The former U.S. House speaker was asked at the meeting in Des Moines -- sponsored by CafeMom, a social networking Web site for mothers and those planning to become mothers -- about how his mother affected him, The Hill reported Friday.
"You'll get me all teary-eyed -- (his wife) Callista will tell you, I get teary-eyed every time we sing Christmas carols. My mother sang in the choir and loved singing in the choir," Gingrich said.
The audience cheered for Gingrich as he fought back tears while speaking about his mother, the newspaper said.
"I do policy much easier than I do personal," Gingrich joked.
"But I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends, but what she introduced me to, is late in her life she ended up in a long-term-care facility. She had bipolar disease, and depression, and she gradually acquired some physical ailments, and that introduced me to the issue of long-term care, which I did with [Former Nebraska Sen.] Bob Kerrey for three years, and that introduced me to the issue of Alzheimer's, which I did with Bob Kerrey for three more years, and my whole emphasis on brain science comes indirectly from dealing with the real problems of real people in my family," Gingrich said.