The mother of all baby booms is playing out across Western New York television screens.
Channel 2’s Melissa Holmes, Channel 4’s Emily Guggenmos and Channel 7’s Rachel Elzufon celebrate their first Mother’s Day today and are part of an eye-opening baby boom in local TV news.
Channel 2 weekend meteorologist Jennifer Stanonis is expecting twins. The wife of “Daybreak” meteorologist Andy Parker gave birth a year ago.
Channel 4 morning anchor Teresa Weakley is expecting her second child. Sports director Steve Vesey and his wife recently had their fourth child.
Channel 7 anchor-reporter Jaclyn Asztalos is due to have her second child in a month. The wives of morning anchor Cole Heath and sports anchors-reporters Allen Leight and Shawn Stepner recently had babies. And news director Lisa Polster had a son 10 months ago.
Holmes, who is married to Buffalo News sports reporter Jay Skurski, said that the attention has turned to another recently married reporter at her station.
“Now everyone is pressuring Heather Ly,” said Holmes as she sat on the couch of her suburban home and held her 2-month-old son, Elliott. “Heather was just married in the past year. After everyone found out that Jen was having the twins, everyone was starting to ask Heather if there is something in the water at Channel 2.”
There are other more believable theories than the water theory.
Asztalos, who has a 21-month-old son, Brayden, subscribes to the age theory. The on-air mothers are in their late 20s and early 30s.
“If you are in a small market everyone is 22 years old,” Asztalos said as she sat on her suburban living room couch while her husband played with their son on the front lawn. “This market in general has people about to be or in their 30s. I think a lot of people in this market wait until their late 20s or 30s because it takes a while to get going in the career and get a little experience.”
One potential negative about public pregnancies concerns the visible body changes.
“I can’t speak for them but it is an issue and I’m not even in front of a camera,” said Polster. “It’s very difficult to go through. Your body is changing. I gained a lot of weight for my pregnancy. ... I can imagine it is very hard for them because they are in front of the camera and the camera doesn’t hold anything back. I think it adds a few pounds.”
Holmes laughs now about one hurtful message on social media.
“People are nice for the most part but I did read one tweet that said ‘I thought she was just getting fat,’ ” Holmes recalled. “If I was gaining the weight in front of the camera for any other reason than being pregnant it would be a much bigger issue. I think I got a little bit of a break from the public … Viewers are harsh but everyone is nice to a pregnant lady.”
Guggenmos, whose husband is Channel 4 anchor-reporter Lou Raguse, had a similar experience before their daughter Violet was born seven weeks early.
“People never hesitate to share their feelings and sometimes they forget that you’re a person and you have feelings,” she said. “I remember someone said ‘what, are you having a litter?’ ”
But there also are positives to having a public pregnancy and announcing it on the air.
“I think they announce it because they are excited,” said Polster. “They’re happy. They want people to know what is going on in their lives. It kind of makes them more real to the viewer.”
The mothers really embrace that idea.
“Babies I think automatically make people excited,” said Guggenmos. “People love to hear about babies. Yeah, I think it does make you more real.”
“I like to share my feelings with people who watch us,” said Asztalos. “I think it makes you a real person, not just that you are on the news.”
Holmes appreciated the advice and encouragement from viewers.
“I’m so nervous, I’m a worrywart,” said Holmes. “Viewers reassured me I would figure it out, that the motherly instinct would come along and I’ll be a great mom.”
Of course, no woman in broadcasting would want to go all Gwyneth Paltrow and complain that their jobs make it harder to raise a child. However, the TV business – with its terrible hours and breaking news – can be less ideal for raising children. Everyone agreed they need – and have – supportive husbands.
“I think being a working mom is hard in general,” said Asztalos. “It is not only TV. I don’t think there are enough people who talk about working moms and the hardships and don’t come together enough. I love that this market is coming together because we are all having babies and we all understand.”
Holmes, Elzufon and Asztalos said they believe their early morning work schedules are ideal for working TV moms because they get to be with their children by 1 p.m.
“Half my day is over and my child is not even awake,” said Asztalos. “Other than the morning shift, I think it is difficult.”
“The ‘Daybreak’ schedule is really, really tough but for being a mom I couldn’t ask for a better schedule,” said Holmes, who is used to getting up at 2:30 a.m. “When Elliott wakes up in the middle of the night, it is not that bad. It is what I’m used to.”
Along with the baby talk comes some scary talk from mothers who left TV because of the hours, the stress on their family lives and other job-related factors. The new moms are aware of mothers who discovered they couldn’t have it all in the news business. And it can scare them.
“I think about the future and giving up this career,” said Asztalos. “And I really don’t want to … I can’t look that far ahead. I love my career, I love my children, let’s see if it works. It may change but right now I love what I do and would love to keep balancing as long as possible.”
“I have heard a lot of women in the business say you can’t have it all,” said Holmes, who adds having family here helps. “I’m trying to block that out and ignore it because I want to.”
Future concerns can wait. Today is a day to celebrate Mother’s Day brunch and enjoy family life – at least unless you have to go to work as Guggenmos and Raguse do at 3 p.m.
“We’re able to do something in the morning,” said Guggenmos. “Hopefully he has something planned.”
“I’m hoping for a surprise,” added Elzufon, whose son, Joshua, is 3 months old. “As long as I am spending time with my husband and my son, I don’t really care.”
Holmes is planning a celebration with her mother, mother-in-law and her husband’s grandmother as she has in the past.
“This time I’m carrying Elliott with me and I’m thrilled this is my first one and it is definitely going to be the most special Mother’s Day yet.”