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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Mother-to-be overwhelmed and stressed

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm expecting my first child. We've been trying to have kids for a while, but now I'm so overwhelmed with all the gear we need to buy, figuring out which crib is least likely to kill my newborn, which carrier is least likely to warp his spine, how we're going to afford his education, etc.

I also feel like I'm grieving the end of my marriage as I now know it -- my husband is going to be a great dad, but no matter what, our marriage will not be as easy as it has been.

People keep telling me to "enjoy this special time," and it's really getting to me that I'm not as joyous as I should be. I've been in various stages of discomfort and exhaustion since Week 1, so it doesn't feel all that enjoyable to me. But I also feel guilty that there are so many people who would give anything to be in my shoes right now. How do I move from stressed and overwhelmed to excited and joyful?

-- Feeling ungrateful and nervous

First of all, get out of Baby Mega Mart and drive away.

Actually, no -- first of all, congratulations.

Second, get out of Baby Mega Mart and drive away. It's just aisles lined with stress, which you need even less than you need a bunch of molded plastic. You need diapers, wipes, a few seasonal, newborn-size onesies, a car seat and some swaddling blankets. Seriously. The rest you can pick up as your baby grows and as you realize, "Hm, I could really use X." So, then you go buy X.

Next, stop beating yourself up. Yes, some people would give anything to be in your shoes, but it's also legitimate to feel tired and pukey and frightened by big changes.

So, limit any griping to people you know will understand and sympathize. Yap about your lack of joy out in the open, and there's too good a chance your words will fall on the ears of someone struggling to get pregnant. You already appreciate this so that won't be much of an adjustment.

As far as getting from apprehension to joy, allow yourself to move slowly into both the idea and the logistics of a child. When you feel good enough, for example, spend time with your husband, immerse yourself in this stage of life instead of just grieving the one that's expiring soon. Figure that since babies take about nine months to arrive, your warm feelings about parenthood also need nine months to gestate. Or more -- no shame in that, as long as you're attentive to your baby.

Also, ask non-hysterical fellow parents to help you draw up a minimalist's shopping list. (Tip: Avoid people who registered for "wipe warmers" unless they live on an ice floe), and be shameless about taking care of yourself. Be deliberate in your food choices, rest times, exercise options (pre-natal dance or yoga might help), etc.

Think of it as snuggling up with the idea of your baby instead of scrambling around to get everything ready. "Ready" is mostly internal, anyway; you can shop anytime.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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