Feeling ambivalent about motherhood is normal

Soon after, my partner and I started trying for a baby. After seven tedious months, I got pregnant, only to have a first trimester miscarriage on Thanksgiving 2020. The loss was emotionally and physically painful, even with a good support system to lean on. But looking back, what stood out to me the most was how happy I was to be pregnant during those few weeks. This unexpected joy made it clear to me that we were making the right choice.

As 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 became pregnant again. The baby growing inside me now doesn’t 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 is gone. My career forces me to devote myself to my work in an almost singular way. Once I’m a mother, I won’t have that luxury.

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? It was yet another example of the mental load of motherhood, I posted on Instagram.

I received an influx of recommendations on the “best” baby sheets to buy. Instead of relief, I felt enraged – the replies only proved my point. The pressure to perform motherhood, seek out all those products, and show that you care about every little detail can feel overwhelming, not to mention that in heterosexual cisgender couples, that expectation is usually reserved for mothers.

During the transition into motherhood, I needed to take some of my own advice.

Instead of decorating a nursery or reading books on parenting, I use this time to prioritize my well-being, knowing that every choice I make in the service of my own mental health will serve this baby well. Having previously suffered from depression and anxiety, I am at high risk for postpartum mood disorder. Continuing to take medication, getting enough sleep, and building a social support network are three evidence-based interventions for preventing postpartum anxiety and depression. I take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor preventively during pregnancy (with the support of my doctors). I also hired a postpartum doula and contacted a pelvic floor physical therapist for the inevitably bumpy recovery. Devoting time and resources to my own mental health isn’t selfish — it’s what matters most.

Still, I’m extremely lucky: I have a supportive partner and health insurance that allows me to see a therapist, and I’m part of a household with two stable incomes. My close friends, who all have children, even suggested that I make a birth list. Which brings me to my second point.

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