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Happy first Mother’s Day

Three local women reflect on new motherhood journey

Taylor Johnson with son Casen

They live in different communities and lead different lives, but three area women have something very much in common this Mother’s Day.

It’s their first time celebrating the holiday as mothers themselves, and that’s occasion to share their thoughts on all things mom — from becoming a parent and what it’s like so far in this role new to challenges anticipated and their take on the best baby product invention.

Meet Taylor Johnson, Kim Richardson and Ashley Johns — women with a new title — mom.

TAYLOR JOHNSON

“I was so excited to become a mom, but I was completely terrified at the same time,” admits 28-year-old Taylor Johnson, who grew up in Smithfield. “The idea of being responsible for a tiny human was very intimidating. But I am completely in love with my new role as a mom — the one role I have always wanted in life.”

Kim Richardson with daughter Sadie Jo

Though the transition into that new role is one she describes as exhausting, she is “so grateful” for it.

Taylor, the daughter of D’Wayne and Leslie Johnson, and Curtis Proffitt, the son of Jack and Marian Proffitt of Richmond, welcomed their son, Casen R.M. Proffitt, into the world on March 27. He was born at Weirton Medical Center where Taylor is a nurse practitioner. Curtis works full time as a carpenter. The couple live in Wintersville.

“He was 8 pounds, 5 ounces and 21 ½ inches long with a full head of dark brown hair,” Taylor said of Casen’s arrival. “He is a happy baby who loves to eat and snuggle. He enjoys sitting outside watching his dad work in the yard. He sleeps four to five hours at a time throughout the night.”

Although many couples want to know ahead of time whether they’re having a boy or a girl and have gender-reveal events to announce that revelation, Taylor and Curtis chose not to, opting instead to wait until the baby’s birth.

“We chose three names for a boy and three names for a girl, and we chose his name after seeing him,” Taylor said.

Ashley Johns with son Keegan

“Casen was a name that we both liked and agreed on. His middle name, R.M., is Casen’s great-grandfather’s first name and middle initial. Casen’s great-grandfather’s name is R. Maitland Proffitt, and he goes by Ralph or R.M.,” she said. “Utilizing the name R.M. as a middle name for our boy was decided early on in our pregnancy, even before knowing we were having a boy. Casen’s great-grandfather has been a role model to Curtis, and we felt that it was important to carry on his name,” she added.

“Waiting to find out the gender of our first child was Curtis’ wish, and although it was a tough decision for me, I was very happy that we waited.”

News of the family expansion wasn’t immediately divulged, but when it was, it was executed with a creative flair.

“When we found out we were having a baby, we kept the secret to ourselves for a few weeks. I struggled to keep this secret from my mom because she is my best friend, and I talk to her multiple times a day,” Taylor said. “When we decided that we were ready to share our secret with our families, we gave them each a bag with various name tags with a variety of names that a child would call their grandparent for them to choose from. We announced our good news to Curtis’ sister (Amara Proffitt) via Facetime due to her living out of town.”

COVID-19’s impact affected most every routine of life, and that included expecting a baby.

“The pandemic did affect my pregnancy in many ways,” Taylor began the explanation. “I work in health care so almost every day I was dealing with COVID-related issues. We did elect to have a drive-through baby shower due to COVID and the restrictions. I was in some sense disappointed that my shower was going to have to be different, though we really enjoyed the shower,” she noted. “I found the drive-through baby shower to be less stressful, and I was able to talk to each guest even if it was for just a few minutes. I would do the drive-through shower again,” she added.

“I was fortunate that Curtis was able to be at the baby’s anatomy scan, but he was unable to be at any other appointment. He was the only person allowed to be at the hospital with me during Casen’s birth. This was initially hard for me, as I always assumed that I would have my mom in the delivery room. I am appreciative of the time that Curtis and I had in the hospital to bond with our baby,” Taylor said.

While there are many products on the market to make a new mother’s life a little easier, the Baby Breeze is the greatest invention that mothers of past generations didn’t have at their disposal, in Taylor’s estimation.

“It is simply a machine that makes a bottle in a matter of seconds,” she said. “This machine has made my life so much easier at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. to get my son fed and back to sleep.”

Taylor feels not only blessed to be a mother, but blessed to have the mother that she does.

