New parenthood is the ultimate shake-up. It changes everything, from family dynamics to core philosophies on life—and no two experiences are identical. For five local mothers, the journey from pregnancy to postpartum has been a transformative one, filled with ample lessons and amplified love.  


Baby Grace

BABY ELENA


Baby Grace

BABY CLEMENTINE


Baby Grace

BABY CONNOR


Baby Grace

BABY EVY



Baby Grace

"I got to realize that being a mom makes you forget about your own needs on behalf of your child." As an obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN), Clarice Dokko had an idea of what to expect during pregnancy, labor and early parenting. But she never could have predicted how her own personal experience would measure up.  “I had taught so many patients how to push the baby when I was on the other side of the action but it was very different when it was my turn to push,” says Clarice, 32, who gave birth to her daughter Grace at 10:27pm, February 18 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. “I tried hard not to think too much and just go with the flow, just tried to be a normal patient and have a healthy baby.” Thirteen hours of labor later, alongside her husband Daniel, Clarice did have a healthy baby. However, Grace spent her first six days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg due to respiratory issues. It was a gut-wrenching time for the family. “Those days were, for sure, the biggest challenge of my life. I was there with her all the time I could be, despite my own physical recovery.” Clarice says. “Thank God, she recovered really well. Finally bringing her home made the joy of her birth even bigger.” These days, the Dokkos are working out the kinks of co-parenting. Clarice is exclusively breastfeeding and Daniel is often on diaper and burp duty. Every second is a learning experience—one that Clarice never could have fully understood from a medical textbook. “You can read books about parenting, search the Internet and talk to other parents, but I think it ends up being so much more than you foresee. The love you feel for that human being is nothing you can imagine,” Clarice says. “Also, babies are all different from one another. No matter what people tell you, your baby will be unique and your experience as a mother will be more than you could ever expect.”

Baby Elena 

“I never knew I could love as much as I do now. At this newborn phase, she’s really the teacher and we are the humble students. As soon as she arrived, I realized there wasn’t a manual for this. But being a parent, you figure it out.” In a portable pool in her master bedroom, 31-year-old Maegan Ochoa gave birth to her daughter Elena at 8:01pm, February 3 alongside her husband Eric. It was a serenely surreal experience. “Labor started around 8am and lasted about 12 hours total with about three hours of intense labor at the end. It felt like waves of immense pressure with growing intensity that ultimately concluded with absolute euphoria,” Maegan says. “The second Elena popped out and was placed on my chest, we sat there together, floating in the water very peacefully, her eyes wide open staring at me, just studying each other’s faces. All the hard, intense work melted away and, suddenly, we were a mom, a dad and a baby.” As soon as Elena arrived, she became “the boss,” Maegan says. “We team up to take care of her. I’m home full-time now with her during the weekdays while Eric is at work. When he comes home, he takes her and I’ll get a little break and get our lunch or dinner ready,” Maegan says. “With a newborn, all the independence we take for granted evaporates (like taking a shower when you feel like it or running into the store to quickly grab something). You’re on baby’s clock, for sure, and the quick trip to the store can quickly get sabotaged by a poopy diaper and a feeding session.” But the rewards outweigh the challenges, Maegan says. The boundless love is the biggest bonus. 

Baby Clementine

“I have learned so much about myself and the way I relate to others by having it mirrored back to me by my children. The awareness that has come over the last five years has been intense.”  The second time was the charm for Dana King, who gave birth to her eldest child—a daughter—right in her own Sarasota home. Dana and Neil King, both 34 years old, already had a son (5-year-old Elliot) when their daughter Clementine came into the world. It happened at 5:04am, January 24 in a birth pool with the aid of a midwife. “Labor began with a conversation about when labor was going to begin, oddly enough. My husband was asking me to remind him how we would know that my contractions were the real deal,” Dana says. “During the conversation, I thought I heard a weird pop sound. When I went to pee for the millionth time, I had bloody show and knew that we were, in fact, headed into labor at that point.”  Because Dana had endured a traumatic surgical labor with her son, she visualized a more empowering experience with Clementine. That is exactly what she got. “The birth experience was amazing, and it was one of the only experiences in my life that went better than I imagined. My second birth could not have been more different than the first, and that was so healing and triumphant,” Dana says. “Knowing that following my body, my intuition and my baby could lead me to the birth I desired was one thing; actually doing it was life-changing.” So was the new routine of being a four-person family. “My husband works long hours throughout the week to provide for our family financially and I am a full-time domestic goddess,” Dana says. “We are learning how to balance the demands of an extra person in the mix after being a one-kid family for over four years, so right now it is all about the tag-team approach.” Schedules and sleep deprivation can make life chaotic, but the reward is in the newly forming relationships and the refreshed perspectives. “I was always introspective by nature but I really ponder the bigger picture subjects more often since becoming a parent,” says Dana.

