The advocacy of motherhood

The words pregnancy and childbirth tend to trigger a very specific memory or thought in just about every woman who has ever experienced one or both. While pregnancy is a slow process that ideally allows women the opportunity to prepare and plan for the coming of new life, childbirth is the reality that life will never be the same. Whether childbirth is early or late, short or long, easy or painful, I have never known a mom who was 100 percent ready.

My son Eli was born premature at 29 weeks gestational age. As a first-time mother, I took comfort in knowing I had 40 weeks to wrap my brain around the fact that I was going to be a mom. When confronted with the fact that my childbirth experience was going to be significantly sooner than expected, I did what anyone else would do: panic. There’s nothing more terrifying than realizing that what you planned for is actually happening sooner than anticipated, sooner as in now, no time to plan, no time to calm down or get ready, NOW.

We women approach pregnancy and childbirth both with a kind of courage and grace that may have been unimaginable in our past. When Eli was born, something clicked on inside me that I never knew existed.

Maternal instinct turns on when one least expects it and motivates women to do amazing and powerful things during their life. It is our maternal instinct that seeks to provide for our family, keep them safe, and make sure they are loved. As an attorney, I see various forms of maternal instinct every day in my practice. Wives and mothers step forward and decide that it is in their family’s best interest to do estate planning. Many women will often seek out bankruptcy counsel in order to provide their family with financial relief from debts they have lost control of. My family law practice also addresses the needs of wives and mothers who have made the decision to pursue divorce or separation from their spouse, as well as parental rights and responsibilities actions for unmarried parents.

The deterioration of a family or relationship is never expected, planned for, or wished on anyone. It is during these times that mothers, different and alike, click into mom mode where their most important concern is the children. During divorce, women with minor children must consider and plan for judicial determinations regarding the primary residence, whether parental rights and responsibilities will be shared or solely granted to one parent, what, if any, child support obligation will be owed, and health insurance coverage, to name a few.

Many unmarried women do not realize that these issues are never addressed with respect to their children if a formal parental rights and responsibilities action is not brought before the court. Without a court order, there is no legal primary residence of children involved, no legal obligation to pay child support, and no legal visitation schedule.

My job as an attorney is to advocate for my clients to ensure they are best able to do what their maternal instinct tells them: protect their children and keep them safe. My job as a mother, while it didn’t start out the way I had anticipated, is the same: protect and keep safe. One job does not start where the other ends, but they are connected and intertwined to make me who I am today. Childbirth and pregnancy are not easy, but the reward is a lifetime of pure joy that helps shape the rest of our lives.

Shannon M. Esty, Esq. is an associate attorney at Seacoast Law & Title. The law firm, located at 1399 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, specializes in estate planning, family law, real estate, business law and bankruptcy. Shannon welcomes comments or questions at or (207) 591-7880.

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