Welcoming a baby is a joyous occasion, but it can be a stressful time as well.
Between the demands of pregnancy, the unpredictable nature of labor and delivery, and the haze of the early newborn days, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs.
The nine months of pregnancy aren’t just a gestation period; they’re a countdown to the expiration of a previous life. That might sound a little dramatic, but it’s true.
Have a baby and your life will be forever changed. There are few things in life with such sudden and permanent consequences.
I’m a firm believer in the importance of self-care–particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. I also believe there are some things that every woman should do before having a baby.
I’m not talking about things like traveling the world, saving a certain amount of money, or going to graduate school. Those choices are personal and the pieces that shape our lives will look different depending on who we are, our background, and our interests.
What I am referring to are small acts of self-care you can perform for yourself during pregnancy in preparation for the big life changes that await you.
Whether you are a first time mom or beyond, here are the 11 things you should do before having a baby.
1. Get a massage.
Go for a prenatal massage. If you have the time and disposable income, go for more than one.
What our bodies go through during pregnancy is insane when you think about it. You deserve (more than) a little pampering.
A maternity massage isn’t just a relaxing indulgence–it can also be a way to keep your body from completely falling apart. Go.
2. Buy yourself a present.
During your pregnancy, think ahead to post-partum you.
The you who might struggle to find time to shower. The you who won’t fit into any of her old clothes. The you whose eyes will burn from sleep deprivation.
Buy that future you a present now–something that won’t require much effort to wear or enjoy during those early days with a new baby.
No, a sunny scarf or simple pair of earrings won’t make the old you come back any faster, but they will be a reminder of that old you and can help you feel put together while you’re living in leggings and t-shirts.
3. Perform acts of micro self-care.
Stretch. Burn scented candles or diffuse lavender. Take long showers.
You know that aisle in Target with the face masks and fancy soaps? You live there now.
Pregnancy can be super uncomfortable. Performing small acts of self-care to combat that discomfort can make you feel human and relaxed.
4. Try not to worry about sleep.
It can be difficult to get a good night sleep during pregnancy, which can be made worse by everyone telling you to “sleep while you can.”
Try to sleep as much as your body and schedule allows, but also don’t worry about “banking” sleep for the future. That’s not a thing, and it’s definitely not something you should stress over. You’ll cross the no sleep bridge when you get there.
5. Stock up on snacks.
Life with a new baby will be hectic. Don’t wait until your new bundle arrives to build your snack stash, which you will definitely need during those rushed early days.
Do it while you’re unencumbered and clearheaded enough to remember that you don’t like raisins.
Put your feet up and don’t feel guilty about it. Lie on the couch when you need a break. Choose to do nothing instead of doing something.
It will be much easier to follow this advice if you’re a first-time mom, but even if you’re a second-time mom or beyond, try to steal these quiet moments when you can.
It won’t suddenly become easier to do so later, that’s for sure.
7. Feel all the feelings.
Whatever you feel–and you will feel a lot of things–feel it without guilt.
Don’t worry about how you “should” be feeling, or how other people you know allegedly felt.
With surging hormones, mental and physical changes, and a major life transition ahead, it’s completely normal to feel everything from pure joy to abject fear.
Embrace your feelings and work through them. No guilt.
8. Enjoy date nights and family time.
Enjoy those nights with your husband or afternoons out as whatever family size you currently are.
You will eventually adjust to life with your newest family member, but never again will it be just the two of you (or three of you, or four, etc. if you already have kids).
9. Savor a moment.
Piggy-backing off that last tip, be sure to savor a moment from your pregnancy and/or your life during this time.
I’m not going tell you to “enjoy every minute” because that’s an unrealistic expectation for anyone, particularly if you were sick much of your pregnancy or struggled in other ways.
But, at some point, take a mental snapshot of a moment that makes you happy and remember it going forward.
Soon life will change in dramatic fashion, and it’s OK to celebrate the things you’ll miss.
10. Satisfy a pregnancy craving.
I’m not going to tell you how or what to eat. That’s between you, your doctor, and the Taco Bell drive-thru.
Try to eat a healthy and varied diet, of course, but don’t beat yourself up for indulging in less virtuous cravings every now and then.
11. Get in the picture.
No matter how you feel about your appearance during pregnancy, be sure to capture at least some photos of your pregnant self.
Whether it’s a few quick snapshots on your phone, or an elaborate unicorn-themed maternity photo shoot, be sure to leave your pregnancy with at least some photographic evidence that it happened.
Even if you don’t love the pics during pregnancy, you’ll cherish them for the rest of your life thereafter–and your little one will too.
Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.