how much enjoyment she got out of it. I wanted that for myself, too,” says Galvez, 32, who is finishing up her master’s degree in social work and going through a divorce. Her only child, Gabi—short for Gabriela—turns 3 in July and is clearly a bright, gregarious child. As for motherhood, it has surpassed Galvez’s expectations. “It’s everything I thought it would be and a million times more.”

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