Becoming Mama

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We once received a DM back in 2022 from a kind woman who had just gotten married. She shared a photo of her wearing Lilies on her wedding day and added, “[I] can’t wait [to see] how motherhood will inspire you more.” When I read that, I couldn’t help but feel a bit troubled. This was a month and a half after giving birth to my first child and designing jewelry was the last thing on my mind. Usually turning to design as a creative outlet, I was worried and frustrated that I wasn’t immediately inspired by becoming a mom. For such a momentous experience why was my mind blank? Did I lose my groove? How long will it take ‘til I get it back?

I came across a video on Instagram saying that it usually takes two years for a mother to get back to her normal self. I can see why that is. My son, Max, just turned two last week. While I don’t feel like I’m completely back to my pre-mama self (I don’t think I ever will), I do have a better sense of control over my life again. To be frank, my first year of motherhood was a total blur. I was just so dedicated to keeping this human being alive. Never mind if I only slept for 3 hours or skipped a shower. Images of putting Max back to sleep at 2 am, eating malunggay soup thrice a day to stimulate my milk flow and changing lots and lots of diapers are the ones that stand out during my first year. Since I breastfed him through one and a half years, everything I did during that time revolved around his feeding and sleeping schedules. I was practically a cow. Can’t think of a more succinct description for it. 

After an early morning feed during Max's first few weeks (left). Max loves snuggling near me when he sleeps (right).


After Max turned one he began to show his personality. He’s obsessed with vehicles and at one year and seven months he could distinguish a Toyota from a Honda. Because he became more aware, he understood the times when Mama had to leave for work or step out for a breather. I began teaching him independence nearing his 2nd birthday—this was the only time I started to go back to myself. Not completely, but I was slowly reclaiming my freedom.


Saying that Max likes cars is an understatement. Max currently memorizes all of the vehicle brands seen in our small village.

But even if I yearn for the freedom I once had, motherhood is living in the duality of your desires. It’s wanting a break from your child that’s 100% dependent on you while simultaneously wanting to give your child the longest and tightest hug for saying, “I want to pray for Mama” after telling him your tooth hurts from a tooth extraction. How do you deal, right? Children are so annoyingly precious.

It’s been two years of collecting memories. I’m learning to appreciate every joyful and challenging moment. When he turned two, I couldn’t believe how tall and how observant he became. We draw on his bedroom wall and measure his height every month and noticed that he grows an average of a centimeter every month. A centimeter! From knowing two car brands at 1Y7M to more than 20 car brands at 2Y and being able to distinguish car models like a Toyota Land Cruiser from a Fortuner. 

To my firstborn, Max, my empathetic, cautious, vehicle-loving boy, our Summer ’24 Collection is dedicated to you. Sharing snippets of my other favorite moments with him that inspired this collection and a few lessons I learned along the way.


Tong Tong Pakitong Kitong, a classic Filipino nursery rhyme, was one of his first favorite songs and books. He has a book that illustrates the “alimango” (“crab” in Filipino) crawling on the ocean bed accompanied by the lyrics of Tong Tong Pakitong Kitong. “Where’s my Tong Tong book?” he would ask. He loved it so much and would ask us to sing/read the book to him multiple times. Just so I don’t get tired of singing the song and to offer variation, I taught him the concepts of “fast” and “slow” and would sing it in different speeds. Once he understood it, he would command, “fast!”, “slow…”, “fast!” over and over again. Mama taught him, now Mama had to oblige. Note to self: Toddlers pick up faster than you think. Be prepared to deliver (multiple times at varying speeds) when they have song requests.

Max's favorite Tong Tong Pakitong Kitong book. 

