Like many first-time moms, I went past my due date. My careful birth plan was replaced with a hooked-up, drugged-up induction to welcome a baby boy who was bigger than any of us expected. The doctor placed him on my chest for that skin-to-skin time that the experts say is so important. He was chubby and slippery, like a nine-pound bag of pudding. We took a selfie.
It was the first of many milestones that turned out not tragic, not magical, but fine in the end. Despite the warnings, my life has not ended up as some punishing trade-off where I’ve had to give up my identity and my body in exchange for the intangible joy of having a little one call me Mama. The day-to-day has been sweet, satisfying and manageable.
Perhaps reading about the worst-case scenarios gave me perspective. But they also kept me from accepting when things turned out well. When a seatmate complimented my zonked-out 4-month-old on his first flight, I told her that he’d probably give me trouble when he got older. “Don’t say that,” she pushed back. “Stop assuming there has to be a bad phase coming.”
Even now, nearly two years later, the doomsday fears linger. We’re not planning to have another baby, thinking that our first must have been a fluke. I still pause over the tearful selfies by new moms and emotional posts about life upheaval. I’m cautious about what I share about my own happy and healthy son, afraid that all the giddy updates come off as privileged, boastful or disingenuous.
But when expectant parents ask for advice, I’ll tell them straight-up: Stop worrying. “When you get so overwhelmed that you think, ‘How will we do this forever?’, know that it won’t last that long,” I said to a friend at a baby shower. “Babies grow quickly, and you adapt too.”
I recently saw an Instagram post that asked moms, “What do you wish someone would have told you about postpartum?” I remember scrolling through those lists before I became pregnant. Now that I’m on the other side, there’s one thing I want more new moms to know: Everything could turn out OK.
Kate Shellnutt (@kateshellnutt) is a writer and a senior editor at Christianity Today magazine.
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