Real Talk: What I’m Learning Right Now

Yesterday, I was on the verge of a panic attack in buybuyBaby. I’d made a lap around the store, trying to decide how to use a gift card. A sweet employee was walking another mom-to-be through the registry process, helping her scan important items and talking through recommendations.

I listened briefly as she talked about pacifiers, thinking of the advice several friends had given me about trying out a few different ones: Just because someone else’s baby likes this pacifier doesn’t mean your baby will. Every baby has their own preference, so don’t open everything, that way you can return anything you don’t use.

As a planner, this advice is helpful – I’m the kind of person who would have taken the tags off of everything, loaded it all into baskets, bins, and drawers, and then been annoyed with myself in a few months, staring down at all the stuff our baby refuses to use.

I took a step forward as they moved on, looking up at the huge wall of pacifiers mixed in with bottle nipples. (Won’t lie, that’s a frustrating design. Why can’t all the pacifiers be grouped together like everything else in the store?) As I stood there, fear and uncertainty crept in. Are these any good? What are they rated, and how? Do I go with what the hospital uses? Do I get something different than the hospital uses in case she doesn’t like those? Why does the hospital use those anyway? What will I do if she doesn’t like any of the ones that I buy?

And I spiraled from there, right in the middle of the store surrounded by other mamas-to-be, parents with their screaming toddlers, and aunts fretting over shower gifts. I don’t know anything. Why don’t they (whoever they is) do more to educate us about how to parent a kid? I can’t spend the next 18 years of my life relying on Google!

I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes, then looked at the options again. I chose two and made a beeline for the register so I could just get OUT of there. Sitting in my car, I texted Zach, trying not to cry, with I don’t know anything still coursing through my mind.

And then words from my wise friend Sarah came back to me from a conversation we had last weekend: We grow with our babies. We figure this out together. I don’t have to know everything in order to bring this baby — who is already so cherished, so anticipated, so adored — into the world. I can take one day, one hour, one minute at a time. As Zach reminded me on the phone, we have plenty of help surrounding us. In his words: “Let’s focus on the birth and the first three months first.” (Still a tall order, but — baby steps.)

That was yesterday. I came home, utterly spent after a few hours of errands and still on edge with thoughts all over the place.

To be clear: I don’t want my anxiety to come across as a lack of gratitude or excitement. We have been through so much to get here — I have the scars to prove it. And even our experience is mild compared to the struggle so many couples face.

Yesterday helped snap me back into reality: it doesn’t matter how many lists I write, preparations I make, projects I tackle, or books I read. In roughly two months, we’ll have a daughter. I will be a mama, and Zach will be a dad. It will be crazy, messy, exhausting, and beautiful. We’ll learn a lot about each other, and even more about ourselves. And everything will be okay.

I’m learning that pregnancy and parenting serve as strong antidotes to my perfectionism, my need to plan everything. I want to get it right. I want to be prepared. I want to be in control. But the nature of all of this is that I won’t get it right, I can’t be prepared for everything, and I have very little control over what’s coming.

As much as I’d love to know what’s ahead — Will I be in the 10% of women whose water breaks? Will I wake up in the middle of the night? Will I have to be induced? Will we make it to the hospital in time? Can I actually do this without an epidural? Will I have to be cut open again? — I can’t, and I’m trying to be at peace with that.

This morning, I woke up at 6 and decided to start the day differently, leaving my phone by the bed untouched. I came downstairs, made my favorite Earl Grey, and snuggled with Harry on the couch, sharing a few blueberries. I pulled Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect off the shelf, and began reading.

The combination of her words and the quiet stillness and simplicity of the morning remind me that this is what I need more of in this season of preparation, in the next six, eight, or ten weeks — however much time I have left before everything changes in the best possible way. More rest, more quiet, more peace. Less hustle, less frantic energy. Less, less, less.

I want to look back on this time in my life and know that I set our family up for success because of the heart work that I did, not the over-organized to-do lists and craziness. To put it simply: I can’t walk into motherhood already spent, poured out. And I feel like I figured it out just in time.

What this means is that the Sunday I had planned with what Shauna calls “fake resting” — folding laundry, organizing the nursery, tidying the house — isn’t going to happen. It can wait. Today I need to refill my well. And that’s it. No one expects more of me; it’s the unrealistic expectations I place on myself that get me every time.

I know that this will be a lifelong journey for me, but I’m grateful that I can relearn the lesson again and again, picking up the imperfect pieces and doing what I can to make each day better than the last.

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