Before I created an actual human being and decided to incubate the thing inside of my own body for nine months, I gave little care to things like artificial sweeteners or parabens in soap. I didn’t think much about the off-gassing of painted walls, the breakdown of formaldehyde in my old couch, or what the Wi-Fi signals in my house might do to our bodies. But then I had someone other than myself to think about, and the weight of that responsibility—that someone else’s very existence and survival depended solely on me—became overwhelming. And suddenly I found myself measuring the distance between my house and the highway because I’d read a study online that said pregnant women who live near interstates have a higher rate of birth defects.
Now I’ve made it my mission to try to spare other pregnant women from what I went through. I see first-time moms constantly fretting about food dyes, weight gain, stretch marks, and registries and living in terror of not taking enough folic acid, catching a cold, or eating too much peanut butter. Our collective anxiety about pregnancy and all that it entails is out of control.
As an experienced mom who has been through it all, I’d like to offer some reassurance and relief. Here are 10 things pregnant women can officially stop worrying about:
Seriously, everything you can think of, at some point, has been labeled by someone as a “toxin.” The list of things that could potentially maybe cause harm to a developing fetus is nearly endless, which also means that it’s impossible to avoid all or even most of them, and if they were so bad, every baby would be born with birth defects. The vast majority of babies are born perfectly fine, so what does that tell you? The risk is probably exaggerated. Be calm and use common sense. The lunch meat on the Italian sub you accidentally couldn’t resist is probably fine, but stay away from the chemical waste dump and the nuclear reactor and don’t play with broken thermometers.
2. Your Body Changing
It’s going to happen. Your body is going to change from carrying a baby, and it’s going to do so in ways that are unpredictable and entirely out of your control. But think about it, throughout our lives our bodies constantly change anyway. We get old. We get injured. We gain weight and lose weight. Our hair turns grey. All kinds of things happen. Embrace the new versions of yourself. And yes, that line on your belly is going to disappear, and your nipples will not be that weird color forever. As for stretch marks, I think it’s a matter of pure luck. That vat of cocoa butter you’re religiously bathing in is wishful thinking (but at least it smells good).
3. Not Loving the Baby
Look, the heart has no limits on the amount of love it can hold. I didn’t believe this, never having been much of a warm, fuzzy, baby-cuddling person pre-motherhood, but it’s true. There is no way you won’t love your baby, and in a sense, all this anxiety actually comes from a place of love because we want the best for our offspring at the expense of our own comfort and sanity. But let me make an important distinction—you will not always love being pregnant and you will not always love parenting. Often, being a mother, before and after your child is born, will completely freaking suck. You will hate it. You might even have moments of regret. You might shake your fist at the sky and curse. But you will never, ever not love your child with every shred of your being.
4. Having a Flat Belly
No pregnant woman should ever, ever worry about the size or shape of her baby bump. I spent my whole non-gestating life ashamed that I just wasn’t built with a concave tummy, but when I was pregnant? I was supposed to look like this! Enjoy the brief time in your life when you are meant to be convex! No more sucking in! No more awful shapewear! Celebrate the roundness!
5. The Baby’s Name
It’s no one else’s business. Someone is always going to have something to say about whatever name is chosen or not chosen or how it’s spelled or how it’s pronounced. Pregnant moms need to let the name criticisms go. Ignore it all. Want a unique name? Not my thing, but fine. Can’t think of a name? Go with a plain classic and call it a day.
6. Not Going to Yoga and Eating Conventional Produce
Forget about it. You’re not giving birth to the next Dalai Lama over here. Babies still have a chance at achieving enlightenment in this incarnation when their moms toss out the cold-pressed, biodynamic spinach juice and give in to a wicked Cheetos craving (dipped in sour cream made from cows who are pumped to the gills with hormones) once in a while.
7. That You Are Too Stressed Out
During my pregnancy, well-meaning people concerned about my anxiety told me that I needed to calm down because the baby could feel my tension and that it would hurt her. Obviously this only made the situation worse. Luckily my doctor told me that this is a load of crap. Perfectly healthy, well-adjusted babies are born in war zones, from rape, amid bombings, in slums the likes of which most of us can’t even imagine. Babies are safely sheltered in the womb. The human body and the human spirit are not so fragile.
8. Creating the Perfect Registry
No one needs a wipe warmer, diaper disposal system, baby food steamer, digital snot-sucker, baby butt fan (that is a real thing), negative ion generator, or infant chakra balancer. Trust me. Most of the items I swore I would need to keep my daughter alive ended up at the consignment store in unopened boxes. Babies aren’t nearly as complicated as we make them out to be. Don’t believe it? Look at the pioneers.
9. The Nursery
Again, babies are simple creatures. They don’t really care if you chose light portrait pink paint over peach blossom bliss. They’re going to scream whenever you put them down regardless of which Pottery Barn Kids crib you picked out, and any parent of a toddler will let you know (while chugging coffee) that the kid is going to end up sleeping in your room 90% of the time anyway, and you will let them, even though you now swear you will never co-sleep, because you will be so stinking tired. My advice? Nurseries should be as spare as possible. They don’t need to be “done” before the baby comes, and it’s best to let the child’s room grow with the child.
10. College Admissions
Classical music in-utero, curating the baby’s personal “library,” amassing a set of hand-carved, Scandinavian educational toys (which cost a fortune)—it’s a lot of BS and at the root of this, I think, is the fear that we might not do enough to ensure our children’s shot at having a smooth path to success. The truth is that we don’t have as much control over these things as we’d like to imagine, and putting pressure on ourselves to create super, high-achieving sons and daughters does more harm than good. Relax. We can’t all go to the Ivy Leagues or college, period, for that matter. Worry about this stuff in 15 years. Your baby is going to be fine.
I worried so much when I was pregnant, believing that if anything went wrong that I would be to blame, that I never enjoyed a minute of my pregnancy. End result? Nothing I worried about ever came true and now I regret that I couldn’t enjoy my pregnancy more. Don’t waste time being afraid and focusing on worst-case scenarios. Pregnancy should be a beautiful time in a woman’s life. Instead of being anxious about things beyond anyone’s control, relax and revel in the joy of growing a baby.