How to Prepare Physically (& Emotionally) for Motherhood

By Frankie Wallace

Maybe you’ve been dreaming of this moment your entire life. Or maybe this day has come as a life-changing surprise. You’re about to become a mom. While you know your life is never going to be the same, you’re probably wondering if you’re truly prepared for all the ways your world is going to change. 

Truth: you’re not. More truth: you’re not going to be. That’s okay, because part of the wonder, the magic—and the terror—of motherhood is the fact that most parents, or maybe actually all parents are just winging it. Everyone is collectively just groping their way through, making mistakes, doing the best they can, and hoping that good intentions and an ocean of love can make up for the inevitable foul-ups. Though no one can predict what your particular path of motherhood will be, we can provide some important advice to help you get ready emotionally and physically for the long, strange, and ultimately incredible journey you are about to take.

Expect the Unexpected

The first thing to know is that there’s no template for pregnancy. Not only will no two women be the same, but no two pregnancies will also be the same either. You may spend nine months kneeling to the porcelain god in your first pregnancy and breeze through your second with barely a twinge of nausea. Both experiences are entirely normal, so don’t panic or beat yourself up if your pregnancy isn’t following the path described in the pregnancy books and on the motherhood websites. 

Remember, also, that pregnancy isn’t a sprint: it’s a marathon. Your emotional and physical experience will evolve from one trimester to the next. A difficult first trimester, for instance, doesn’t portend misery throughout the entire 40 weeks. It’s all a matter of how your body adjusts to the intense hormonal and physical changes that are occurring. Work with your care providers to determine what is normal for you and your little one, what you can do to maximize health and comfort for you both, and then let the journey to motherhood unfold as it will.  

Eating for Two?

The old wives’ tale was always that when you got pregnant, you were eating for two, which for many old-school moms meant a virtual eating free-for-all. In fact, though, pregnancy doesn’t give you license to eat what you want, as much as you want, whenever you want. Good nutrition is always important, but perhaps never more so than when you are pregnant. This is the ideal time to seek out not only the advice of your OBGYN but also of health educators specializing in preventative medicine. These professionals can help you identify your risk factors for complications, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, and develop a diet and exercise plan to mitigate those risks.  

The Incredible Shrinking Wallet

For all the hype about the incredible pleasures and pains of being a parent, relatively little attention is given to the financial costs of having a baby. But taking care of that little bundle of joy means forking over a big bundle of cash. According to current estimates, the hospital costs associated with having a baby are around $10,000 in the United States, and this does not include pre- and post-partum care. It’s not just delivering the baby that’s expensive, though. There’s also the not-so-small matter of pediatric care, as well as feeding, clothing, housing, and educating the little one!

Hollywood Moms are Fiction

We’ve all seen it: an A-list actress gets pregnant and goes gallivanting around Hollywood sporting her modest baby bump as deftly as if she were toting the latest designer handbag. She delivers, and within a matter of a few short weeks, she’s back on the cover of the latest glossy magazine in a swimsuit—probably a bikini—touting her secrets for shedding the baby bod. Well, forget it. Your body’s not going to look like that in a matter of weeks. And guess what: hers doesn’t either.

The fact is that, as miraculous as it is, pregnancy is a trauma to the body. Your system will need time, probably at least as long as the pregnancy itself, to recalibrate after the massive undertaking of growing a human being. Be gentle with it and appreciate what it has done to keep you and your little one safe across these arduous months.

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a happy family looking at the furry animal on the couch

That also means treating your body well, giving it the nutrients and the exercise it needs. Establishing a fitness regimen that is centered not on returning to a particular pre-baby weight or clothing size but on self-care is crucial. After all, you are not the same person you were before you had your little one. You are a mom, and that means you have a mom’s body. This is not a bad thing: mom’s bodies are miraculous, (literally) life-giving things. They are strong; they are beautiful, and they deserve to be nurtured and cared for, not abused in some reckless pursuit of a silly number on a scale.

The Takeaway

The surprises of the long, strange journey to motherhood begin long before they place that little bundle of love in your arms. Pregnancy is both an adventure and an endurance test. Perhaps that’s a good thing, however, because it gives you a sneak peek and crash course in what lies ahead. The challenges of motherhood don’t end with pregnancy. When you become a mom, you’re going to experience highs and lows you could never have imagined. You’ll become the OG of functioning on no sleep, of sneaking vegetables into baked desserts, and of preparing for family vacations like you were getting ready to storm the beaches at Normandy. This is all a part of being a mom, a job you’ll always love, even if you don’t always like it.

About the Author

Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer who currently resides in Boise, ID. Her favorite yoga pose is downward dog, but only when her cat, Casper decides to participate.

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