There are tens of millions of mothers in the United States, and each has a different story of how they became a mom.
Thanks to everything from marriage and adoption to modern technology to the generosity of people who serve as donors or surrogates, the path to motherhood is not so linear.
Here are the stories of how women across the country entered the fulfilling, challenging, fun, tiring and ultimately magical club known as motherhood.
My wife and I used a sperm donor.
Taylor-Rey and Libby J’Vera, who wed in 2020, are moms to six-month-old River Jacques J’Vera.
“I knew I wanted to be a mom after I met Libby,” Taylor-Rey J’Vera, 32, a New York City-based performer, told “GMA.” “I've seen [parenting] done and it's hard and I just couldn't get into it until I knew I had the right partner, so when I met Libby was finally when my heart opened up to the idea of having a child.”
After researching their options for starting a family as two women, they settled on using a sperm donor.
Last year, Taylor-Rey J’Vera became pregnant through intrauterine insemination, or IUI, a process in which sperm is placed into a woman's uterus while she is ovulating, according to Resolve, the National Infertility Association.
“We alternated months of trying and then I tried for a few months and then the second month of trying, Taylor-Rey got pregnant," said Libby J'Vera, 37, a theater manager. "So it was very fast."
After what the couple described as a fairly smooth pregnancy, Taylor-Rey J’Vera gave birth to River Jacques via C-section on Oct. 8, 2021.
“The best thing about being a mom is when your child smiles at you for the first time, a real smile in response to your smiling at them," she said. "It brightens every second. Just going back to that moment, it's so precious."
Libby J'Vera describes motherhood as the "most joyful, hardest job in the world."
“For me the best thing about being a mom is just how I get filled with energy and joy from him, even when I'm really tired and depleted,” she said. “It'll be the middle of the night and then he’ll just do something cute or just be himself and I just get all the energy I need to keep on doing it.”
For other prospective parents, Taylor-Rey J’Vera recommends finding a support system.
“Find your community," she said. "It makes the journey of parenthood so much easier to have people in your corner who are there for you and for the baby."
A stranger carried my twin babies as a surrogate.
Erika Biaselli, a middle school music teacher in New Jersey, went through years of doctors' appointments and infertility treatments with the goal of becoming pregnant.
When that did not happen, she and her husband, David, began the process of gestational surrogacy, in which another person carries your biological child.
For the Biasellis, that person was Kasey Hewitt, a stranger who herself was already a mom of three children, ages 9, 4 and 2, with her husband, Bill.
Hewitt had two of the Biasellis' embryos implanted, and became pregnant.
In December, Hewitt gave birth to the Biasellis' children, twins they named Desmond and Ruby.
Though the two families were once complete strangers, they now have a lasting bond, according to David Biaselli.
"I think that Kasey and Bill are going to be family forever. She's Aunt Casey and he's Uncle Bill, forever," he said. "It's a special bond for sure."
Now as Desmond and Ruby continue to hit milestones as 5-month-olds, David Biaselli said he thinks of the gift that Hewitt gave them.
"Every time something amazing happens with our children, I can't help but think of how she helped us get there," he said.
I became a stepmom to a 6-year-old son.
Tamara Johnson was 26 when she married her husband, Reginald, in July 2013 and became a stepmom to his son, RJ, who was 6 at the time.
“I knew I wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl,” Johnson told "GMA."
Johnson, of Detroit, said she embraced having a relationship with her partner's child. After getting married, however, she had to navigate uncharted territory, from handling RJ's emotions about having a stepmom to figuring out what they wanted their blended family to be and look like.
“I was the super stepmommy. I was always on Pinterest trying to figure out what activities RJ and I could do,” said Johnson, now 35. “I was just obsessed with being the perfect stepmom when deep down inside, I was miserable.”
Johnson said her family was helped by professional therapy, which gave them tools to overcome their challenges and define their family roles.
For Johnson, she said that meant rediscovering who she was and how to balance her sense of self and her life as a parent.
In 2017, she and her husband welcomed their first child together, a son named Tory.
“After having Tory, I had to learn how to balance stepmom life and mom life together,” she said. "In the beginning, it was just all about RJ and then when Tory came into the picture, it shifted. So [RJ] felt, I would say, left out, so I had to learn how to balance out both of their feelings.”
As RJ enters his teen years, Johnson is also adjusting.
“I've learned within the past few years to just step back a little bit because he is entering his teenage years so he's no longer that little naive little boy. He's now understanding, ‘OK, I'm of two different households,'" she said. "He's still adjusting to the idea of mom and dad not living together, mom and dad have two different partners, so I just allow him to be and just see his comfort level."
