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Anchormoms: Chicago’s top TV anchors report on motherhood

Jessica D’Onofrio, 39

General assignment reporter, ABC 7

Spouse: Doug Whitmire

Child: Jack D’Onofrio Whitmire, 6 months

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Describe the first time you saw Jack.

My husband and I, we were just crying because he was finally here. We had always wondered about what our baby would look like. … I did IVF three times and then we had a couple embryos that we were able to freeze. And so Jack was from a frozen cycle. When we looked at him, we saw a miracle baby. … We were like, “This is what our son looks like.” It was amazing. It was a dream come true.

What has surprised you about yourself as a mom?

I’m a really impatient person. Especially with the job I have, I want information now. Everything is immediate. And with him, I said, “Oh my gosh, am I going to be like that with a baby?” It’s the exact opposite. When he is crying or fussy, I have this infinite amount of patience that I never knew I had. And I just kind of look at him, and I’m like, “You know, I just have to get him through it. He’s a baby, he doesn’t know. And my job is to guide him through it.” So I have not gotten mad, I haven’t gotten impatient. … Now I’m tired, don’t get me wrong. Mama’s real tired.

Do you have any spots that you like to take him?

We took him for his first swim lesson last weekend and it was just the cutest thing. It’s like a little instinct kicks in and he starts kicking his legs. It’s so much fun to watch him enjoy the pool. … We’re taking him again this weekend, and every weekend after that! … Goldfish Swim School in Evanston, that’s the one that we have been going to. We [also] took him to a Wiggleworms class [at Old Town School of Music], and he loved it and then he fell asleep during the class. That was really funny. But those are the two that we have tried. … We just want him to have as many new experiences as possible.

What’s Jack’s personality like?

I would describe him as a flirt. My mom always says he’s very discerning. He kind of looks at things with a critical eye, and if he decides it’s funny, then it’s funny. The thing that everybody says about Jack, from the day he was born, is he’s very alert. He wants to see everything. He wants to be around people. And he loves to listen. He just wants to be out and a part of things. He’s actually a really cool baby to be around.

Has he been on TV yet?

He made the tube the first day! … It was a failed induction, so he came by C-section, and I was pumped full of so many drugs. My face was swollen; everything was swollen. And my husband [the ten o’clock executive producer for Channel 7] was like, “They want a picture to put on the 5 o’clock show.” And Jack was born at noon! … I keep on telling Doug, “You know we have a purebred Channel 7 baby.”

Do you think you’ll have more kids?

If we only have Jack for the rest of our lives, we will be so unbelievably happy. But if we’re blessed with another one, that would be fantastic, too. I have a new respect not only for parents that have one child, but parents who have more than one child. I know how busy I am, I know how much work it is, so when I see parents having more than one child, I just want to bow my head and say “I’m not worthy!” … I’m an only child. If we just had one, that would be normal for me. But if we have two, it would be nice to see him have a sibling. So we’ll just see what God gives us.

Susanna Song, 33

General assignment reporter, CBS 2 Chicago

Spouse: Isaac Forstner

Child: Elinor Song Forstner, 7 months

Neighborhood: North Aurora

What is your favorite thing to do with Elinor?

She has a wonderful smile and a wonderful giggle, and it sounds really silly, but I just love to turn on music and dance. She’s at a point right now where she’s kicking and moving her hands and she wants to touch everything. I don’t know if she’s actually dancing, but she watches me and she giggles and we just blast the music. … I can’t get enough of it.

What things from your childhood are you hoping to share with Elinor?

My childhood was enriched by the Korean community here in the Chicago area. I grew up surrounded by people who shared in my identity as a person of faith, in my church, and with people who spoke Korean, shared an interest in Korean food. … Already, I’ve introduced her to the Korean language. I will continue to speak to her in Korean, and eventually introduce her to the Korean foods that I love. I would very much like her to be integrated in that culture.

What’s the biggest surprise about having a baby?

I had high expectations for her, but kind of low expectations for me. I just kind of thought when the baby came out, it would be awesome; everything would be great. I don’t know why I thought that. I have no idea! That was my little idealistic world, I guess. But it was so hard. The first night I brought her home, I just broke down. I was really hard on myself. … I’ve grown as a mom. I would tell the Susanna who just got back from the hospital that “It’s OK; you’ll get through it. And making mistakes is OK as long as the effort is there.”

