A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

23andMe taught me more about myself—and my family—than I ever expected

We all look to our moms with gratitude for everything they do at this time of year. But it's more than that—we quite literally wouldn't be here without them. This Mother's Day, in partnership with our friends at 23andMe, four of our Motherly team members—daughters, moms and mamas-to-be—explored their backgrounds as a way to pay homage to all the moms who came before them, to show how deeply we are connected as women, and to tell a part of their story.


Whether you're seeking answers about your genes, researching your heritage or tracing your matrilineal line back through human history, we promise that you will see your mom, yourself and motherhood in a whole new light. There's never been a cooler time to be a mama and a link in this ongoing story.

Here's what we found out:


I unlocked my family's past—and it was such an emotional experience

Liz Tenety, Co-Founder

Liz Tenety and her mother and father, October 2008

I always felt connected to my recent ancestors, especially my two strong, working mother grandmothers who supported their families. But like many other Americans, my knowledge of our family history really ended at our family's migration to the United States.

My DNA report gave me a view into our family's past that was lost to history. I felt a swell of pride and emotion reading about where my people came from (mostly Ireland and Great Britain), and including some surprises (I'm 1% Italian!—never knew that!). I was also thrilled to find connections with 1000+ DNA relatives who have also taken the 23andMe test. It humbled me and made me realize the degree to which I am a part of a much larger story that traces back across continents and generations.

There were also some hilarious surprises. For example, I have more Neanderthal variants than most 23andMe customers (which has already led to great family fodder for teasing). And I discovered that my coffee obsession isn't just a personal preference— and based on my genetics I'm likely to drink more than average.

It was absolutely fascinating to see so many parts of myself that I thought were just personal preferences or quirks are actually influenced by my genetics. It's just who I am! Having access to this level of data about my body, health and ancestry has been profoundly meaningful and empowering.


Finding out my family's history was so empowering—and surprising

Rachel Gorton, Business Development Director

Rachel Gorton with her two sisters

When I was younger I loved hearing the stories my mom and grandmother had to tell about our ancestry and our family traits. I always learned something new from each story, and I remember always feeling excited to hear about our history and background.

I still ask my grandma to this day about our family history, but I always knew there were pieces that were missing (she is 94 after all!). When I had the opportunity to take the 23andMe test, I couldn't wait to participate and receive the results.

I read through the reports instantly and felt inspired and empowered by what I read. There were so many surprises! There is something really special about realizing you have so much more to learn about yourself through your DNA. Details that can influence who we are, why we are the way we are, and traits we will pass on to our children.


My Ancestry Composition Report confirmed who I've been all along

Karell Roxas, Editorial Director

Karell Roxas, with her mother Amor Roxas and sister Zyril Roxas Green

I've always wanted to know more about myself. What I'm made of. Not in an egotistical way, but in an exploratory way. Like astronauts exploring a moon they've seen everyday of their lives. I know who I am but don't know the full extent of what that means, what my genes have to do with it, and whether or not I will look as good as my mother does when I'm her age. (Let's say I'm hoping that one is a big yes.)

I was eager to see what 23andMe would reveal to me. What secrets I might unlock, and what ah-ha's might happen as I sift through the data revealed through a vial of my spit (science!). One stat stood out in how it made me feel—I am 99.4% East Asian and Native American with 98.6% of that being Southeast Asian. Not surprising since both my mother and father were born in the Philippines, as was I. But validating all the same.

The cultural heritage I identify with is right there in black and white. This may not sound like much, but growing up as an immigrant in Southern California where I wasn't quite American enough to be "American" (I ate "weird" food for lunch, I didn't pronounce words right sometimes, I didn't understand some old pop culture references) and not quite Filipino enough to be considered a "real" Filipino (I can understand but don't speak our language, I don't have an accent like my parents, I love hamburgers as much as I love rice), I felt a little in between all the time. Straddling two worlds and not fully belonging to either. My mother would always reassure me: You are both. "You are Filipino-American" she would say, "the best of both worlds." And she was right.

It's empowering to think that my genes don't lie. I am Filipino, and I come from a long line of Filipino women. While Filipino culture can be "machismo" at times, it's also largely matriarchal, with mothers and grandmothers being the family leaders, rule makers and disciplinarians.

So I guess even when you go exploring for secrets, you find out things you've known all along. You realize that your story is already told right there in what you see in your family. In your mom's laugh and your grandmother's hug. I share my mother's dark eyes and brown skin, as my mother shared with her mother, and her mother shared with hers. We'll be forever connected through our DNA and our culture.


I discovered more insights into my own traits and now have an idea about what I may pass on to my baby

Stefania Sainato, Audience Development Manager

Stefania Sainato with her family in Europe

After my husband and I received the joyous news that we were finally going to become parents, we couldn't stop wondering what our baby would be like—specifically, which traits we would pass down to him or her from our relatives.

