Motherhood in Metro Detroit

From pre-pregnancy thoughts to developing unconditional love, several local women give a glimpse into their lives as ‘mom’

Ashley Robinson

The 39-year-old, who lives in Shelby Township with her husband, Sean, and their son, 2-year-old Declan, is a stylist at Saks, a brand ambassador for Chanel ready-to-wear, and the blogger behind So Then There Were Three.

So many things were going through my mind [before I was a mother]. I was thinking, “How am I going to raise a child when I know nothing about taking care of a baby let alone raising one?” When Declan was born, the nerves melted away.

I had two miscarriages before and wanted [the blog to be] a platform to speak my mind. Even though my husband was there for me, I felt so alone and confused.

I did not wear or purchase one piece of maternity [clothing]. I thought it was all horrible. I loved my shape and my belly, and I wanted to wear things that showed that. I wanted to be fashionable! It was important to me to feel pretty throughout my pregnancy, and for me, that did not include wearing maternity. I think moms are thought of as throwing on a quick pair of yoga pants to run errands and change diapers all day. But looking your best is the best type of self-care you can give yourself, especially when you have a child. My advice? Don’t forget about your identity. You can still have fun and try new things. You’re still the same person, just with a mini-me or mini’s!

There are so many things going on in the world today that I just want to shield [my son] from. It’s a huge challenge for me being a parent to literally not just keep him in a bubble.

There is not just one thing I love [about being a mom]. I love it all. I have such a wonderful little boy. I am truly blessed, I know that. Oh, when his eyes light up when he sees his dad — every time I see it, it’s like the first time.

Nicole Andridge

A Warren-based paraplanner, Andridge and her husband welcomed their daughter Olivia in 2013. Olivia was stillborn. Following this experience, the 27-year-old became a certified doula and launched to help other parents. The couple’s second daughter, Avery, 3, was born in 2014.

Some kids want to grow up to be a doctor or a police officer, but I never knew what career I wanted. The only thing I knew for sure was I wanted to get married and have a family.

My first pregnancy, with Olivia, was a surprise. It was a pretty typical pregnancy until our 20-week ultrasound. … Olivia had a myriad of complications. The biggest ones included a left-sided congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), left radial dysplasia, no left kidney, an enlarged right kidney, and her left femur was almost non-existent. Being pregnant with Avery was different. One, she was planned. Two, because we had a scary experience with Olivia, I was not able to relax [until] Avery was crying in our arms.

It is important to us to continue to honor Olivia’s memory. … There are pictures of her in our house, Avery knows about her, and on Olivia’s birthday we [do] something as a family. It is also important to help end the stigma around pregnancy and infant loss, as well as shed awareness on CDH.

Sometimes it’s hard to be happy during Avery’s major milestones because Olivia’s missed milestones start creeping into my mind. Parenting is hard, and parenting after losing a child is even harder. It’s OK to need a break, to feel frustrated sometimes, and to ask for help. Those feelings do not mean you aren’t grateful to finally have the opportunity to parent.

Nicolena Inniss-Stubbs

Hailing from Detroit’s Palmer Woods, the 48-year-old is a massage therapist, makeup artist, and mother to Zavier (left), 16, and Soren, 13. The boys are enrolled at Birmingham’s Eton Academy, which specializes in education for students with learning challenges.

I used to be a model, and I didn’t see myself settling down and having kids. But I would never turn back now. People tell you that your kids are your greatest joy and pain wrapped all in one, and it’s the truth. You wouldn’t trade them for anything. [Becoming a parent] completely changes your focus and your life.

My kids were struggling in traditional school. They have learning challenges — I don’t like calling them disabilities. I resent that word. They’re not disabled. Sometimes Zavier would [do homework] straight through the night with me helping him. We knew something was very wrong. He was struggling through a system that was not built for him.

I was with one of my clients and she was talking about her [child’s] challenges and Eton, and I kept telling her, “There’s no way, I can’t do it. It’s not [financially] possible.” And she said, “You owe it to your kids to exhaust all possibilities. I went to the school to find out if they had scholarships. I wrote a letter, and they gave me the equal amount [off tuition] for both boys. I’m so grateful for them being there. The boys have so much more confidence. They feel understood.

[Before Eton,] I would feel guilty, because I didn’t know how to help them. I spent a lot of energy being sad, upset, and worrying. Sometimes when you laden yourself with worry, it’s hard to figure out a solution. My advice to any mom would be, take it easy on yourself and trust your instincts. Motherhood is an amazing thing. I don’t think anything will ever come between my sons and me. In fact, I know it won’t [laughs], because I’m not going to let it.

