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The Mom-ness of being: Small moments, big events fill memories

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Nancy Jones holds a picture of her parents in her Lower Burrell home on Tuesday May 7, 2013. After spending 2 years as caregiver to her husband, Nancy finally realized how much love her own mother showed her to father, who spent many years caring for her husband.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Bernadette Miller, 44 (right) of Brentwood sets on her couch with son Shane Miller, 4 and her mother, Carole Gitzen, 69 of Uniontown, Tuesday.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Sandy Giordano, 65 of Aliquippa wears one of her angle pins decorated with her Sapphire birthstone. Giordano's mother Zelma Medich always wore angel pins, and now Sandy wears them as a reminder of her mother’s love.
Submitted
John and Patty Diethorn and their son Mika
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Peggy Puskar (left), her daughter Jennifer Brennan and granddaughter Skylar, 4. Portrait taken near Latrobe on May 8, 2013.

As a mother of four boys, Dr. Deborah Gilboa has had her share of, “Oh, this is motherhood,” moments.

Among them was a night when she was sick — really, really sick — but her 6-month-old son still required all the usual care. Her husband was working. She was on her own.

“It was like, ‘What do I do?' ” she says. “I'm the mom. I don't get a sick day!”

Gilboa, a Pittsburgh-based physician and author of two parenting books, says those moments when moms fully realize the scope of their roles as diaper-changer, sippy cup-assembler, Cheerios-provider and boo-boo kisser are “absolutely normal.” While those moments can be jarring, Gilboa encourages moms to relish them.

“Those stories often come from when a child made a request or comment,” she says. “You realize, ‘They see me as a mom,' and it becomes a two-way street.”

Jamie Wincovitch, education coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh Child Development Center and mother to three, says if the “a-ha moment” is a stressful one, just remember that it will pass.

“You can't enjoy every single moment,” she says. “Just know that the next day or the next minute will be better. Nothing is permanent.”

Wincovitch calls motherhood the “hardest job, the best job and the most rewarding job.”

“It's important to be in the moment, especially in today's world where there are so many things that can distract you,” she says. “It goes way too fast.”

In honor of Mother's Day, we asked Western Pennsylvania moms to share their “mom moments.”

Mary Adamczyk of Allison Park won the prize package of pampering products, a $100 gift certificate and a framed portrait.

Lori Starr — The lock out

For Lori Starr, 46, of Baldwin, the moment came during a winter day 11 years ago. She was eight months pregnant with her second child. Her first child, then 2, was playing inside as she said goodbye to the babysitter and stepped outside to grab the mail.

The door clicked shut behind her. Her son had locked her out.

What followed was, “the longest 25 minutes of my life,” Starr says. She told the babysitter to stay outside the house and keep her son in view. Starr raced to the garage and punched in her code. The battery was dead.

Panicking, she ran to her neighbor's house and asked for an extra battery, but replacing it reset the opener, and it stayed stubbornly shut. Starr called the police, then pressed her face against the window and made funny faces to keep her son engaged. But the glow of the nearby Christmas tree became too enticing, and he started banging bulbs together, breaking them.

Within minutes, emergency vehicles surrounded the house. An officer chiseled a window open enough to crawl in.

“I ran into the house stepping around the broken bulbs and hugged him tighter than I ever had!” Starr says.

Bernadette Miller — Cry baby

One night when her son, Shane, was a few weeks old, Bernadette Miller spent four straight hours trying to stop him from screaming.

“Rocking, singing, feeding, diaper changing, burping, snuggling — none of it worked,” says Miller, 44, of Brentwood.

Her husband, James, was working a night shift, and her mother, Carole Gitzen, 69, was an hour away in her Uniontown home — or so she thought.

“I called mom in tears, not knowing what to do,” Miller says. “She told me she was visiting at her sister's house, not seven miles away, and that she and my dad would be right over.

“She walked in, took the baby from my arms, and ... he stopped,” Miller says. “Mom smiled, Shane smiled and that was it.”

The worst was over, but Miller realized that was the moment she “felt like someone threw me in the deep end of the pool.”

“This was my introduction to, ‘Hey, this isn't all roses and sunshine,' ” she says, chuckling.

Patty Diethorn — ‘One big collage'

Patty Diethorn adopted her “funny, sweet, very soulful” son Mika seven years ago when he was an infant. Her “mom moment” has been a culmination of many subtle things, she says.

“The little pieces of every day, holding him, feeding him, all the firsts — first tooth, crawling, walking, first time you put him on the school bus — all of these things make one big collage that create the family,” says Diethorn, 52, of Baldwin.

Still, Diethorn admits there is nothing like the first time your child really looks at you or tells you he loves you.

“I thought I needed a child to love, but you find out it's really their love for you,” she says. “No one else will every look at you the way they do.”

Carlotta Burgess — Running wild

It was a pleasant day at the Pittsburgh Zoo when Carlotta Burgess' “mom moment” came roaring. She was walking the path with her three boys, one in a stroller and the other two attached to it with wrist harnesses to keep them close. Suddenly, the two older boys decided it was time to play and took off running.

