"S o, how’s motherhood?” my friend, a soon-to-be-mother, asks.After three full months of experience, I’m obviously well-equipped to pass judgment and dispense advice. Despite this, I refrain from insisting she “get sleep now.”

Goodness knows, women in the third trimester get as much sleep as they’re able — and then some. Besides, while I did read a study that found stores of sleep helpful for the subsequent all-nighters, I can’t imagine a paltry nine months can sufficiently fuel an entire mothering career.

I think for a moment (something I haven’t managed since the pregnancy fuzz set in) and respond. “All-consuming.”

I’m not referring to Baby’s feedings — though with their frequency and duration, I most certainly could be. No, I’m speaking of the discovery that being a successful mother has little to do with Baby’s happiness and everything to do with Mommy’s estimation of Baby’s happiness.

Everything, and I mean everything, is grounds for worrying. Take bedtime. Finally, finally, after rocking and singing, feeding and burping, wiping and changing, more rocking and more singing, Baby falls asleep, leaving Mommy a few spare moments to change out of her pajamas. And yet, instead of dashing madly to the sink to brush out the morning-turned-evening breath, she sits, gazing at her little bundle of joy, willing him to open his big, bright eyes and give a smile.

Worse yet, she scrutinizes Baby’s very still form and panics. Placing a hand on his back to feel the soft rhythm of breath is not enough. She needs him to twitch, flail, something — and pokes him ever so gently (or so she thinks).

And so the cycle begins again. Rock, sing, rock, sing. It’s no wonder nearly everyone I know has a picture of New Dad fast asleep on the couch, little baby playing merrily atop his stomach.

A neighbor stopped by and asked how my nights are going. I sighed, yawned, and smile-glared at my little beauty who finds three o’clock in the morning a delightful time to play. Neighbor does little to reassure me.

“You think it’ll get better when she grows up, right? Nope, then you’ll just be up at night worrying instead.”

That very night, Baby is miraculously silent until five. I don’t sleep a wink.

“Do you think she’s okay? Why isn’t she waking up?”

Husband rolls over, mumbling something that sounds curiously like “Haven’t you been dreaming of this for the past month?”

An hour later I’m at it again.

“Should we call the doctor? What if she didn’t eat enough today? Why is she still sleeping?”

This time Husband studiously ignores me. I’m left to fret alone until I hear that blessed cry at five.

Lack of problems, it seems, generates the most worry. After all, if a fellow mother finds out and manages to muster up the energy for jealousy, we’re doomed. I’m surprised red Kever Rochel strings with dangling blue eyes haven’t been established as part of the contemporary layette by now.

As if our own anxiety isn’t enough, we have others’ to contend with, too. The Jewish-mother guilt quota is so large that it extends to the entirety of our big Jewish family. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 576)