The one thing pregnant women forget to do: get excited.
When I was pregnant with my first child I took a birthing class with my husband. For hours we studied pain management techniques, watched videos of live births, learned where an internal fetal monitor goes and contemplated every other likely medication and intervention.
Our teacher was very experienced and she answered every question, leaving nothing to our imaginations.
So my husband and I wrote a birth plan, toured the hospital, packed our baby bag—and mentally prepared ourselves to throw our plans out the window. In the weeks leading up to labor, I nested, I walked, I swam, I ate and I napped. I approached my impending labor and delivery in the way all the books and movies and busybodies at the grocery store tell you to: Plan, organize and sleep now because you’ll never get to again! (So they say.)
I was prepared, focused & very, very nervous.
But while my mind was busy turning over the possibilities of pitocin and episiotomies, I forgot to get excited. I was kind of excited… but as my due date came and went, I got more frustrated and cranky.
But now that I know what was about to happen, I should have been more excited.
What most people forget to tell you when you’re pregnant as they regale you with how many hours they spent in labor, how many stitches they got and how much pain they were in—is that the single most spectacularly wonderful moment of your entire life is going to happen soon! In the seconds that it takes to feel that last push do its job, and for you to set eyes on your baby, you will feel more happiness, triumph, wonder and overwhelming awe than you’ve ever felt in your entire life.
Nothing is more physically satisfying or rewarding than giving birth to a baby. Nothing. It’s hands down, without question, the best feeling. And then—on top of your own personal physical miracle that you just performed—there is also a brand-new, tiny human in the room. This little person who all of a sudden is THERE, and in command of your heart and every worthy feeling you are capable of having. And you’re new too! Now you’re a mother.
I’ve spoken to my husband about it, who was there holding my leg (smartly not telling me what do through the whole process), and he’d tell you the same thing: Seeing our daughter for the first time was the most intensely awesome moment of his entire life. This experience has led me to believe that no matter how you meet your first kid—whether by C-section, surrogacy, vaginal birth or adoption—the moment you become a parent is going one of the best of your entire long life. And, as I learned after having a second child, this feeling is not limited to your first kid!
Even though I don’t really want any more kids, I can’t help but get a little jealous at the nine-months-pregnant mamas I pass on the street. I love looking at them and knowing that the best day of their lives is just around the corner. Labor is definitely difficult and painful and gross and all the things everyone tells you it is, but I would gladly go through it again and again to get to experience that moment.
Related: Science confirms you are a different person after giving birth
So as you pack your hospital bag, reread your pregnancy books or find yourself worrying—take time to get excited! Get really, really excited.
A version of this story was previously published. It has been updated.