As soon as you announce that you're expecting; well-meaning friends, family members- even total strangers- are going to tell you the same thing again and again and again: "Enjoy [fill in the blank] while you can. Life as you know it will be over the instant you have that baby". Most roll their eyes, because surely everyone is exaggerating. Would my world really change all that drastically overnight? I mean, all newborns really do is eat, sleep, and poop, right?
Well, all of those well meaning friends, family members, and strangers... are totally right. Motherhood is often described as the best thing a woman has ever done. It takes a lot out of you, but it gives back more than you could've dreamed.
Still, it's normal to grieve the loss of your child-free life, especially if you weren't prepared for how all-encompassing the change would be. That's why I'm giving you full permission to indulge in some much needed- and well deserved- TLC. The more we can appreciate these moments now, the more we can embrace the new and exciting life that awaits. Here are all of the things I've been told most women wish they'd done more of before baby:
Listen to Live Music
Listen to Live Music: Let's face it: bars, clubs, concerts, and music festivals aren't exactly child-friendly. Neither are loud noise and big crowds, and it's not easy sidling up to a bar stool when you're carting around a baby carrier, diaper bag, toys, nipple cream and a breast pump. Now is a great time to put on your party boots and hit the town, even if you won't be doing any drinking.
Get Your Hair Done
Is there anything more relaxing than a mid-shampoo scalp massage? You may find that pregnancy is an excellent time to lavish some attention to your locks. Elevated estrogen levels prolong the hair's growth phase, meaning each strand will grow longer and stronger! Don't be surprised if you're suddenly sporting movie star hair.... BUT hold off on the hair dye. Most obgyns and midwives recommend forgoing color until at least the start of the second trimester. There aren't any studies to confirm that coloring is dangerous while pregnant, but commercial dyes are loaded with some pretty nasty chemicals. There are nontoxic routes you can take however. Henna for brown or redheads. Blondes who want to go lighter can take the old-school route: lemon juice!
Visit a Pregnancy Massage Specialist
Once you're pregnant, you can stop viewing professional massages as a "once- in- a- blue-moon" thing. Now that you're pregnant, you can view it as an important complementary healthcare procedure. More and more midwives (and even obgyns) are recommending massage therapy to relieve the unique aches and pains associated with pregnancy, not to mention increase relaxation, reduce stress, and improve circulation, decrease swelling, regulate hormones, boost the mood... need I go on? The great thing about certified specialists is that they have a unique understanding of prenatal physiology, they know how to position you to avoid strain or pressure on the ligaments, and can identify signs of complications like preeclampsia, one of the few circumstances in which massage isn't recommended.
Get it while you can. It's hard to get your sleep while pregnant. But, do everything you can to get some shut eye. Sleep until noon. Nap. Leisurely lie in bed reading. Whatever sleep pattern you love to indulge in, do it all. And do it often. Decorating the nursery and planning your baby shower can wait.
See All the Good Movies
After baby is born, you'll watch way too many G-rated movies at home. So go to the theater, eat some popcorn (or bring your own that doesn't taste like a salt truck load exploded). Pro tip: get a seat on or near the aisle for quick and easy bathroom access. Big fan of loud action flicks or IMAX experience? No need to worry about the noise. Inside your uterus, floating in a sea of amniotic fluid, the baby's hearing is pretty muffled (even though baby will be able to hear and respond to sound by 3rd trimester). The only kind of noise we need to worry about as it related to baby's future hearing is of the prolonged variety- think: eight hours a day standing on an airport tarmac.
Treat Yourself to a Mani-Pedi
The same hormones responsible for those luscious locks tend to make our nails grow faster too. Even if getting your nails done isn't your thing, consider indulging- I've found that having pretty feet gives me a much-needed self esteem boost. Choose a well-ventilated salon and book an appointment during a low-traffic time of day (to minimize your exposure to any toxic fumes)
Go Out to Eat... A Lot
I hate to break it to you, but restaurants will likely become a thing of the past, at least for a while. Think you can squeeze in a charming lunch at a cafe during naptime? Once you've showered, gotten dressed, packed up the baby, loaded the diaper bag, and figured out how to fold up the stroller, you'll either be too tired to go or- surprise!- the baby is awake and naptime is over.
Go Out With Girlfriends
With the arrival of a newborn, our lives start to close in around us- our entire universe is suddenly contained within the four walls of our home- and our days begin to revolve around feeding, burping, bathing, sleeping, and pooping. Trust me, it's hard to care much about the hot guy your friend is dating or even remember her birthday when the most exciting part of your Saturday is counting how many doo-doos your baby made. Socializing will become less important and our relationships can suffer. Those relationships will come back; many of your friends may even be in the same boat, so don't worry. But don't underestimate the value of those friendships, either. When baby's a little bit older you'll be desperate to talk about something other than poop.
Read for Pleasure
Read For Pleasure: Once baby comes, reading a novel is pure luxury. Picture books or parenting books typically tend to fill up the nightstand now. Read the best sellers. Or the Classics. Check out Oprah's Book Club or solicit recommendations from your friends or your local library for ins
Finish Up Those Home Improvement Projects
The intention here is to pamper yourself, not to create an endless series of DIYs that suck your time and energy. Completing some manageable projects, however, can make you feel good. So assemble those bookshelves you purchased 3 years ago. Reorganize your kitchen cupboards. File your tax returns. Heck, dust the blinds! The next time you get around to some of this stuff your "baby" will be in kindergarten.
Go Shopping... and NOT on Amazon
Wander through the mall, window shop. Try on cute shoes or scarves or jackets just because you can. You don't have to buy a thing- but if you do, buy something that makes you happy.
Howland, Genevieve. The mama natural week-by-Week guide to pregnancy & childbirth. New York, North Star Way, 2017.