Elena Larionov

The former Soviet Union figure skater earned the title of World Junior champion in 1980 and ’81. Today, the 53-year-old is the mother of Alonka (right, 31, Diana, 27, and Igor Jr., 19. She lives in Bloomfield Hills with her husband, Igor Larionov, who was a member of the Detroit Red Wings’ Russian Five.

I always thought it would be a huge responsibility to be a mother. I made a choice to become a full-time mother, so I stopped skating. When we left Russia, Alyonka was 2 years old. It was very difficult [because of the] language and different lifestyle. As time went by, we became more comfortable and [Michigan eventually] became our home. The most important thing is to spend as much time as possible with your kids. They grow up so fast, you don’t want to regret that you didn’t. And [for parents moving to the U.S.], as much as you want them to adjust to your new lifestyle, you have to keep your traditions and your language.

My children are the most important part of my life. So, I always try to be there for them. I am very proud of my kids [and] all the amazing things they’ve accomplished. Kids are the flowers in our lives. They are all different, but always beautiful. I hope they only take positive lessons from my life. I always tried to teach them to be nice to people. We are all equal. Some just have more opportunities. I am always amazed at how strong and determined they are. They definitely got it from their father.

Emily Ishbia 

The 38-year-old has modeled for Tapper’s, Harper’s BazaarElle, and more. She lives in Bloomfield Hills with her husband, Mat, the president and CEO of United Shore. The couple has two sons and a daughter, who are 7 (center), 3 (left), and 4, respectively, and Ishbia posts about them on

[In vitro fertilization] was very mentally and emotionally challenging for me. At the time, you just feel like [having children] is something that’s supposed to be part of life, because you see it all around you. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s as easy as it looks.

[I did IVF for] two out of three [pregnancies]. The third was a full-blown miracle. I was told that it was impossible for me to get pregnant any other way. So that was amazing.

It was so hard to get pregnant with my first child, and I was so scared that I would lose the pregnancy somehow. That fear carried on after he was born for quite some time.

[Post-partum depression is] not something that moms talk about unless it’s one of your best friends that knows you’re struggling. I was overly cautious and that anxiety was an issue. So, I recognized it and got help. With each child, I learned how to deal with what’s going on around me better. I think a lot of new mothers are scared. We hear these things about [sudden infant death syndrome], or [children] having an allergic reaction to a food, [or] influenza at too young of an age. We need to be careful, but we don’t need to let it run our life. I think finding that balance is a challenge, and it takes time.

Being a mom is the greatest thing in the world. It’s the small things throughout the day, when you see that they’re happy. I really try to encourage their uniqueness within them, but still make them aware that there [are] other people in the world. I want to be, hopefully, raising considerate humans [laughs].

Vanessa Cohen

Born and raised in Detroit, the 31-year-old community insurance advocate now lives in Canton with her “blended family.” She and her husband parent her son Donovan (top row center), 14 and his sons Jaden (far left), 13, and Jordan (far right), 12; as well as their twins, Aiden (right) and Austin, 4, who share a role on Chicago Fire.

I don’t remember a lot before being a parent, but I remember that I always saw myself being a mother. My biggest concern during pregnancy with Donovan was that I was [17]. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I wanted to make sure that I could provide my child with the best possible life.

What was unique about my husband [was that he had] two children that were basically the same age as my son. I got to see him be a father to his children, and that’s what attracted me to him.

Donovan was in Transformers and Hostel 3. From that point, I started looking at different casting notifications. When I found out I was having twins, I subscribed to everything that was twins related.

I sent pictures [to Chicago Fire], and they liked how [the twins] looked. They let us do a video audition. We’re in Chicago probably every other week for [shooting] that or [other] auditions.

I always wanted to act [but] on camera, I’m shy [so] I never pursued it. But people used to tell me with Donovan [that] he’s one of those kids you know is there. He was around the twins’ age when he said, “Mommy, I want to go in the TV.” I picked him up and tried to push him in the TV, and he’s like, “It’s not working.” I said, “OK, well we’ve got to try it a different way.

He’s in Mosaic Youth Theatre [now]. Donovan could tell me he wants to be a magician and we’re going to figure it out. The love that you see on TV is make-believe, but when my child tells me they love me, that is so pure. It’s so authentic.