Q. I'm 28 and expecting a baby in just two months and yet I'm still bothered by feelings of ambivalence. Sometimes I feel removed, even angry. All the books tell me how tired I'll be, how messy the house will look. It seems like things will never be the same again.
I don't know if I'm ready to give up my space, to be on call around the clock. I already find it hard.
I'm tired of eating right "for the baby" and taking vitamins. I miss my glass of wine with dinner. I want to be size 4 again. And then there's Lamaze. I hate to do breathing exercises in front of strangers.
With all these negative feelings, I'm not sure I'll every really bond with my baby.
Do any other pregnant women feel this way? The ones I talk to act like it's perfectly normal to have a baby. It doesn't feel normal to me.
Sometimes I wonder: What if I don't like this baby? What if I'm not a good mother? And what will I do if something is the matter with it? What if I can't handle it?
It will be 22 years before my child is through with college and I've done my job. That's a long time to be a mother when you don't know if you can be a good one.
A. This I can almost guarantee: You're going to be a good mother -- because you already are.
You're following your diet; you're staying away from alcohol; you're going to natural childbirth classes. It isn't much fun, but you're willing to give up a little because your baby already means so much. This is because you have already bonded.
Somehow the notion has gotten around that bonding strikes like lightning in the delivery room, and that's not so. It's a gradual process, as if conception releases a hormone of love, getting stronger and stronger as the baby gets nearer to term.
The love shrouded by fears now will bloom when your child is born, but it will be nothing compared to the way you'll fee when your child is 10 or 20 -- or 28, for bonding is strengthened with every exchange, evvery interaction. This is always a surprise. It's hard to believe you can love a child even more tomorrow than you do today. In fact, this child you're carrying will probably be a parent before you realize how tight the bonds have grown. That full turn of the wheel will remind you of all that's gone before.
You can't set a 22-year limit on parenthood, for your involvement with your child won't quit with the college tuition -- and you couldn't bear it if it did.
This is hard to imagine now, not because you don't want your child, but because you don't want to commit yourself until you're sure everything is going to be all right.
It's true, the baby may have a congenital problem, but that's unlikely. Only 2 percent of American children have major birth defects and that includes the children whose mothers have serious health problems, or who are drug addicts, or who haven't had good pre-natal care.
If your baby were to be born with a problem, you would find yourself fired with an extraordinary power, for if a normal baby warms your heart, a handicapped one melts it. Nature is the master of compensation.
There's probably never been a mother who didn't have at least some of your fears. And even if you knew the baby would be perfect, pregnancy would still be scary. You're bringing someone into the world you've never seen, whose sex you don't know, whose personality is still a mystery -- a child who will think, feel, look and act like no one else ever has.
Of course you're worried. Welcome to parenthood. We pay our dues in Worry. However, there's such a thing as paying too much and too soon, and you are.
Will you make mistakes? Yes, every day, but so long as you give your child the right to make some too, everything will be fine.
Those books that tell you that your life will be full of problems are right, but it will be almost as full of solutions. If you lower some standards and laugh at your stumbles, you'll be able to handle the rest.
And yes, you'll be tired. The house will be messy. Some days will be simply awful. But there will be a joy that is unbelievable, and a great deal of fun. The best days of the pastt won't be half as rich and zesty as the ones ahead because the baby will add another dimension to your life, filling a void you hardly knew was there. All babies are enchanting, but none as enchanting as your own.
When other people hear your baby coo, you'll hear an angel sing. When they see a cute little kid with a dirty face and a drippy nose, you'll see a future president of the United States. When others see a toddler bump about the room, you'll be watching an Olympic gymnast going for the gold.
And as the future turns out to be more prosaic, you'll discover that your child is still just the person you always wanted: your own best friend. This is what parenthood is all about.