Forget the nursery and sonogram appointments to prepare for the baby, you have to prepare to be a mommy! As much as we would like to believe we come equipped with natural motherhood as soon as the baby ejects itself from our bodies, we cannot possibly be completely aware of how to be a "mom." Here's a list of things that you can practice before you birth your baby so that you don't go insane. It will also help maintain a sense of self when you're suddenly alone with a newborn all day. (It's not like you thought it would be, it's more.)
1 | Perfect a quick and simple makeup routine that makes you look like you sleep regularly. Remember what it was like to be 22, hungover, and someone told you, “You look great!” and it made you feel like you were really nailing life because you hadn't even gone to bed yet!? Wearing makeup after having a baby will provide that feeling again. The early days of a newborn feel like a beautiful hangover with all the emotions of being intoxicated, so if you're able to put on your face, you'll feel like a spritely 22-year-old who can party all night again.
2 | Learn how to crown braid your hair. It's out of your face and it looks impressive and when you take it down it creates perfect beach waves. Again, impressive. People will be all, "How did you do that! You look stunning! You have a baby and amazing hair! You are incredible!” Plus, when your hair starts falling out a few months after you've given birth and you want to shave your head, a crown braid eliminates the opportunity for your baby to grab fistfuls of your shedding locks.
3 | Practice doing everything efficiently and with only one hand. Peeling hard boiled eggs, wiping yourself after you pee, brushing your teeth, washing your face, texting, typing, holding a book, putting on socks, and much, much more. You'll want to be good at the one-handed everything before you don't have a choice because you're holding a baby. When it seems impossible – say when you're peeling a carrot – just remember that your body made a baby, so you can do anything.
4 | Embrace eating everything with a spoon. It's the only way to make sure the food successfully travels from plate to mouth without spilling on baby's fuzzy head. Some food might look silly on a spoon, but you don't want to introduce lasagna to your newborn just as she's mastered latching onto your nipple.
5 | Accept that you will need help from people and you actually cannot do everything alone. This took me the whole of the nine months to realize and, once the baby was born, I had a little trouble when it seemed I could do nothing for myself in the first month and had to ask for help non-stop. “Pass me my phone, fill up my water glass, turn on that lamp, not that lamp, the other one. No, that one. I know, I have a lot of lamps! I like lamps!”
6 | Start saying exactly what is on your mind. Your husband or partner is going to say the wrong thing at two am when the baby is screaming and neither of you knows what to do. Tell them your feelings are hurt so you can have a little disagreement now instead of waiting and having a big argument later.
Also, it's inevitable that you're going to have some arguments. No one is immune to disagreements and it doesn't mean that you shouldn't have procreated with this person. You might think they're overreacting when they insist on using a special kind of bamboo washcloth but, then again, you might be overreacting when you sit on the toilet, screaming, "I'm an inadequate human being!"
7 | Relish being slow. Everything is going to take longer than you thought it ever could once a baby is in your life. Practice reminding yourself that taking your time is necessary and attempting to move at your pre-pregnancy speed is just going to result in dropping things, like your baby.
Whether writing an email or getting to the doctor, take your time. This may result in more time spent in transit getting to those sonogram appointments. Then again, when was the last time you stopped rushing around and simply enjoyed the journey?
8 | Talk to yourself. Every other week there is an article about how good it is to talk to your baby. Trouble is, babies don’t say much in response beyond gurgles and coos. However, if you are comfortable talking to yourself, you can get things done. That novel you've been meaning to write? Dictate it. The podcast you've imagined hosting? Record it. A voice-over career voicing cartoon characters? Start it.
Before the baby comes you'll be glad you got so much done. Once the baby arrives you'll be comfortable talking to a little human who doesn't respond with words.
9 | Make up songs. Babies love music and, of course, you could just bone up on the lyrics to all your favorite songs or just turn on your iTunes, but getting comfortable improvising songs will keep your brain active. Bonus: you'll feel like a creative genius when you haven't slept and come up with an impromptu song rhyming “cheeks” and “bespeaks.”
10 | When you cook, pretend you are on Cutthroat Kitchen. Ingredients you have in your fridge will vary widely due to the very occasional trips to the supermarket once the baby is born. Challenge yourself to imagine what you would do with one wrinkled red pepper, ¼ of an onion, two old lemons, a little yogurt, and the end of a banana bread someone made for you. If you imagined ordering takeout, you are correct!
Still, if you are lucky enough to be able to stay home with the baby while your partner works, you may feel the desire to pretend you are a 1950s housewife who can take care of a baby and have dinner on the table when your partner comes home. The time you have in between breastfeeding and baby crying to be held will be limited and sporadic, so creativity with ingredients and timing are good things to practice now.
11 | Start wearing post-pregnancy clothing before you tell people you are pregnant so that it doesn't look like you have given up your style in exchange for a family. Leggings and oversized shirts were good enough for you when your body was going through puberty in the 90s and they can work for you again as you learn to love your expanded womanly life-giving form. Make sure you show off that cleavage with low cut tops now so that you can enjoy the seamless transition to pulling out a boob to feed your child later.
12 | Lastly, practice not judging other women. You'll find it is a useless waste of time when you end up doing the thing you balked at for years. Case in point: prior to getting pregnant, natural home birth was “gross and insane,” cribs took up too much space, and having “Mom” friends was unnecessary. Naturally, I gave birth to my baby in my apartment’s tiny tub, bought a crib, and love every Mommy Group I can find.
Ultimately, we must practice patience with ourselves and with the mothers in our lives as we turn into mothers. Moms say weird things. Practice nodding and saying thank you. You are about to join their club and they're excited for you. And guess what? You're going to say weird things eventually too.