Pregnancy announcements are a big part of my social media feed. Baby shoes seem to be the most common way to do it. Position them adorably next to a dog or between adult shoes or in the palm of your hand and you've got a photo to make your announcement, guaranteed to rack up hundreds of likes.
The paragraph that accompanies said baby shoes uses words like "thrilled," "excited," or maybe even "nervous," if the parents are feeling particularly honest. But lately, I've noticed a different word popping up again and again: adventure. Our next adventure awaits. Our greatest adventure yet. Another new adventure.
That last one is mine. When we announced that I was pregnant last January, I started my paragraph by declaring, "Another new adventure starting this summer." It struck the same tone as previous posts I had made announcing trips to London, Rome, Hawaii and Thailand. Our baby was the next adventure – just as exciting and full of new experiences as an overseas vacation.
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It seems so incredibly transparent to me now – the anxiety bubbling under that word. "We're still adventurous! We're still fun! This baby isn't going to change who we are!" I used the word both to project that message to my social media circle and to soothe myself. And now that I see it everywhere, I get the sense that I'm not alone in my anxiety.
Psychologist Diane Ross-Glazer, who specializes in emotional and psychological changes during and after pregnancy, said that anxiety is a huge part of finding out that you're pregnant. Even for parents who planned for a baby, the reality of being at that stage of life can be shocking.
"Most people have – I hope not an overly unhealthy degree of narcissism – but narcissism," Ross-Glazer said. "It makes people say, oh my god, what about me? When you realize and you're making the announcement, as happy as it is, there is a degree of mourning for who you were because you're not going to be the same person. Even if you are basically the same person, there's still a change in your life. A part of you is lost."
As important as it has been to me to hold onto my identity, I can't deny that Ross-Glazer is right: A part of me is lost. A friend of mine recently announced that she was moving to Spain to teach English for a year, and I thought to myself, "I'll never do that." Where we live and how we spend our money will never be about just me (or me and my husband) ever again. Though the newborn days won't last forever and there will come a time when I'll sleep through the night again, to be the mother I want to be, certain doors are closed to me forever. Doors I used to love. And as much joy as I've found in being a mom (I can't emphasize this enough: off-the-charts joy), that has taken some processing. Even, as Ross-Glazer put it, some mourning.
To think of your baby as an adventure can be helpful in working through those emotions, according to Ross-Glazer.
"If you frame it as an adventure, adventure has a positive connotation," she said. "That's self-talk. We use it a lot in therapy. If you tell yourself this is an adventure, that's a positive. People like adventures."
A baby is not a trip to Thailand. She's not a spontaneous road trip or a wild night out with friends that culminates in watching the sun rise over Lake Michigan. She's hard work, she's poopy diapers, she's sleepless nights, she's meticulous planning, she's frantic Googling.
But she's still, I promise you, an adventure.
Before she was born, calling my daughter an adventure was almost certainly self-talk that I used to try to calm my anxiety. Now that she's here, it's become an acknowledgment of fulfillment previously undiscovered.
Why do I love adventures, anyway? When I travel, I try new things, I'm exposed to new ideas and cultures, I gain appreciation for how big and beautiful the world is. Above all, I learn – about others and about myself.
Parenthood is not short on learning, and I don't mean just how to pack a diaper bag or tell when a baby is tired. It has taught me how to better communicate with my partner. It has helped me realize how much of myself I'm able to truly give to another person. It has shone a light on previously undiscovered corners of my heart.
So I still think of my baby as an adventure, even though she is small and sometimes shrinks my life to the size of a single room. She's growing, and so am I. We're on this adventure together.