“My mom had an amazing relationship with her mother, and I believe this rolled into our relationship. My mom is my best friend,” Taylor said. “I talk to her every single day, and normally multiple times a day. My mom had a great balance of being a parent, but also being my friend. My mom taught me that life is hard, and you must work for what you want. She has been nothing short of a role model, and she is the reason I am the person I am today. I can only hope that I will be half of the parent that my parents have been to me,” she said.

As expected, the new role brings many new challenges.

“I feel that my greatest challenge as a mother is the ever-changing world around us,” Taylor said. “The world is scary, and it will be a challenge to raise a child in this day and age. I am sure this was a concern for my parents as well, but I feel that the technology in today’s world gives children access to so much more than I had as a child. I can only hope to teach Casen to make good decisions and to be good person.”

KIM RICHARDSON

Not many new moms can say their mother aided in the delivery process, but Kim Richardson of Richmond has that distinction.

The former Kim Smyth said her mother, Nancy Smyth, an OB nurse for Trinity Health System for more than 40 years, assisted in the arrival of Sadie Jo Richardson, who was born Feb. 25 at 4:55 a.m. at Trinity Medical Center West in Steubenville.

Kim and her husband, Aaron Richardson, are settling into parenthood.

“Sadie is a happy baby. She loves to smile, coo and eat,” Kim said of the new family addition.

“At 2 months old she is consistently feeding every three hours which means a lot of mom or dad bonding time in the night.”

Kim and Aaron met when they attended preschool together at Richmond Elementary School.

“We have been together now for 14 years,” Kim explained. “After college, we decided to move back to our home town, Richmond, and give back to the community and school that helped raise us.”

That they were expecting a baby girl is news the couple learned when Kim was 20 weeks’ pregnant.

“We couldn’t wait to hear the news, so the nurse told us during the ultrasound, and we immediately shared it with our family and friends,” Kim explained, noting they did not have a gender reveal.

“I was by myself when I found out that I was pregnant, and Father’s Day was right around the corner,” Kim said. “My neighbor, Natasha McConnell, helped to make a custom baby onesie that said ‘Our greatest catch yet!’ with a fish on it. Aaron loves fishing. I bought some pink and blue fishing bait, packaged it up with the onesie and surprised him one morning with it. I filmed the whole thing,” she said.

Then it was time to tell family the big news, which again involved the help of neighbor Natasha McConnell, who made can koozies that read “DAD to be” and “Mama in the making.”

“My husband and I climbed a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and got a picture with the koozies while we were on vacation,” she said. “When we got home, we showed our family members pictures of our trip and surprised them when the last picture was the one of us with our reveal koozies.”

The pandemic had its impact.

“Due to the pandemic, it was hard to get word out about our pregnancy,” Kim explained. “We opted not to post any news on social media. Many friends were surprised when they saw Sadie for the first time. We did not have a baby shower, but many friends and family members were supportive and showered us with gifts,” she added.

What were her thoughts on becoming a mom?

“I never thought I would have children,” Kim said. “It wasn’t a passion of mine. I was so focused on my career. Now that Sadie is here, though, I’m not sure how I found happiness in life before. She makes each day better and has given meaning to my life.”

The feeling of being a mom is indescribable, according to Kim. “It has been a huge adaptation, but the most rewarding experience of my life. Adapting has been difficult. Lack of sleep and inability to do simple tasks because of the baby made me feel defeated. I have had to change my perspective and find new ways to overcome challenges. Luckily my family has been extremely supportive,” she added.

Kim described her mother as “super mom. She did it all. She worked full time and still found time to balance her home life. She raised two children to become productive, positive members of society. I never saw her rest. She was always working hard to improve our lives,” she said.

“I hope that I can be a strong, positive female role model like my mother was. I hope that I can show Sadie the value of hard work and determination. Most of all I hope that I can teach my daughter confidence, selflessness and the value of community,” Kim added.

“The greatest challenge of being a mom is providing a positive environment for your child to grow in and a positive role model for them to look to,” she said. “In my opinion, these are and have always been the biggest challenge. Generations before could shield their children from negative influences, but technology makes that much more difficult,” she commented.

As far as picking what she thinks is the best baby invention that mothers of past generations didn’t have, Kim said, “Car seat bases and products that connect with infant car seats are an absolute game changer. I love having the ability to quickly and easily switch Sadie from car to car without having to re-install the seat each time. I also love that her car seat snaps into her stroller. If she is napping, I don’t have to unfasten her seatbelt to put her in the stroller.”

Mother’s Day will be a special day.

