It may sound trite, but it's true that once you have a baby it'll be hard to remember what life was like before baby. And the nine months before that baby arrives? Well, that's the beginning of a huge change in your life. Your emotional and physical world is about to be rocked. It's a wonderful time, to be sure, but things will never be the same. That's why there are things every woman should do before she gets pregnant, and why it's so important every woman who decides to get pregnant, make time to accomplish those things.
In high school, my friends all assumed I would be the first to have a baby. I wanted to be a mom more than anything, but fate had other plans. It took what seemed like an eternity for me to find the person I wanted to spend my life with. But did I curl up in a ball and shut out the world? No. (OK, maybe on Sad Sack Sundays). I took that decade (yep, that's right) and focused on my career and my interests. When I became a military spouse and, nine months and a day later a mom, it was an easier transition because I honestly had no regrets.
Pregnancy changes everything. There's an entire list of things you can't do. Once you pop that baby out, there's an entire list of things that will suddenly be extremely difficult to do. So, before you take the plunge and become a parent, take some time to do some things for yourself.
Travel As Much As Possible
OK, so your budget may not allow for an all-inclusive resort in Bali (if it does, more power to you), but there are certainly other options for seeing the world. Before she got married and pregnant, my friend saved up her money and then spent six months backpacking across Europe. I want to be her.
You can also go local. There's so much to see and do in this country. Hike the Grand Canyon or museum hop in New York City before your pregnancy (and later, baby) make those kinds of activities more challenging. (I said challenging, not impossible. I'm taking my toddler to France, for example.)
My husband and I didn't go on a honeymoon. However, we did go for a long weekend in a nearby Bavarian-inspired town before our wedding. It was a wonderful time of wine tasting and lounging in the hot tub at our cabin nestled in the mountains. Guess what you can't do when you're pregnant? Drink a bunch of wine and sit in a hot tub. So, you know, get it in while you can.
Volunteer For Your Favorite Organization
Pre-pregnancy is a great time to volunteer your time to a cause you care about. Walk dogs for the local shelter, rock babies in the NICU, or build homes for Habitat for Humanity. The physical realities of pregnancy may prevent you from participating in these kinds of activities, so do it now while you can (and before your volunteering options revolve around the freakin' PTA).
I always thought that by 28, I'd have my family. Instead, I found myself in the same job after seven years. I knew that I'd probably never have another chance to live abroad, so I volunteered to live and work at an orphanage in Honduras for a year. I became fluent in Spanish, met lifelong friends, and learned a lot about myself; chiefly that I could thrive all by my lonesome. Plus, I did a good thing.
Eat All The Things
Oh my god, I love food. Seriously, before you get pregnant, find all the delicious things and put them in your mouth. You know what you can't have when you're with child? Sushi. Oyster shooters. Brie. F*cking brie, you guys.
Sure, you'll be filling that belly with lots of good stuff because you're eating for two, but you might be surprised by what grosses you out during pregnancy. My aversion? Chicken. This was devastating for my cooking efforts. But to be fair, I didn't have the energy to make anything more complicated than Hamburger Helper (I know, but if you try to shame me for it, I will go Chrissy Teigen on your ass).
Some food will forever be ruined for you by pregnancy. My co-worker still can't eat teriyaki. Speaking from experience, once you've thrown up street tacos, it takes a long time to enjoy them again.
Drink All The Drinks
To wash down all that forbidden food, I highly suggest you imbibe while you can. Because alcohol? Yeah, it's not OK during pregnancy, and this girl loves her wine. My marriage is based on a solid (liquid?) foundation of cabernet, and I didn't realize how much I missed it until I couldn't have it anymore. Of course, I'm not advocating for binge drinking or unhealthy drinking habits, because no. I'm also not saying that you have to have an alcoholic beverage in order to live your best life. All I'm saying is that if you enjoy wine the way I do, take a few moments to really savor those sips before you dive into pregnancy.
Coffee addicts should also be aware that they'll need to moderate their caffeine intake.
Do Something Physical
Before pregnancy is an ideal time to get in shape. First, being in good physical condition can actually help you conceive. Second, it's easier to continue an exercise regimen than to start a new one. Most practitioners say it's OK to continue with your current workout routine when you're pregnant, but it's not a good idea to start something new. So, if you've never been on a significant run before, you don't want to start training for that marathon when you're pregnant.
I started doing aerial pole four years before I got pregnant. I was dancing several times a week and training for a competition a month before my wedding. I felt great. I know it helped me get pregnant (being healthy, not because I was doing sexy dancing. My husband will tell there's nothing sexy about a creepy Pinocchio pole routine.). I also developed some sick-ass abdominal muscles that helped me push that baby out, and I never got stretch marks (even though I'm genetically predisposed). Coincidence? I choose to think not.
Learn Something New
Pregnancy and motherhood are a huge learning curve, so if there's something you've been dying to learn, do it pre-baby. Check out YouTube and learn to braid. Take a knitting class. Make that Pinterest bird feeder you've had on your board for a year. Pull out that Rosetta Stone and start learning a new language (then you'll be able to teach your little one, too). I took an advanced Spanish grammar and conversation class before I went to Honduras, and now I'm raising a bilingual baby!
Go Out Hard
I'm a big advocate of the quintessential "last hurrah" with your squad. Mine ended up being my bachelorette party. We went all out all day: cocktails at brunch, champagne and pedicures at the spa, fancy dinner, and drinks and dancing to a live band at a local bar.
So when my dear friend held her bachelorette festivities in Las Vegas when I was five months pregnant, I took a hard pass. I felt like garbage and didn't want to be a Debbie Downer. Having recently celebrated with my gal pals pre-pregnancy made the idea of missing out an easier pill to swallow.
Read For Pleasure
Once you get pregnant, all you'll want to read is baby books. If you experience nausea, like I did, you may find it difficult to read (I read on my tablet, and I couldn't stand to look at screens for the entire first trimester). If you do find yourself with any free time, you'll probably want to use it to rest.
Reading in bed is part of my nightly ritual, and I missed it dearly (I needed sleep, and something had to give). I'm back on a regular reading train now, but I was glad I took advantage of some wine, bath, and books time beforehand.
Spend Time With Your Partner
If you're a first-time mom, you are about to be a family of three (unless you're a mom of multiples, of course). You will still have alone time and dates with your partner, but there's no denying you'll probably have another (albeit beloved) person in your home for at least the next 18 years. Take some time to do and be with your partner, whether that's rock climbing, cooking class, or a long walk and talk.
My husband and I really enjoy going to see movies together, but that really hasn't been an option unless we get a babysitter. I remember fondly the days when we would go to the theater with the recliners, buy a bucketful of butter-covered popcorn, and watch an exciting flick. We still watch movies, but it's in our house with a finger perpetually on the pause button.
In my opinion, being a mom is one of the best experiences on this planet. That said, it require a great deal of sacrifice. It's great because you always have company, but then you always have company. I love spending time with my daughter, but there are times I absolutely crave solitude. Pregnancy is the beginning of that ever-present, um, presence. Make alone time a priority, before peace and quiet become a thing of the past (in the best way possible).