If you’re an expecting mom, you’re about to embark on a life-changing journey that will last roughly forty weeks and will allow you entree into the exclusive sorority of motherhood, in which delivery is the ultimate hazing ritual. But what lies between then and now, between you now and you lying on a table with your legs cocked up, sweating, aching and pushing like a grizzly bear is the most awesome experience known to womankind. In fact, it is an odyssey so exhilarating in its exhaustiveness, so powerfully awe-inspiring and humbling, so life transforming, that God knew that there wasn’t even a slight chance that men could do the job. They can barely manage that toilet seat situation.

So here you are a strong, beautiful black woman about to have a baby. Unfortunately, for most of us, this baby-making business has become more difficult than back in the days when our great-great-grandmamas squatted in the field, pushed out a youngin, and went back to picking cotton in the afternoon. And it’s not that the baby-making formula has changed, but the “stuff” we have to deal with during pregnancy has changed. From career obligations, financial concerns, stress in the workplace, to family drama, girlfriend drama, husband or significant other dram–we have a lot with which to contend.

There are meetings, deadlines, spiritual and civic obligations, telephone check-ins on all the people who depend on you, and perhaps a robust social life. It’s a common problem with black women. We are the original den mothers–always looking out for others, husbands, children, employers, family and friends–while somehow managing to further our career, find a meaningful relationship, and keep our spirituality intact. We give up time for ourselves, to take care of others. We push ourselves even though we’re either tired or the perennial “sick and tired,” hungry, or in dire need of some me time. We do the Strong Black Woman thing convinced that strength, invincibility, suffering and self-sacrifice define us as black women. This is part is part of our culture and upbringing. We are notoriously good at tending to others but woefully bad at looking after ourselves. This poses a unique problem in pregnancy.

Your job for the next nine months is to do your personal best to bring a healthy, full term baby into the world. Pregnancy is a special time, a crucial time for you to focus on yourself and the life growing inside of you. Learn to listen to your body signals and practice the fine art of the surrender. Take time daily to relax, breathe deeply, eat well, and focus on the growing life inside of you. And don’t forget to let yourself be celebrated and pampered on Mother’s Day and every day.

Excerpted with permission from The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy (Amistad/HarperCollins) by Kimberly Seals Allers. Visit mochamanual.com for more info for expecting and new moms.