Working comes with a myriad of challenges for women. Add babies into the mix and you have something pretty darn combustible. The complexity, exhaustion, logistics, tradeoffs, constraints, agony and ecstasy, and the relentlessness of it all feels never-ending. Can you support your family and pay for childcare? Are you going to be fired? Will you make it to doctor’s appointments and school plays? When do you have to show up and when can you just skip it? How do you handle the chaos when the best-laid plans go awry? The ever-changing variables and unknowns are exhausting.

Also, what about the whole pregnancy thing? What about all the doctor’s appointments, poking, prodding, blood taking, scans, scopes, injections, “samples,” and more? What about trying to masquerade as a normal, still drinking girl when you’re just really tired and puffy, but can’t tell anyone yet? When do you tell people anyway—after eight weeks? Or twelve? Or twenty? What about when they “know” and are talking, but you need to remain tight-lipped about your inevitable fate? How do you persevere past the pregnancy brain? (It’s a real thing, just like the teenage boy puberty lobotomy.) What happens if bed rest is mandated, particularly if your job involves regular travel? What can you wear that’s comfortable but professional? What if they start figuring out how to give away your job (because they must to survive) and relegate you to something that seems suboptimal? Do you stay in the game or say, “screw you people and this whole damn physical, mental, emotional, and social gauntlet that no one prepared me for (or could have), even though millions of women have gone through it”?

Chances are, this is all happening when you’re just hitting your stride and becoming pretty darn awesome at whatever it is that you do. You’re killing it and suddenly this little being, this person you don’t even know yet, is destroying all of it and you at the same time. And yet, you want to be a mom, you’re excited, you want to make it work, but it all seems to add up to one big intractable problem. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The reality is it absolutely won’t be. Expecting anything else will defeat you. It’s going to be messy and exhausting and even downright brutal. Buckle up for a big roller coaster ride. The whole thing is a marathon with a spontaneous series of sprints when you least expect them in 38 degrees with pouring, freezing rain.