One of my very best friends on the whole wide Earth is getting ready to have her first baby (due in February!) Our other BFF and I drove down to see her a few weeks ago for a weekend full of girl time and baby shower and lounging. It was bliss. Well, at least for the two of us that were already Mums. Because we didn't have our kids with us for two whole days (!) Because even though we missed our kids' cherubic faces and sticky hands; we were also massively grateful for a little time to be a grown up woman without any boogies to wipe.
We offered up all sorts of stories for our best friend to try to help ease her fears and charge up her excitement about that new little bundle that none of us can wait to meet. We told stories that were funny, gross, sad, scary, and emotional. We laughed about how poop will soon become a regular dinner topic in their house and marveled at how clean everything was (and smelled!). But it's hard to talk about babies and being a Mum to someone who is not quite a Mum to be a born child without barely walking the line between sounding really awful but also attempting honesty.
So, instead of trying to explain how it will be once that sweet child arrives, here is a list of 10 simple things you should do before your first baby. Because you still can and you should. These are things, that in the thick of motherhood, they are the simple everyday luxuries I occasionally miss from my pre-Mum days. Let me clarify: Miss them? -yes. Would I ever trade my life now for that former life? -not in a million freaking years. 'Tis the oxymoronic way of motherhood.
1. Go on a spontaneous trip.
It does not have to be extravagant; go to the mall or for a walk or out to see a movie. The point being; just announce the trip and then walk.out.the.door. It will not be that easy soon - getting out the door to go somewhere will very soon be matched in your mind with something as daunting as climbing Everest. A large 'to-grab' checklist, the equipment, the schedule, the food rations, the coaxing and justifying. I wish I was kidding.
2. Enjoy a very long dinner.
Sit at the table, speak to another grown up, eat your own food off of your own plate, and don't get up until the dinner is completely over. One of my good momma friends said once that she can't remember the last time she ate a whole meal before it got cold. It will soon be up-and-down for your meal as you refill drinks, mop up spills, and change diapers. At our house, we call our children 'the seagulls' since we can't eat without sharing unless we hide out in the pantry...which we aren't ashamed to admit - we've done.
3. Watch an R-rated movie whenever you want.
Whatever kind of R floats your boat - the violence, cursing, or 'relations' kind. Or a mix of all three? Watch it now, because soon you will become rose-cheeked at the sight of a commercial that walks the line on the wrong side of PG-13 in front of your child. TV shows that you used to enjoy will feel exponentially more violent - news broadcasts included. And to stay up late to catch the flicks after baby falls asleep? - HAH! sleep will very quickly replace any interest in staying current in pop culture over catching some shut eye.
4. Spend an extraordinary amount of time on personal hygiene.
Take a long hot shower or bath; go get a mani and pedi; blow dry your hair; wear dangling earrings; get a massage. Focus on feeling and looking beautiful. It's not that you won't after the baby comes, it's just that we, Mums, suffer from horrible cases of what is referred to as 'Mom-guilt.' It's like, you know you'd feel better if you had a shower more than once every three days - but when the decision comes down to either showering, washing those dishes that have been in the sink for two days, or sleeping while the baby's napping...it's rarely showering that wins (and almost never the dishes).
5. Brush up on your nursery rhymes.
It will startle and delight you at how much just the sound of your voice soothes your new baby. Little made-up songs have always been my favorite and a joy to sing to my babies as we giggle and play together. But of course, there are times when you are too tired or too frustrated to pull together anything that sounds like a tune. Recall some of the nursery rhymes from childhood (do kids learn these anymore?) Have them ready for long car rides or late nights or while roaming the grocery store aisles. I have found that my favorites are those that are long and repetitious like: This Old Man, The Ants Go Marching, Five in the Bed, and Old McDonald (although this one is exhausting to sing).
6. Do one non-baby related task that you've been meaning to get done
In the weeks prior to the arrival of the babe, it's been all baby-baby-baby, yea? Now's a good time to get some non-baby things done, because once the baby arrives, it really will be all baby-baby-baby. So file and shred that paperwork that's been piling up, make some freezer meals, or vacuum behind the couches. Your future tired self will thank you.
7. Make some calls.
Catch up with friends and family over the phone and talk as long or as little as you like. There may be a brief period of time after the baby is born that you'll go into survival mode and ration your waking time to tasks that absolutely need accomplished (things like eating and using the bathroom). It's horribly sad that things like talking on the phone just to chat somehow tend to fall into the category of 'not generally an efficient use of limited time.' No harm, no foul though - we've all been there.
8. Spend an entire weekend just relaxing.
With the Prepare-For-Baby To Do List probably still quite long, it may feel like taking a weekend to do nothing does not seem like a great idea. But know this, Relaxing SHOULD BE on your to do list. This is soul-battery charging, so write it down on the list if you must! Sleep in, lounge about, watch movies, and don't clean, assemble, or worry about anything besides what snacks you'll be eating every few hours. Just take it easy and run on your own schedule.
9. Write a letter to yourself.
Write about how excited you are to meet your little one. Write about how you feel (nervous? excited? anxious? elated?) to be standing at the precipice of a new adventure. Write about the things you hope you'll do together and learn from each other. Write about all the things you think you'll love about your new life and all the things you love about your current one. Write with your voice and tone; the voice of a Mum-to-be full of excitement and nerves about the unknown. In a few months, this voice will be refreshing and nostalgic to you; to see yourself through the eyes of a former childless version of you. You will never be this exact same person again, it will be nice to have her thoughts and words.
10. Look in the mirror and say aloud, "There is no one better for this job."
Because it's true. No one will love your baby like you will. Motherhood will be both infinitely better and worse than you ever imagined. Let those words sink in; deep into your bones, that You are this best person for this; amazingly and incredibly so. Only you.
Maybe this list is frightening and comes off sounding like your life as a new mom will be downright awful. Let me assure you, it will not be. It will however be very, very different than your life right now. And mostly, the different bits will be so beautiful and full of love that you'll find yourself truly wondering how you never realized before that something had been missing all along; or someone, rather.
After your sweet baby arrives, you'll still be able to do all of these things listed here, but usually not without a great deal of planning and a minimal amount of guilt. Because, the truth is, you will be hard-pressed to think of anything more valuable than seeing a toothless grin on that little slobbery ball of love or snuggling up to listen closely to those soft, sweet-smelling breaths.
I'm not the first to tell you, and certainly not the last to proclaim it - but there is nothing that can be said about being a Mum that can give you the real picture of what it will be like except to say:
It will be hard, but you'll never ever regret it.