I'm pregnant. Now what?: Surviving the first 90 days

If you're anything like me, the first three months of pregnancy are a lot like the first stages of any wobbly intimate relationship. You vacillate between feeling giddy/floating-on-air and uneasy/out-of-control. You're vulnerable and sappy. You think about the relationship constantly and, whether you're normally "like this" or not, you plan a magical future for the two of you in your head. Your life changes drastically, you can't totally be yourself, you don't know what to wear, and, worst and most stressful of all, you're never quite sure if the other person is going to stick around.

I found out I was pregnant in early September, after experiencing a condition I can only describe as "cement stomach." At first, I thought it was the wine from the night before, the zillion cups of iced coffee I'd started chugging to cap off summer '09, or perhaps the extra-large fondue I'd eaten that Sunday, "for a treat." But many, many blue plus signs and fluorescent pink double lines later, I realized my husband and I were expecting a child.

The next few weeks are a blur of naps and nausea and tears. I quickly grew attached to my little embryo and was always terrified that it would just-poof!-go away (and that this would be my fault). I stopped working out, I didn't want to socialize, I didn't even really want to leave the house. I was OCD about vitamins, food, the germs on my hands, and the condition of our Brita. I prayed. I prayed more than I have since I was seven and really hoped Jesus would bring me a bike.

Physical symptoms of the first trimester were no more comforting. After a decade living in New York as a blissed-out, blocked-nostril smoker, I was suddenly starring in my own olfactory horror movie. Nearly every smell I encountered was offensive-I dry-heaved over cologne, breath, coffee drinks, chicken dinners, Vietnamese sandwiches, and once, fresh-cut grass. Though the main event occurred only rarely, I felt as if I could throw up at any time. The body I'd lived in for more than three decades, the body I thought I knew, cramped and itched and bled in the strangest, unlike-me ways. It slept 13 hours a day. Somewhere, I imagined this was what life was like when they had the plague.

Then the appointments started. The first ultrasound where we saw the heartbeat, or the doctor saw the heartbeat and my husband and I nodded and smiled politely but secretly witnessed only fuzzy blobs of gray. The post check-up office conversation where words like "advanced maternal age" and "risk assessment" and "genetic disorders" and "should-you-choose-to-terminate" hung heavy and loud in the room. There were serious decisions to be made, and we, the frivolous Brooklyn couple who could barely pay the cable bill on time, were going to man up and make them.

At 12 weeks pregnant, just when I thought the experience couldn't get any more bizarre, when I melodramatically wondered how any woman had ever lived through it (wah, wah, self-pitying, wah), when I reached a new low by weeping hysterically during an episode of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" (they used to be a family!); my husband and I traveled to Arkansas for a friend's wedding. I'd had a CVS test the week before-the earliest and riskiest genetic screening you can get-and the night of the big event, in the middle of the reception, I started to feel strange. My husband walked me back to the hotel, I passed out, and around 3 in the morning, I awoke to what felt like an army of elves knifing me from the inside. And there was blood. And we were hundreds of miles from home. And everyone I knew was in a "celebratory" state. I spent the wee hours of that night crying quietly, gripping my stomach, watching "Biography: Faye Dunaway" and waiting for dawn. Right before I'd exhausted myself into some kind of sleep, the sun was coming up. Everything was still. I looked around at my sleeping husband and at the changing autumn leaves outside the hotel window. I placed a hand on my stomach and whispered, "Stay."

Somehow we all made it through the next day. We made it through the early-morning doctor call where we were told if I was having a miscarriage, there was nothing anyone could do. Through the awkward, hour-long drive with our friends to the airport. Through delays, through three airports, through 12 hours of travel for what was four hours of flight time. We made it home.

In the morning, bleary and anxious, we rode the subway to Manhattan for the ultrasound. On the exam table, my shirt was lifted up, the weird jelly was applied, the wand moved over my stomach and...there she was. Our tiny daughter, kicking, dancing, bucking, looking lovely and aquatic and entirely undisturbed by anything. The cramping was normal, the doctor explained The blood happened sometimes too. Our kid had passed every genetics test. She was fine. She was a she.

When I got back to our apartment, I called a close friend who's also a new dad. "She's OK, she's great," I said. "But I feel really shaken and scared."

He laughed a little bit and replied, "Welcome to being a parent."