The hardest part in writing about being pregnant is that you can’t actually write any of the things you want to write. Not if you’re being honest. Seeing as this is the eighth time I’ve tried to put my experience into words, I’d say I have an intermediate level understanding of the task. It’s really effing tough.

Like most women I know, I imagined my pregnant self drinking green juices, going to yoga and feeling connected to the world and others in a way I’d never experienced before. Glowing. But then I found out that you can’t drink green juices (unless they’re pasteurized), all I really want are tater tots, and I’m more guarded and protective than ever before—not to mention painfully self-absorbed.

I imagined the day I would find out to go down very differently than it did. My husband was extremely hungover, the morning started too early, we ended up shipwrecked later that afternoon with a friend of ours who was visiting from Mexico City. There we were, five hours after discovering ‘the news’ and sitting on a vacant beach with a boat that wouldn’t start, waiting for someone, anyone, to pass and pick us up. We were ‘rescued’ about four hours after our little boat went AWOL and the story ended well, thanks to a heroic Frenchman, his four-ish-year-old son, a Nicaraguan gentleman from Shelter Island, who arguably survived hypothermia completing the task, and a purple truck. (I’m only sharing those details because it illustrates one of my most foolproof pregnancy stress management tricks: Make your life into a Wes Anderson film and—ha!—the things that go wrong actually just make it memorable.)

As for my current reality: I work a full-time job that I love but, like most New Yorkers, often my days are nonstop (meaning just getting a lunch to eat at my desk can be a struggle). I have a side project that’s fulfilling on so many levels it’s difficult to call it a side project—a website with my best friend, Waiting for Saturday. My early mornings and weekends are often devoted to creating and building content. I have a husband who has just opened a business—a shop and e-commerce store called Miscelanea that he’s been working on for two years. We’re buying and renovating a house in the North Fork of Long Island (the site of that notorious shipwreck). There’s a lot going on. But, hey, there could be much more going on. Important reminder.

It’s the balance that’s proving most difficult.

New York City takes very specific traits—work ethic, determination, drive—cultivates and matures them until they become permanent states of being. You may not even realize this is taking place at first, and then suddenly you’re pregnant and fighting this overachiever that you probably unintentionally became (does anyone wear that title proudly?). At least that’s what is happening to me.

Slowing down is an abstract concept, one that I honestly don’t really know how to define but I’m taking small steps in what I think is the right direction. Leaving work on time, eating lunch, managing my Instagram addiction, trying my best to not feel like every email needs to be responded to within 24 hours. I’m not even doing these things because I feel like, “Well that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to start prioritizing yourself.” I’m actually experiencing a stress response unlike anything I’ve ever felt before when I don’t do these things. It’s not a rational decision, it’s more of a physical demand my body has started to make of me.

Other things that might get in the way of your pregnancy fantasy? The brain’s determination to perform at about 75%. There is very little known about why it rewires when you become pregnant, besides the fact that your hormones are completely out of whack, so to speak. There are theories though. One is that developing ‘pregnancy brain’, the state of being forgetful and absent minded when it comes to your to-do list, is a sacrifice you have to make in order to be a sensitive mother. Your mind is cleaning out the junk so it can be more present to the needs of people around you. See? It’s a little like something smarter than yourself is in charge.

So I wish I could say that these almost five months have been idyllic, eye-opening, awakening… insert any other adjective with mildly hippie undertones… but the reality hasn’t quite felt that way. This old edict is making more sense than ever before:

Things may or may not go as planned.

Your pregnancy, your workday, your marriage, your passion project. And accepting that is not really something we’re taught to do. We’re programmed to doggedly fight it: I can change this, I can make this better, and if I can’t, well then what the hell is wrong with me?! I suspect this attitude could get you into a lot of trouble once you actually have a child, so pregnancy is kind of doing its job of winding you up for the whole thing. And if anything, it’s making you more sensitive to yourself in the process. Frustrating, but maybe critical?

Not immediately, but eventually I suspect these are the moments you’ll look back on, saying you were stressed, had to rely on a slew of strangers (and more importantly, friends and family) to help you, and ate a lot of adolescent food. And if you can accept that unapologetically—maybe even enjoy the thought of it?—you’re probably on your way to becoming a pretty good mother. At least this is what I’m telling myself.

—Olivia Villanti