Welcome aboard!

Greetings, parents and parents-to-be: Welcome to our annual Maternity Issue, celebrating pregnancy and the art of preparing for a new baby, including the miracle of birth.

If you’ve never had a child before, it’s hard to know what it’s really like to be a parent.

Like a kid standing below a roller coaster — as its little train of cars twists, turns and plunges oh-so- high above you — you can only imagine what it’s like to ride that machine.

You can mentally and physically prepare only so much and — before you know it — you’re strapped in and ready for one heck of ride.

But first there’s pregnancy, a transformation that’s relatively slow, compared to the overnight arrival of a child. I promise carrying a child will rock your world in many ways.

And not all glowing skin, thick beautiful hair and congratulations.

Just as you’re wrapping up your first trimester and morning sickness, you’ll be making some huge decisions as parents: You’ll be asked if you’d like a variety of optional tests to check for the likelihood of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida or anencephaly) or chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down syndrome) and others.

If your results (which are combined with your age, ethnicity and other factors) don’t look ideal, you’ll be offered the option to explore further with more invasive tests such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, which involve taking tissue or fluid samples from the placenta or the amniotic sac, respectively. Each involves a small, but scary risk of miscarriage.

What do parents do with this information if they take the risk?

They can use it to put their mind at ease or to mentally prepare for a special needs child or a child whose chromosomal abnormalities may be life-threatening. At this stage, some parents decide to end their pregnancies.

That’s a lot to carry with you while you’re carrying a child and perhaps starting to rock a baby bump, too. (Few folks talk about that when you’re buying your ticket to the roller coaster.)

I recently watched the character Sharon — starring in the dark-humored, epically good Amazon Prime show Catastrophe — ride this prenatal roller coaster, which also included a diagnosis of precancer on her cervix.

Frustrated with tone-deaf doctors and the many challenges of pregnancy (including anxiety), Sharon says — to her equally cynical partner, Rob — something like: “Every time I see a happy pregnant woman I want to punch her in the face.”

That’s not to say having a child isn’t literally the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. It is. And you may even love pregnancy. But it’s surprisingly complicated at times, too. And that’s why we’re here to share in the journey and, we eternally hope, help you out along the way.