Soon after, my partner and I started trying to have a baby. After seven tedious months, I got pregnant, only to have a first trimester miscarriage over Thanksgiving in 2020. The loss was emotionally and physically painful even with a good support system to lean on. But looking back, the part that stands out to me was how happy I was to be pregnant for those few weeks. That unexpected joy gave me clarity that we were making the right choice.
Since I was 37 at the time, we decided to pursue in vitro fertilization, and after about a year of hormone injections and multiple medical procedures, I got pregnant again. The baby now growing inside me does not feel like a parasite or an alien and every time I feel a kick I get a jolt of excitement.
But, that doesn’t mean my ambivalence has gone away. My career requires me to pour myself into my work in an almost singular fashion. Once I become a mother, I won’t have that luxury.
I’m meeting the next version of me.
I recently spent an hour of my Saturday trying to find baby sheets that will fit the crib listed on our registry. Why aren’t baby products standardized? This was yet another example of the mental load of motherhood, I posted on Instagram.
I got an influx of recommendations on the “best” baby sheets to purchase. Instead of relief, I felt enraged — the responses only proved my point further. The pressure to perform motherhood, to research all these products and show that you care about every little detail can feel oppressive, not to mention that in cisgender heterosexual couples, this expectation is generally reserved for mothers.
During the transition to motherhood, I’ve needed to take some of my own advice.
Make a habit of spending mental energy on yourself.
Instead of decorating a nursery or reading parenting books, I am using this time to prioritize my well-being, knowing that every choice I make in service of my own mental health will serve this baby well. Having previously suffered from depression and anxiety, I am at high risk for a postpartum mood disorder. Staying on medication, getting enough sleep and creating a social support network are three evidence-based interventions for preventing postpartum anxiety and depression. I am preemptively taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor during pregnancy (with the support of my doctors). I’ve also hired a postpartum doula and contacted a pelvic floor physical therapist for the inevitably bumpy recovery. Putting time and resources into my own mental health is not selfish — it’s what matters most.
Yet, I am exceedingly fortunate: I have a supportive partner and health insurance that allows me to see a therapist, and I am part of a household with two stable incomes. My close friends, all of whom have kids, even offered to make me a baby registry. Which brings me to my second point.