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Pregnant and scared you won’t be a good mother?

PREGNANT WOMAN
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Have no fear, these nine months will be the best motherhood class you can possibly take.

You’re pregnant with your first, and maybe you’re thrilled, but maybe you’re secretly scared to death. You know you can get through the nine months, you’re plenty tough. It’s the part after that keeping you up at night. You’re going to be responsible for a whole new person, someone who will totally depend on you to give her what she needs. What if you do a bad job? You want to do this right, but what if you don’t know how to be a good mother?

I think that’s a fear that most of us have with our first. I mean, it’s no small responsibility, and there aren’t certification classes. But here’s why you don’t need to worry: your body is going to show you how to do this. These nine months are going to be the best motherhood class you could possibly take.

I was lying in the hospital bed, and the nurse came by to check how quick my now-empty uterus was shrinking. I must have looked shocked when she pushed on my abdomen, because she told me, “Don’t worry! Your organs are going to take some time to shift back to their places. You might feel a little empty in there for now.”

Oh, of course. I’d forgotten about my organs, about how everything inside me got pushed out of place to make room for my growing daughter. (There’s an animation of the process here. Check out how far the stomach moves!) That shifting is exactly how I felt when I got home from the hospital, too. My normal routine, my whole life really, was going to have to move over to make room for my tiny, wrinkled child. Bring it on.

It was an adjustment, and not a comfortable one. But it was an adjustment I was familiar with. That surprised me. I didn’t think anything was going to feel familiar.

How do you love somebody? You put their needs before yours. It might be more complicated than that, but it always starts there. Love puts the beloved first.

All through these nine months, your body is going to put that child first. It’s going to give that baby everything it’s got. All of those typical pregnancy symptoms? They’re just side effects of your body protecting the baby. Heartburn? Your body is making room for the child at the expense of room for your food. Sleep deprivation? You’re uncomfortable, but that’s because the baby’s first home inside you is peaceful and safe.

We don’t actively make this choice during the pregnancy, of course. That baby is going to grow, and she has to grow somewhere. When you bring her home, though, suddenly there are choices — thousands of them … The choice to drag yourself out of bed for the umpteenth time, to help her settle down. The choice to feed her — even though you have mastitis and cracked nipples. The choice to keep trying to figure out what’s wrong, when nothing else has worked yet.

These are all acts of love, but they’re not new. You’ve been putting her needs first this whole time. You just need to keep loving this baby like you’ve been loving her all along, with your body — and with your heart now, too.

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