What to expect

When a woman is pregnant, we say she’s “expecting” — because yes, when you’re with child, you’d better be ready! That baby is coming! And a lot will be expected of you, your body and your family.

When I was pregnant, I religiously read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. (There’s that word again.)

Yes, it was fun, discovering the size of the fruit or vegetable that my little baby was growing into inside of me. And I learned the basics of pregnancy. Oh, it was miraculous to be pregnant! 

But looking back, that book (and its sequel: What to Expect the First Year) really instilled in me expectations

And you know what?

When it comes to pregnancy and parenting, knowledge can be good, but expectations can actually be pretty damaging, especially when things don’t go as planned, which is surprisingly often, I’ve learned.

Right here in this very magazine — our annual Baby Issue — we’re sharing just a few stories that deal with what happens when we as parents expect something and get something far different.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

But with our society’s often idealized visions of how pregnancy, birth and babyhood will go, it’s easy to get disappointed and frustrated.

In the case of two Minneapolis moms in this issue, it can even cause long-lasting emotional trauma. Everything the women heard, saw or read during pregnancy all but promised them an idealized home birth; natural, easy breastfeeding; and a sense of personal peace. 

But their baby — their situation, despite all their efforts — couldn’t deliver their dream. 

And then it was up to them to find their way to cope. And they did. The advice from a mental-health professional in the article was this: “The best way to prepare for any birth is to come up with pieces of your birth plan that are most important to you — and also work on acceptance that there are no guarantees.”

Speaking of no guarantees, what if you can’t get pregnant in the first place? That’s what happened to one of the mothers in our adoption story in this issue. 

Her story is beautiful. Her children are amazing. But no one — including the birth mother — set out expecting open adoption to be their path to parenthood. 

So whatever you read while pregnant — and no matter who you talk to after the birth about how your baby is supposed to be — try to stay open to change. As much as you can. 

Don’t get sucked in to the tyranny of rigid expectations.

Your path, your baby, your life will constantly surprise you. But once you give into it, you’ll find a life and a family that’s most unexpected — and undeniably, uniquely yours.