Our 23andMe reports confirmed that our genetic makeup was mostly Italian (our percentages were 76% and 40%, respectively) but only dating back to the early 1900s. However, there were some fascinating findings. I determined that I am 5.6% Western Asian (which is made up of Arabic countries like Armenia, Lebanon, and Iran). No wonder I had inherited my mom's thick, jet-black hair and almond-shaped eyes. A few months before conceiving, we traveled to Spain and became enamored with the culture. In a twist of fate, our reports showed Iberian ancestry and now we know that our little one will likely be part Iberian too!

Piecing together my child's ancestral background was an empowering experience. My ultimate goal as a mama is to help my son or daughter flourish and thrive, developing their own unique identity. The first step to that is teaching them about their family roots, which are laid in a solid foundation of love and support.

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Between the sleepless nights, endless worries, and persistent temper tantrums, parenting can feel like a fast track to gray hairs and wrinkles.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University have proven what we've suspected all along: having children does, in fact, speed up the aging process. A new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, found that each pregnancy can age a mother's cells by up to two years.

Each baby ages a mother’s cells

Researchers studied 821 women in the Philippines between the ages of 20 and 22, with various reproductive histories. They examined two separate markers of cellular aging—telomere length and epigenetic age—to measure the toll pregnancy takes on the body.

"Telomere length and epigenetic age are cellular markers that independently predict mortality, and both appeared 'older' in women who had more pregnancies in their reproductive histories," Calen Ryan, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in biological anthropology at Northwestern, said in a statement. "Even after accounting for other factors that affect cellular aging, the number of pregnancies still came out on top."

The researchers were surprised to find that cellular aging increased between about six months and two years for each additional pregnancy—a figure much higher than what they originally anticipated. Meanwhile, women who were currently pregnant had cells that looked significantly younger than predicted for their biological age."

It's an interesting situation in which pregnancy makes someone look temporarily 'young,' but there appears to be some lasting, cumulative relationship between the number of pregnancies and more accelerated biological age," noted Christopher Kuzawa, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University.

Our telomeres shorten and our epigenetic age increases

Telomeres, which are stretches of DNA at the end of chromosomes, protect our DNA and make it possible for our cells to divide. Longer telomeres are associated with longer lives and better health. As people age and as cells divide and replicate, those telomeres shorten.

Given that there is hyper cell production during pregnancy, it makes sense that those telomeres would shorten and, therefore, appear to age dramatically.

"During pregnancy, more cells need to be produced for carrying and nurturing the fetus, such as in red blood cells, placental cells, and more," said Dr. Kim Langdon, an Ohio-based retired OB-GYN who writes at Parenting Pod. "In addition, the cells in all organs such as the heart and uterus enlarge. This is known as hypertrophy—and when cells hypotrophy, their telomeres shorten."

Meanwhile, the epigenetic age begins to climb. This is an estimate of a person's biological age based on changes in the DNA that are caused by environmental factors, such as toxins and stress.

In other words, pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the body. "I'm not really surprised," Langdon told Healthline about the findings. "Every OB-GYN knows the extreme stress to the system that pregnancy causes."

Throughout pregnancy, the blood volume increases by 50% as does the cardiac output, which puts strain on the heart. The kidney function increases and the lungs have reduced capacity, which causes breathlessness.

Why, then, did the pregnant women seem so much better off?

It may all come down to the immunological, hormonal, and physiological changes that take place during pregnancy to support development of the baby.

For example, pregnant women experience elevated estrogen levels, which can lower oxidative stress and prevent damage to telomere length and epigenetic age. Once the baby is born, though, those shifts are no longer necessary.

The findings may not be permanent

The study supports previous evidence that women who have had more pregnancies are more susceptible to certain illnesses and have slightly shorter life spans. Earlier this year, researchers from George Mason University found that childbirth could age a woman by as many as 11 years.

While it may be nerve-racking to learn that having children can accelerate the aging process, scientists still don't fully understand why this happens and don't want women to worry.

According to Langdon, we are far away from understanding if these findings could impact family planning or the longevity or long-term health of the mother.

"We don't know if these findings are permanent," Langdon said. "More longitudinal studies need to be done over many years, even decades, to see if this is reversible or if it really can predict when you will die."

The researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Washington have already started they working on a follow-up study that will examine the same group of women 13 years after their cellular measurements were first taken. Eventually, we'll be able to see if the women's cells continue to appear older throughout their life.

Until then, though, you can keep blaming your kids for those fine lines and dark circles.

Originally posted on Healthline.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

I always thought I'd have babies. As in, multiple babies. Maybe three or four? I knew it would be hard. I knew pregnancy was tough and childbirth was no walk in the park.

I just didn't know how tough. And I also had no idea how hard my recovery would be.

It's been nearly four months, and I'm still taking pain medicine. I'm still using the witch hazel pads and haven't touched toilet paper. I'm still struggling with issues from my labor and delivery that just won't go away.

I'm still dealing with the emotional guilt that comes from feeling like I failed my daughter because I don't remember her first moments of life due to the trauma of what my body went through.

My birth story was traumatic and terrifying—and rare.

