As she awaits the arrival of her first biological child this month, Maggie Doyne has the same concerns as most expectant mothers: “I don’t know how birth is going to be for me because I’ve never done it before,” she tells Motherly. “So I just want to get through that and see what happens.”
Once the baby arrives, however, Doyne has a big advantage. As the loving mother to 54 children in Nepal, she can handle just about any parenting challenge.
So, how does the mother who’s done it all except deliver a child really feel about the process? Emboldened by the examples of others, which are largely universal.
“I like to think about my mom, all those strong Nepali mothers and all of the women around the world who have done this before me,” Doyne says. “Whether I was in the States or in the most remote part of Nepal, every mother had a birth story to share, tips, advice, comradery and a knowing look of sympathy they’d give you around being pregnant.”
Inspired by those stories, Doyne says she’s looking forward to her experience “no matter how it unfolds.”
Then again, this won’t be the first time she goes into unchartered territory.
Just 31 years old, Doyne has already made quite the impact with her organization BlinkNow, a nonprofit foundation that seeks to provide educations and caring homes for orphaned children in Surkhet, Nepal. For her work, Doyne has been honored with everything from the distinction as CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2015 to the Unsung Hero of Compassion, which was presented to her by the Dalai Lama.
It’s a life path she didn’t imagine for herself when she set out to travel the world during a gap year before college.
“I thought I needed to get to know myself a little better,” Doyne says. Her self-finding mission eventually led her to Nepal, which was just coming out of a civil war. As the country was piecing itself back together, Doyne says she found her purpose in creating a better life for displaced children than traditional orphanages offered.
“In my young, very naive self, I just thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to create a children’s home that’s how I would have wanted to grow up,’” she says. “I just envisioned a place that was a family and a home and where kids would experience brothers and sisters, really good food, play time and sunshine.”
Using babysitting money she had saved from college, Doyne bought a piece of land, built the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and opened the doors—and her heart—to the first five children in 2007. Aided by on-site caregivers called “uncles and aunties,” Doyne and the team manage everything from laundry and doctor’s visits to the soothing of nightmares.
Although the nonprofit, not Doyne, legally has custody of the children due to Nepal’s restrictions on international adoption, she explains she quickly began feeling like a mother to the brood—even as it grew to include 10, 20, 30 and more children.
“The first core group of five were calling me mom and then it just continued,” says Donye, who has been the only mother many of the children can remember. “It felt really right.”
Like any parent, Doyne’s day-to-day struggles are largely banal: someone’s sick, someone’s sad, someone’s got a big soccer match to attend.
It’s all just amplified by the number of children.
“At any given time in a house that big, you have different ages and different stages and everyone’s going through something different,” she says. “There are always a few kids that you’re just a little worried about.”
With the seven oldest of her children now adults who have transitioned to universities or careers, Doyne also knows that all phases pass—and the rewards of watching them grow and succeed make all the struggles worthwhile. That, she says, drives her to “keep going and doing more.”
In her mission to do more, Doyne founded the Kopila Valley School in 2010, the Kopila Valley Health Clinic in 2011 and the Kopila Valley Women’s Center in 2013—all while mothering the children at the home with her fellow caregivers.
Then, in 2015, life took yet another turn when she met her now-husband, Jeremy Power Regimbal, at a lecture series. As she was falling for him, Doyne says her heart was really won over when Power Regimbal first met the children.
“From the moment he stepped into our home and met the kids, that to me was just like, he was in it,” she says. “I knew he could handle it and he loved it.”
That doesn’t mean the shifting dynamics have been without their own challenges. After the couple married and shared with the children they were expecting a new baby, Doyne says one of her daughters in particular was wary.
“I’ve had Maya since she was a baby. She thinks she came out of me, too. She does not distinguish me from being a biological mom,” Doyne says, explaining. “Slowly she kind of came around and looked at me, smiled a little bit and became excited. We just had to tell her it isn’t a different kind of love, it’s all love. It’s all the same and you’re my baby.”
Only her labor experience will be quite different than those of most mothers in Nepal.
“I’ve seen women in remote Himalayan villages squat their babies out in mud huts, rice paddies or in the forest on their way to chop firewood,” says Donye, who plans to deliver in the United States for safety, privacy and peace of mind reasons. “When I was in Nepal these past few months, I was taking my fancy prenatal vitamins, following along on every pregnancy app, watching every youtube video known to mankind and reading every single book... I didn’t lose sight of how lucky I was to have all those resources to going into my birth experience.”
Apart from the way her child comes into the world, Doyne says she hopes to raise him or her just as she does her other children in Nepal. There’s no denying this takes a remarkable kind of person—but Doyne is adamant there is no “secret sauce” that’s enabled her to take on so much other than the deep love she feels for each child.
"It’s just like a family,” she says. “You would just do anything for your child. They’ve gotten me through all of the losses and the hardships. There’s nothing like a mother’s love for her child and wanting to make a better world for them.”