Dear Tzippora,

I am pregnant with my first child. My husband is so excited, but I am just terrified. I don't have a lot of experience with babies, but it is not just the babyhood that scares me. It is the fact that I will be responsible for this little person forever, and it just seems like there are so many ways I could accidentally mess the kid up. What can I do to make sure that I am going to be a good mother?

Simply Terrified

Dear Simply Terrified,

It should comfort you to know that the feeling you are describing is not an uncommon one. Many mothers experience this over-whelming and sometimes paralyzing sense of too-much responsibility, usually after birth when they confront their newborn's utter helplessness and dependency on them. This feeling is in no way indicative of the future quality of your parenting.

The truth is it is scary to suddenly become responsible for another human being, and that is why it is important to graciously accept as much help and support as you can access. Your husband's excitement is a good sign because it means that he will want to be helpful and involved. You are not in this alone, and there is no reason for you to accept more responsibility than you need to. Your mother and his mother are also valuable resources and wellsprings of parenting knowledge. If they live close by, they make great babysitters too.

It is a good idea to join a mothering group after your baby is born so you can meet other new moms going through the same transitions and experiences. These groups allow you to learn from each other and trade parenting tips. But mostly importantly, they break through the sense of isolation many new mothers experience. Mothers and fathers do not necessarily experience the transition to parenthood in the same way. Because the truth is that mothers and fathers do not necessarily experience the transition to parenthood in the same way, as you may have already realized based on your different reactions to the pregnancy.

Motherhood is something you learn on the job. We all have bad days, and a bad day does not mess up a kid for life. As long as you remain open and willing to keep learning and refining your parenting technique, there is no reason to assume you will be a bad parent. In fact, your anxiety might just push you to learn and grow in ways that will make you an exceptional parent.

It is a mitzvah to have children, and the Torah tells us to begin having children as soon as we can, rather than waiting until we reach a mythical plateau when we are older, experienced, financially set, or otherwise have it all figured out, because ultimately successful parenting is not dependent upon any of these things. G‑d Himself is the unseen partner in the creation and raising of every child.

So trust yourself that you will learn what you need to know as you go along, and prepare for the onset of motherhood to be overwhelming and scary yes, but also exciting and intensely rewarding.