Name: Oleksandra Stelmah
Hometown: Tarrytown, NY
Number of Children: 2 Children, ages 4 & 1
How do you spend your days?
I am a professional maternity, newborn and family photographer, but most importantly I am a Mom.
Did you always know you wanted to be a mama?
Definitely! I’ve spent many years around kids as a ballroom dancing teacher. The love and energy children bring is incomparable to anything else!
Can you briefly describe your birth experiences?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was so fortunate that my first pregnancy was uncomplicated and stress-free. But I can’t say the same about my second. I had to undergo treatment for cervical cancer when my son was two years old, and my doctor told me to get pregnant ASAP if we wanted another child. It took 7 stressful months to conceive, and ongoing issues with my cervix made the pregnancy very difficult. The first few months were full of long, worrisome hospital visits – endless ultrasounds and blood tests. As my cervix continued to weaken, my doctor put me on bed rest at 22 weeks. Then, at 32 weeks, my baby stopped growing, which meant more monitoring and more worrying. Finally, my son William was born at 37 weeks, teeny tiny but healthy. I cried like I’ve never cried in my life. Ultimately, the difficult journey leading to William’s birth made his arrival that much more special.
What has surprised you most about the process of becoming a mama?
How being a mom tests your patience each and every day…multiple times a day!
What have you needed the most help with or which you had more support with during this mamahood transition?
I needed more emotional support, someone to talk to who really understood what I was going through. My husband and my mom were wonderful, but they couldn’t fully relate to my experiences as much as they tried. Opening up to other expecting or new moms ended up being really therapeutic for me.
What are you grateful for in your experience as a mama?
I am so grateful for my kids, who motivate me to never stop growing as a person, to share the all the beauty of life with them, and to help them grow up to be good people in this world.
What have you learned most about yourself in this journey?
That I am definitely not a morning person! Waking up at 5:45am with my little ones was a huge adjustment.
What qualities do you try to embody as a mama?
Patience, kindness, and sincerity. Some days are better than others!
What’s something you wish to see evolve in our culture regarding maternal care and wellness?
Better maternity leave and stronger support for expecting and new moms as this road is challenging no matter how many books you read. To be able to connect with someone who truly gets your situation is so invaluable.
What lights you up, brings you joy?
My kids’ smiles and giggles. And when my older son, who’s now 4, says “Mommy, I love you.” It’s the little things that fill me up.
What are your non-negotiables to take care of yourself?
Sleep, massage, and dance. I don’t get enough of any, but I always try!
Any words of wisdom to hopeful, expecting, or new mamas out there?
Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Be open and share what you are going through. You will be surprised how many other moms out there have gone through the same challenges, and those shared experiences are so powerful in helping you heal.
Thank you so much for sharing, Oleksandra!