Their leashes were soon coiled, and they'd managed to round up a couple other kids in the mix. Her youngest son was bawling, and the others were wrapped up in a wild tangle. Other mothers came running.

“I realized I was not only taking care of my children, I had gathered everyone else's up!” says Burgess, 52, of Point Breeze.

Many more moments would follow, like late-night runs to Walmart for T-shirts her kids needed for the school the next day, which they conveniently told her about at bedtime. But the day at the zoo gets top billing.

“It sticks in my mind the most,” she says.

Carol Tignanelli — ‘Just you wait!'

She didn't know it at the time, but Carol Tignanelli was planting the seed for her own “mom moment” as a teen.

The bratty comments and “me-me-me” attitude that often accompany adolescence came back to bite her when her own children started copping similar 'tudes. She had to call her parents, Laura and William Conrad, to apologize.

“I kept telling them I felt so bad if that's what I put them through,” says Tignanelli, 48, of North Versailles.

Now years later, Tignanelli's children, Kate, 21, and Eric, 19, have grown into more mature adults. But Laura Conrad, 74, of Elizabeth, admits it was nice to hear an “I'm sorry” from her daughter.

“My husband and I thought that was so cute,” she says. “I used to tell her, ‘Wait until you have your own kids!' Now that she's grown up, she's always thanking me. She's a super person.”

Bethany Criswell — Separation anxiety

It was the first day of preschool for her son, Roland, and Bethany Criswell joined other parents in the classroom for a phase-in period to help with the transition. Criswell was concerned her son might have some initial anxiety if his mom took off too soon. What he yelled from his spot playing in the sandbox proved her wrong.

“He yelled, “OK, Mom, you can leave now,' ” says Criswell, 36, of Fox Chapel. “It was so sad. It was weird to see him so ready to be on his own.”

Now, Criswell is preparing for the days when her youngest, Brandon, 3, goes through the same phase.

“You do so much to get them ready for that day, you don't get yourself ready,” she says with a laugh.

Mary Adamczyk — Love never fades

Morning sickness and gestational diabetes made the months Mary Adamczyk carried her child complicated. But things became even worse when her daughter, Madeline, arrived seven weeks before she was due.

Adamczyk's mother, Virginia Biggie, 72, of Buffalo, N.Y., was immediately at her daughter's side, watching over Madeline in the NICU. For four torturous days, Adamczyk could not hold her child. When she finally could, her tears fell onto her daughter's cheeks.

“I looked at my mom still crying and said, ‘Did you love me this much?' ” says Adamczyk, 47. “She looked at me and said, ‘Oh Mary Beth, I still do.' I knew then what a mother's love was all about. I loved my mom all the more.”

Today, Madeline is perfectly healthy high-school junior and has a sibling, John, 11.

Jennifer Brennan — Nothing for granted

Jennifer Brennan is her family's photographer, event planner and vacation spot scouter. She doesn't want her daughter, Skylar, 4, to miss any opportunity to be with family. Brennan, 32, of Mt. Pleasant, knows the value of time. When Skylar was 2, Brennan was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Weeks of surgery and treatment followed. The “mom moment” she experienced at that time endures.

“Though the physical part has been essentially cured, my mental state is in constant turmoil,” she says. “I cannot reconcile the idea that I may not be here for a long time. I don't want my daughter to grow up without her mother.”

Brennan's mother, Peggy Puskar, 62, of Latrobe, always made sure her daughter had everything she needed growing up, Brennan says. When her daughter needed her as an adult, she did the same.

“I just cried with her,” Puskar says. “I was just there for her.”

Sandy Giordano — Just one look

Sandy Giordano, 65, of Aliquippa, felt like a mom the second her son, Samuel, was born. He took one look at her and smiled, and she just knew. Samuel is now a father himself, but Giordano remembers the joy she felt when, three weeks after birth, he was already sleeping through the night.

“I couldn't have asked for a better son,” she says.

Giordano also remembers how her late mother, Zelma Medich, doted on Samuel before her death in 2008. She says she learned perseverance from the woman who “provided for us no matter what.”

Medich wore angel pins, which Giodano wears today as a reminder of her mother's love.

Nancy Jones — Mom knew best

Nancy Jones, 57, of Lower Burrell, attributes her patient parenting style to her mother, Lillian Goetz, a woman who spent years serving as “chief nurse” for her husband, George, after he suffered a heart attack.

Jones had one daughter, Nikki, and knew her mother influenced her parenting. But she didn't know how much she learned from her mother until Jones became a caregiver herself for her late husband, Warren, after he underwent a multivisceral transplant.

“I didn't fully realize until that point how much my mother gave up, trying to be the best mom she could for me and the best wife that she could for my dad,” Jones says. “Mom's favorite quote was, ‘The impossible just takes a little longer.' I have learned through joy and sadness just how true that is.”

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