“I look forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom and Sadie,” Kim said. “The three of us are hoping to start a tradition of spending the day together and enjoying each other’s company.”

ASHLEY JOHNS

Feb. 12, 2020, will always be a special day for Ashley and Aaron Johns of Colliers.

That’s the day their son Keegan Johns was born at Weirton Medical Center.

Jan. 14 is equally special — the day his adoption was finalized.

And May 9 is anything but just another day on the calendar as it’s Ashley’s first official Mother’s Day as a mom.

“Keegan was actually adopted through foster care,” explained Ashley, 35, who met het husband when she was 19. They got married July 30, 2016.

“I was diagnosed with infertility in 2017. The doctor told me that having a child, of my own, would basically be impossible,” she said. “My husband and I went through all the classes and training for fostering. Keegan was the first child in our home. He was 12 days old, and adoption was finalized on Jan 14, 2021. He truly is our miracle baby.”

Their son’s full name is Keegan Ashton Johns.

“We have had this name picked out from the beginning,” she explained. “Aaron has always loved the name Keegan, and there was absolutely no way that the child would ever be named differently. Aaron’s mind was made up. The origin of Keegan is ‘fiery,’ so it definitely matched his personality. Ashton — my grandfather’s name was Cordell ‘Ash’ Wiggins, my uncle’s name is Ash Cordell Wiggins, and obviously my name is Ashley. I wanted to incorporate Ash in Keegan’s name somehow, so that’s how his middle name came about,” she said.

Keegan has been a happy baby from the get-go.

“He loved to be cuddled, sung to and rocked. He had a very special bond with a Frog TY Beanie Baby that was given to me by my late grandfather,” she said.

When the couple learned they were being placed with a 12-day-old baby, everyone was ecstatic, according to Ashley.

“They thought we were fooling and messing around with them,” she said before everyone launched into purchase mode.

“Everyone immediately started buying things for Keegan — clothes, toys, bottles, formula, you name it. Our family and friends are the best. Keegan was loved before he even made it into their arms.”

Instead of a baby shower, they had an adoption shower. It was held at the beginning of April when family members were able to come for Easter.

“It would have been difficult to have a shower prior to adoption since we weren’t sure which age and gender we would have in our house,” she said of what was “a wonderful party with an ‘Oh-fish-ally-a- Johns’ theme.

“When we got the call that we were getting placement, I was ecstatic,” Ashley said of her thoughts on becoming a mother. “I laughed, smiled, cried, jumped for joy — and then it hit me. I was going to be a mother! Was I going to be good at this? As soon as Keegan was placed in my arms, everything fell together. He curled up under my chin and fell back asleep. I knew that I would protect and love that little boy for the rest of my life. I would do anything that he needed. He still makes me smile and amazes me daily,” she said.

Ashley commented that if she’s half the mother her own mother is, “I will consider myself blessed. I am very lucky and grateful to have my mother,” she said of Darla Orlando of St. Clairsville. “She has made a major impact on our lives. She is truly devoted to her family and would do anything for them. I love her with my entire heart, and I just hope she knows how much she means to not only me, but to our entire family. She is our hero.”

As a mother herself now, Ashley understands well that saying that “You never know true love until you have a child.’ That’s 100 percent true, according to Ashley. “I am over the moon being a mother to Keegan. He makes Aaron and me laugh on a daily basis. He is such a loving and caring soul.”

Her greatest challenge as a mom?

“Staying connected with myself separate from my role as a mother,” she noted. “As a mother, there are so many roles that we neglect to take care of ourselves. Self-care is extremely important, and something everyone should be doing.”

Baby inventions are a blessing. Her favorite, she said, is the owlet sock. “I would put it on Keegan’s foot while he slept, and it would notify me of his heart rate, his oxygen level and alarm me if he stopped breathing. When Keegan was a baby, he had really bad acid reflux and would get sick in the middle of the night, and I was so fearful that he would choke.”

Mother’s Day brings a mix of emotions.

“My mother-in-law passed away on April 6, so this Mother’s Day will be a little bittersweet. We will be celebrating my mother, myself and also sharing beautiful memories of my mother-in-law Carley Johns. Carley was a large part of Keegan’s life,” Ashley said. “She would watch him during the day while Aaron and I worked. She was such a wonderful woman and strong in her faith. We continue to tell Keegan stories of his grandma daily.

“He has an amazing guardian angel looking over him daily.”

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