For others who may be stepping into the role of stepparent, Johnson said she would tell them to really get to know themselves and not get caught up in stereotypes and external expectations.
“I had to remind myself this is a journey that my husband, my stepson, and I, all three of us are learning," said Johnson. "Sometimes, as a stepparent, you may feel like you're under a microscope and because you think people are watching you, and they're not."
Johnson said she’s learned to "be brave" in her 9 years of being a stepmom and, later, a mom.
“You have to be brave in order to be a stepmom, well, a mom in general," she said. "There are going to be times when you're like, 'I can't do this,' but you can."
I used IVF to become pregnant as a single mom.
Jennifer Usis, of Arlington, Virginia, said she knew she wanted to be a mom as far back as she can remember, but as she got older, she never found the right partner with whom she wanted to start a family.
"’I always told my mom, ‘I want four kids, two boys, two girls,' ... and as I started to get older and older, that started to shift," Usis told "Good Morning America." "Then it was, well, maybe I can be a stepmom or maybe I can adopt. Then it was like, well, it's a lot easier to say you don't want to have kids when you don't have a partner in the picture at the time."
"I had started to think I may have lost my chance," she said.
Usis, who works in education, said her idea of parenthood requiring a partner started to shift as she approached the age of 40. Around that time, Usis moved closer to family, including her sister, a nurse practitioner who had previously specialized in labor and delivery.
At her sister's urging, Usis said she went to a local fertility center to just see what her baseline level of fertility was. She learned that due to her age, her chances of becoming pregnant were small and were reducing with each month.
With that knowledge, Usis, now 40, said she decided to undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in which eggs and sperm are combined in a lab and the resulting embryo is transferred to a woman's uterus.
"I was ready and I was at a point where I was comfortable doing it by myself," said Usis. "Somebody else mentioned, 'There's plenty of single mothers by choice,' and the more I thought about it, the more it just felt right."
Usis underwent two rounds of IVF using her own eggs and sperm she purchased through a sperm donor bank.
Usis said her health insurance paid for some of the IVF treatments, but she also had to use her own savings and take out loans.
"When this is something that you want, you’re going to do everything in your power to do it," she said. "But for just the medication alone, if I had not had health insurance, the retail cost was $15,000 per IVF cycle."
In October, Usis found out she was pregnant.
She is due on July 4 with a daughter she plans to name Chloe. In the delivery room with her will be her sister, who encouraged her to start the process of becoming a mom on her own.
"I plan to be very transparent [and tell Chloe], 'This is my journey. This is what happened. You are loved. You are wanted. I sought out bringing you into this world,'" said Usis. "I think being an older mother, I have a lot of wisdom and I have a lot of love that I want to give her."
I adopted 3 kids and am a 'bonus mom' to 2 more kids.
Katie Page, of Castle Rock, Colorado, was overcoming a divorce and an unsuccessful infertility journey nearly a decade ago when she signed up to become a foster care parent.
Not long after she submitted her application on Mother's Day, Page, who was single at the time, took in an 11-month-old and a 5-year-old in an emergency placement.
In the years that followed, Page said she relied on a "village" of friends, family and paid caregivers to help her care for kids she fostered while also working full-time in the construction industry.
"It does not happen by itself," she said, noting that every time she was "terrified" about making it work as a foster parent, someone would step in to help. "It takes a massive village."
Page's life changed once again when she welcomed into her life as a foster child a baby boy, named Grayson, who had been abandoned at a local hospital.
Page adopted Grayson, now 5, in 2017, and has since adopted two of his siblings, a 4-year-old girl named Hannah, and a 3-year-old boy named Jackson.
"It has been an even greater blessing to see them have extended family," Page said of her three children, who also have three additional siblings with whom they keep in touch. "There's so much love and connection, it's better than I ever could have imagined."
Page, now 39, is also the self-described "bonus mom" to her boyfriend's two children, ages 4 and 5, who live with them part of the time.
She said she recently left her full-time job in construction to care for her family of five children, a life that she calls chaotic, but the one she always dreamed of.
"Is my life constantly crazy and chaotic? It is, but that's what I prayed for. That's what I longed for," said Page. "I wanted a big family. I wanted all the craziness and silliness in it and lots of love in our home, and that's what it is."
Page acknowledged that her journey to motherhood has been a long road filled with ups and downs, financial concerns and legal obstacles.
She said though that her advice to other women who may see adoption as their path to motherhood to always "choose love over fear."
"Always choose love over fear and be open and kind of let go of control because sometimes God's plan is better than ours," said Page. "I would never guess my journey turned out the way it did. It wasn't my plan but it turned out far better."