At 38 weeks pregnant, I had been in what we thought was labor for almost two days—but was actually a kidney stone. I was in constant, terrible pain for nearly 48 hours straight, and morphine didn't take the pain away—it only took the edge off. I watched out the hospital window as the world went by outside, and the hours dragged on.

I didn't sleep because of the pain. My body was completely drained and had gone into survival mode because of what felt like endless torture. Eventually, I was induced because of a small leak of amniotic fluid and had to give birth in an exhausted physical state and a completely anxious mental state.

I was in no way ready to have my baby—the baby I had been so ready for just weeks earlier.

This lead to all the things I had hoped to avoid for my birth—inducement, more inducement because I wasn't progressing fast enough, having to lie flat on my back, epidural, episiotomy and forceps.

By the time my sweet daughter finally entered the world, and they placed her in my arms—all I could do was immediately fall back onto the bed and close my eyes. My body was shutting down from sheer exhaustion. I wasn't even able to look at my brand new baby, let alone admire her or watch her take her first breaths. This part of my birth story still breaks my heart.

After they moved me to my recovery room, I asked my husband what our delivery room number was—because I never wanted to go in that room again. I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to walk down the hallway past it. And I really didn't want to think about what happened in there. My mind was scarred by the fear and anxiety I experienced.

The hardest part of all of this is that now, the thought of getting pregnant again terrifies me. My heart longs to have a house full of little feet running down the halls, yet my body says "closed for business." It's a confusing tension.

I know of women who have suffered through experiences much worse than I have. I know there are stories out there that are almost unbelievable. I don't know if or when or how I will ever feel ready for another baby again.

Yet, I have been realizing a few things.

It's okay that I'm scared. It's okay that I didn't feel as strong as I hoped to be. It's okay that I didn't power through childbirth without assistance. It's okay that I wasn't like the moms who can give birth in their sleep.

And it's okay that I wasn't physically able to witness my daughter's first moments of life. It doesn't make me a bad mother. It won't ruin my daughter's life. She doesn't even know what happened—only I do. I'm the one whose heart is broken because of this—not hers. She was in mama's arms and that's all she knew.

So I'm giving myself grace. I'm letting my mind and body heal for however long it takes. I'm not going to feel the guilt of failure—because I didn't fail.

So, mama with the traumatic birth story, please give yourself grace too. You're a good mom. You're a strong and powerful woman who has done something amazing.

You brought life into this world.

Your body didn't fail—you survived, and you're a mother now. And it's absolutely, 100% okay if you change your mind about having another baby. You have permission to feel exactly how you feel, right now at this moment.

Don't feel like less of a woman because of a story that was ultimately out of your control. You did it. You really did it. That is what makes you a strong, powerful woman. You are amazing, and you are a rockstar for going through what you did.

And you know what? You're killing this whole motherhood thing, too—just so you know.

You might also like:

First responders do a lot of heroic things on the job. We're used to seeing police officers on TV pulling victims to safety or chasing down the bad guys, but sometimes heroism looks a lot different. Sometimes, it looks like breastfeeding.

A Facebook photo of a police officer breastfeeding a hungry baby in an Argentinian hospital has now gone viral for a very good reason. It's a simple act, but to that hungry baby, Officer Celeste Ayala is certainly a hero.

The photo was posted to Facebook by Marcos Heredia, who says he witnessed the police officer comfort and breastfeed a hungry baby while on duty at the Sister Maria Ludovica Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires.

According to Heredia, who tagged the officer in the Facebook post, Officer Ayala was attending the busy hospital on August 14 when she noticed the baby, a patient, needing care and comfort, and took it upon herself to give it.

"I want to make public this great gesture of love that you had today with that little baby, who without knowing you didn't hesitate, and for a moment you fulfilled [as if] you were their mother," reads a loose translation of Heredia's post.

Multiple Spanish-language websites report the 6-month-old baby Ayala breastfed is the youngest of six siblings who were in the process of being placed into foster care because their mother did not have the resources to feed them. The children were at the hospital for the medical exams they needed before being moved into foster care when Ayala came into contact with the baby, who was desperately hungry while waiting, according to reports.

Metro reports Ayala spoke to local media in Buenos Aires, explaining that she noticed hospital staff were overwhelmed so she, a mother of two, asked if she could comfort and feed the baby. "I noticed that he was hungry, as he was putting his hand into his mouth, so I asked to hug him and breastfeed him. It was a sad moment, it broke my soul seeing him like this, society should be sensitive to the issues affecting children, it cannot keep happening," Ayala reportedly said.

Not only is Ayala a mother and a police officer, but she is also apparently a volunteer firefighter as well. Her fellow firefighters joined in the chorus of people supporting Ayala's simple heroism on social media.

'We want to congratulate the voluntary firefighting cadet Celeste Ayala who yesterday in her job as police officer whilst she was on guard duty at the hospital, breastfed a young child who arrived crying."

Sometimes, first responders pull people from a burning building or save people from a hostage taking. And sometimes they feed babies.


You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.