Baby Connor

“As often as people warn you that time will fly by, it’s still been surprising how quickly the minutes, hours and days go by.” Jamie Jalwan wished she had worn a GoPro and snapped more photographs during her pregnancy and postpartum months. From the time she gave birth to her son Connor, she has yearned to capture every fleeting minute on film. Baby Connor was born at 2:55am, January 22 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital to 34-year-old Jamie and her husband Scott. Because of her juvenile diabetes, Jamie worked hard during pregnancy to control her blood sugar and was deemed a high-risk case. Connor was delivered via Caesarean section due to complications during labor and spent his first 10 days in the NICU. He is now thriving. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be sailing on a steady ship since Connor came home, but I shed plenty of tears at the NICU. We’ve been extremely lucky to be blessed with a baby who has been sleeping and eating well,” Jamie says. “The ability to comfort this tiny person and fulfill his ever-changing needs is gratifying. I’d say the most rewarding moments have been when Connor has looked at me and seemingly realized that I’m ‘his person,’ his mom.” After nearly 10 months of strict dieting and daily exercise during pregnancy to keep her blood sugar stable, Jamie admittedly “cheated” as a new mom and indulged in some sweet treats. During the end of her pregnancy, she and her husband binge-watched the entire Breaking Bad series on Netflix and moved onto House of Cards in the postpartum weeks. Baby bonding time brings humor and happy tears. It makes Jamie laugh the most when she whips up “horrendous” songs daily to sing to Connor, she says, and she giggles while watching his reactions. If only she could turn all of her mental images into tangible chronicles. “I’ve joked several times to other moms that it’s almost necessary to wear a body camera to capture the real moments. There are so many special expressions, noises and movements that moms have a unique front row seat for in these early weeks. Personally, I’ve been taking more mental notes than photos, which is something I already regret.”

Baby Evy

“I love watching her become a little human being. She smiles, flails her arms and legs, and squeals when she sees me now, and that’s a game changer. It melts my heart every time. I will say, the adjustment to parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but also the most rewarding.” After struggling with conception for more than a year, 38-year-old Kameron Hodgens was overjoyed to learn she was pregnant with a baby girl. Evelyn “Evy” Hodgens was born at 4:42am, July 16 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital to Kameron Hodgens and her husband Bart. “We had gone through IVF and were quite fortunate that it worked on the first round. She was the only viable and healthy embryo in an initial set of 12, so we had one shot to get it right,” Kameron says. “I didn’t really relax during those early pregnant days because I didn’t trust that it was going to be successful. Once we got past 16 weeks, I knew the odds were quite good. The remainder of my pregnancy was easy and unremarkable, until the last four weeks. My labor was induced two weeks prior to Evy’s due date because of preeclampsia complications.” Once Evy made her debut, Kameron developed a new appreciation for the phrase “It takes a village.” The Hodgens both work full-time, and they are fortunate to have a grandmother and a nanny to take care of Evy during the week. Still, the first three months of parenthood proved quite challenging.  “I struggled with postpartum depression, and I can tell you the struggle is real. I felt guilty for not being happier about her birth and not feeling connected to her. At my lowest I feared that I had made a mistake by having a child, which kept my thoughts in a loop of sadness,” Kameron says. “It was the first time I’ve ever experienced depression, and I now have a whole new awareness and empathy for those who do.” Soon, though, mother and baby were connecting deeply.“Nothing will prepare you for it,” Kameron says. “Call in support when you need help and even if you don’t, and then buckle up and enjoy the ride. It gets better and easier.”