When I was pregnant with Max I would walk in our village every morning. There was a huge kalachuchi tree that seemed to have unlimited kalachuchi flowers. They would be scattered all over the ground every morning until they’re swept by our village sweepers. After Max was born I brought back that routine once I was able to baby-wear. I carried him and walked him around our village and the kalachuchi flowers would fall from the tree as they did every day. Once Max started to walk I showed him the kalachuchi flowers on the ground—it was the first flower he ever held in his hands. He would twist it in his tiny stubby fingers, picking its petals and letting them fall to the ground. Once he could speak, he picked up a kalachuchi and handed it to my mom whom he fondly calls Lala and added, “for Lala!” I taught him never to pluck flowers or leaves from their plants; only pick up those that have fallen on the ground. To this day Max looks forward to walking outside in the morning and afternoon picking up flowers and leaves that he sees along the road. When he sees a plant he wants to touch, instead of plucking it from its stem, he turns his knuckles to the plant and gives it a gentle pat. Note to self: Expose them to nature as soon as their heart beats. Teach them to appreciate the outdoors and be loving stewards of mother nature.


The kalachuchi tree inside our village (left) and my shadow taken during my morning walk in my 2nd trimester (right).



Holding kalachuchi flowers throughout Max's first two years.  

Last May 2023, my husband, Max and I had the pleasure of attending one of my best friends’ wedding in Hawaii. It was Max’s first trip abroad and his first stint as a ring-bearer. So many of Hawaii’s elements and memories with my two boys are still imprinted in my mind: the towering mountains and vast seas separated by highways, swimming in the glistening waters of Lanikai, watching a dolphin show at the Sea Life Park. I even custom-made the bride’s entourage earrings to match the tropical theme. There were so many colorful moments, including a not-so-pleasant one, which was our car trip to the wedding venue. Max hadn’t napped the entire day, but we hoped that the 30-40 minute ride to the venue would allow him to sleep. That didn’t happen. Three of my friends rode with us and witnessed what was probably Max’s loudest and longest tantrum. When he has an outburst, we usually quietly wait it out because he soothes himself eventually. This time keeping quiet escalated it. He cried the whole 40-minute car ride. My friends were worried his cries were going to hurt his throat. Once we got to the venue I quickly carried him out of the car and tried to distract him with toys. We couldn’t make him sleep until the ceremony started and after he walked down the aisle. Thankfully he lasted, walked down the aisle and was knocked out once the officiator started speaking. Note to self: Do everything you can to make your toddler sleep before any major event. Also, the good times are sweeter when they are sandwiched between very challenging times. Embrace all of them. They will all pass. 

Max and I walking down the aisle of my best friend's wedding at Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii.
Max fulfilling his ring-bearer duties despite the memorable car tantrum.
He was knocked out right when the ceremony started.

Custom earrings I designed for the bridal entourage (upper) and the bridal entourage wearing them (lower). 

These are just a few glimpses of my life now as Max’s mom. Looking back now and remembering that time when I read that DM about a motherhood-inspired collection, I don’t think I was too kind to myself. I was so disheartened that I couldn’t create anything. Why wasn’t I inspired by such a life-changing experience? I thought I would be overcome with positive emotions and overflowing with ideas. The truth is, I wasn’t prepared for the exhaustion I felt after giving birth. I was a zombie—my days and nights were dedicated to my baby. That meant that I would have to give up a big chunk of myself during this time.

The second year was better. I started to reclaim bits of my old self. I would also catch myself in awe of how this little person was growing right in front of me. How fast he was learning. I savored the tiny moments. I keep a journal so forgetful-me would remember the funniest and the sweetest things he says. If I was asked before I had Max to imagine a collection inspired by motherhood, I might have said that it would involve familiar gestures of motherly love—a mother cradling her child, a pregnant woman rubbing her belly, tiny hands and feet. While these are all moving images, what really tugs at my heart strings are little anecdotes specific to Max. These are moments that make me giggle—singing Tong Tong Pakitong Kitong 26 times in the slowest and the fastest speeds. Moments that make me smile—Max holding kalachuchi flowers and realizing how big he’s grown from the tiny fetus that was rolling around in my belly during my morning walks. And moments that make me realize how difficult motherhood can be (that Hawaii car tantrum was record-breaking), but how its fulfillment is immeasurable.

Here’s to embracing all the stages of mothering. To accepting the simultaneous desires for me-time and Max-time. And to lingering in the little things—they’re the ones that give me glimpses of heaven.

x Stella

crab kalachuchi mama Max mom motherhood summer 2024

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