In about four and a half months, give or take a few days, I’ll be someone’s mother. These words still jar me, surprise me, delight me, and terrify me. Few life changes actually change your life as much as this one. When I first learned I was pregnant I went into overdrive on my to-do list. I’m a list maker by nature. It makes me feel like I have control over a situation where there is absolutely no control. I furiously went about scheduling ten months of doctor’s appointments, making a baby registry, planning a nursery, plotting a babymoon, compiling lists of names—all of the things the Internet tells you to do before you have a baby.
As the months wore on and my belly began to balloon and my to-do list began to shorten, I realized the relative insignificance of creating a nursery ASAP or perfecting the baby registry. I began to think about what I could and should be doing to truly prepare myself and my husband for this incredible, life-changing event in all of the ways, physical, emotional, and psychological. I began soliciting advice from everyone I knew who had given birth to a child, a month or even half a century earlier. I crowdsourced mothers around the world to create a pre-baby bucket list of sorts (if I didn’t despise the term bucket list).
Within the list of 33 action items, there are things I think I probably should do before the baby is born because I’m convinced I’ll never have the free time to do them ever again—perfect my Italian, start an all-girl cover band of Prince songs. There are things that are just common sense (finish up house renovations) and there are self-care rituals I hadn’t even thought about, like spending hours and days in silence and indulging in yoga retreats. As one friend put it to me, “you’re going to spend the next eighteen years thinking about your kid. And that’s wonderful. But don’t rush it.” With that in mind, here’s a solid list of things to do before baby comes…
1. Spend real alone time with your close friends. One friend of mine spent four days with my best friend in a cabin in Big Sur. Her selling point: “Needless to say, I have not had the opportunity to do that since.”
2. Do anything you love to do that is solitary or that takes prolonged concentration and attention and focus— reading, writing, walking, cooking. According to one woman who had her baby last year: “Rarely being alone was what almost put me over the edge.”
3. See all of the movies in the movie theater.
4. Get your financial house in order. Update your will with specifics on guardianship, buy term life insurance, compile all of your legal/financial information in one document and give it to a trusted friend or family member (account numbers, code to the safe where you have all your original legal docs, your lawyer’s contact info, etc.), suggests Allyson Downey, the brilliant author of Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood.
5. Do all of the yoga.
6. Read the newspaper, in print, on a Sunday morning.
7. Go to restaurants that don’t take reservations. You won’t do that once you’re paying for a babysitter.
8. Write the baby a letter. You’ll never again have the kind of quiet and not-knowing about parenthood that you have now. What better time to put pen to paper?
9. Talk to your friends on the phone for longer than five minutes.
10. Learn to stop staring at your phone all the damn time.
11. Let the little things go.
12. Forgive your parents for their flaws. Do the therapy now.
13. Don’t let Donald Trump make you angry every day.
14. Do one thing every day that inspires you.
15. Meditate (or attempt to mediate).
16. Start an all-girl cover band. Maybe sing some baby songs. Maybe sing some early Courtney Love.
17. Make a gratitude list. Keep updating said gratitude list.
18. Sleep late!
19. Get rid of half of your closet. I currently drive around with three trash bags to go to Goodwill in the backseat of my car at any given time. Isn’t it time to just drop them off?
20. Finish all the home improvement projects.
21. Take a spontaneous road trip with or without your partner.
22. Learn to make new recipes. As a pal who is a chef told me: “The things you already know how to make well will become your standbys for the next three years. Have plenty of them.”
23. Get strong. According to my incredible pre-natal trainer Austin Lopez, everyone benefits from me being strong throughout my pregnancy, me and the baby. The birth process is easier and post-partum recovery is less stressful.
24. Make the house cozy and homey and welcoming (not for the baby, but for us). I learned about the importance of the cozy home, or hygge, in Denmark while researching my new book How to Be Married. According to the Danes it is the start of all other happiness.
25. Throw an incredible party and hire someone to clean up. Use it as a chance to reconnect with all those people you said you’d reconnect with when you had more time. Right now is when you have more time.
26. Go out dancing. In fact, take a dance lesson. Moving your body feels great. It’s fun to do with your partner and you’ll feel like you’re having a wild night on the town without getting tipsy.
27. Take 1,000 pictures and make the baby a book called: “When Your Were in My Tummy.”
28. Send your husband away on a trip with his buddies, something fun. You could call it a daddy-moon, but that really strips the manliness out of it.
29. Read books that have nothing to do with childbirth or babies. I signed up for the Book of the Month club specifically for my pregnancy.
30. Buy underwear you do care about and underwear you don’t care about in equal measure. Because only buying throwaway grandma panties is depressing.
31. Spend time with your friends without kids to reassure them they’re still an important part of your life. Also you’ll need them to stay sane after the baby is born.
32. Brush up on a foreign language. I’ve been dying to refresh my Italian for years now and a friend recommended I dive into an Italian refresher app now to activate a non-mommy part of my brain and give me something to listen to down the road when I start breast feeding.
33. Draft a budget. Test said budget. Redraft the budget to be a little more realistic. Try out that new budget. Adjust it a few more times.
Jo Piazza is the author of the upcoming book How to Be Married: What I Learned From Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage. She’s having a boy in June.