We’re about to have our first baby, and my husband wants me to quit working to stay at home for the first few years. I am anxious about the prospect; I just don’t know if I’m capable. Is it terrible to be frightened by the whole idea?

Tom: It doesn’t sound terrible at all. It sounds normal. All we can tell you is that God’s grace will get you through!

Your first months with the new baby will be incredibly challenging, but equally rewarding — for both you and your husband.

Caroline: When our oldest, Christopher, was born, I left a teaching career that I deeply loved. Like you, I wondered if I was going to miss it. Teaching was such a part of my identity.

That was almost 11 years ago and, looking back today, I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single day where I’ve wanted to go back. That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle, especially in the beginning. I never knew I could be so tired and still function. But I also never knew that I could love a sweet little boy so much.

To survive, I had to undergo a massive paradigm shift.

The first three weeks at home with Christopher are a blur of late night feedings, laps around our duplex with a colicky infant, and days upon days spent in my pajamas.

I remember being absolutely thrilled to be invited to a luncheon. I looked forward to it for a week. I squeezed into some nice clothes, put Christopher in his cutest outfit and ventured out happily, new car seat and baby bag in tow.

The very minute we arrived, Christopher started crying and I could do nothing to console him. I tried everything — nursing him in a dark room, walking him outside, driving him around in the car — all to no avail. The more I tried, the more upset he became. There was nothing left to do but go home.

I was so disappointed, I had a pity party driving back.

“I never get to go anywhere, except outside to check the mail,” I complained aloud. “When is it going to be my turn to have a little fun?”

Then something happened that nearly made me run off the road. I heard a voice, which I’m sure was the Holy Spirit because the thought did not originate with me: It’s not about you.

I drove home in stunned silence and thought, “It’s not about me.” And right there in our driveway, I truly gave myself over to my new vocation.

Up to then I had been focusing on myself. I had to learn the hard way that self-absorption is a direct route to misery. I lovingly picked up Christopher, and we nursed and rocked all afternoon. I finally understood what Pope John Paul II meant when he wrote, “Man only finds himself when he makes a sincere gift of himself.”

I truly believe that, if you enter this next phase of your life asking and praying, “What will be best for the baby?” not only will your baby be happy, but you will feel deeply fulfilled too. Joy comes from complete surrender.

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators

for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.