Have you been able to spend one-on-one time with your husband?

We told ourselves before Elinor was born, the best thing we could give Elinor was a solid marriage. … I try to set aside even 10, 15 minutes to spend with my husband during the work week. And then on the weekends, we find a babysitter or we just take her. … We’re kind of the parents that figured she could hang with us. She’s very mellow, so she just stares at us at the restaurant and will watch. She does really well, so we’ve been really blessed in that area. … We try to incorporate her in our daily activities, in our plans.

Did you feel pressure to get back to your pre-baby shape?

The first month postpartum, I was bloated and I was still 20 pounds over my ideal weight. But I think nursing helped a lot. And when I came back to the station, I was still actually wearing maternity clothes. I couldn’t believe it! I’m not proud of it, but I’m trying to give myself space and time to do it, and not rush. They say it takes nine months to [be] pregnant, and you should give yourself just as much time to get back to what you were before.

What is the meaning behind her name?

We struggled with her name. … When we met her, I right away was like “Eleanor,” and my husband wasn’t 100 percent sure, and by the third day [he] finally succumbed. When I was filling out the birth certificate form, I spelled it traditionally, and he was like, “Can we spell it Elinor?” The ‘I’ stands for Isaac: a little nugget of dad in her name. It came down to us liking the name Elinor because it means “shining light” and we want her to be that in anybody and everybody that she meets, that she would be a sparkle of light and joy to people. And she’s living up to her name so far!

Lauren Jiggetts, 34

Anchor/Reporter, NBC5 Chicago

Spouse: Patrick Donovan

Child: Brendan Patrick Donovan, 3 months

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

What was it like the first time that you saw Brendan?

It was wild. I did a live shot and had to go straight to the hospital after doing [it]. It was not the way I had planned. He was 2 ½ weeks early. By the time I walked into Prentice, he was born about 12 hours later. It was a very difficult delivery. I just kept thinking how much I wanted to see his face, and how much I wanted to see him healthy. You obviously get a little scared when you run into some difficulties that you didn’t expect. I remember when I first saw him, he was screaming at the top of his lungs, and I thought I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life.

What milestones have you been especially excited about?

He was really gassy and he wasn’t always the happiest baby, and I felt so badly. There were so many things that we tried to do. … And then suddenly, when three months kind of rolled around, he’s smiling! That was the best thing in the world because it just lifted my heart. You want your baby to feel good; you try so, so hard to help him. I think when I saw that, it was like, “OK, I can do this.” … Someone told me, “The days can be really long, but the weeks fly by.” I think that pretty much summed up the first two-and-a-half months or so. There were just days that seemed like they went on forever, and then, week by week by week, it started getting better.

What advice would you give to a fellow new mom?

It’s important to try and identify people that can help you and, in turn, accept that help. And I think the other thing is don’t get down on yourself—and that’s easier said than done sometimes. One of my friends … ended [an] email with “You’re doing a great job.” And it just meant the world to me, to hear that. You just have to constantly tell yourself, “I’m doing the best that I can. I love this baby more than anything in this world. I’m doing a good job.”

Did you hear anything from viewers after Brendan was born?

I was so touched by the outpouring of love. People that had never met me and don’t know me were really so nice. You see so much negativity, to be perfectly honest, especially online. I was almost in tears because everyone was so nice and so supportive. I just thought that was amazing. … I think it’s kind of neat that Brendan has this extended family that he doesn’t necessarily know, but they’re rooting for us and rooting for him and excited to see him grow.

How was your return to work?

I had been warned that it was going to be hard and it certainly was. I think I was excited to be back at work and to see a lot of my co-workers. But it was just hard to be away from him. I hadn’t been away from him for longer than two hours and I kept checking the monitor to see if he was in the crib, what he was doing, checking with my husband, asking for photos, FaceTiming him at work… I think he did a lot better than I did, which was kind of funny.

Is Brendan a Bears fan yet?

He’s going to have to be! If my dad has anything to say about it, he will be a Bears fan. He has a jersey that has “Jiggetts” on the back already. … When your grandfather played for the team, you’ve gotta root for them no matter what.

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