Take a shower
Go grocery shopping
Sit in a quiet room by myself
Go out to eat with my husband as much as I can
Read a book
Enjoy my hobbies
Tidy up the house
Go to the bathroom...and take my time
This was my "last chance" list. It was their answers to the question, "If you knew then what you know now, what would you do before you had your first baby?" They being every mom I knew. I created it in my 35th week of pregnancy knowing that, very soon, things would soon never be the same.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the answers. I thought they would be a lot less, well, mundane. But at eight months pregnant, I couldn't move much anyway sooo the tasks fit my state well. I dutifully did them all and declared myself all ready.
Fast forward to me 10 weeks post-baby, hovering outside my husband's home office, just hoping I could get him to watch my daughter before he left for work so I could squeeze in a shower. Just the thought of that hot water on my crusty face, those clean, soapy bubbles all over my milk and spit-up-covered body, the sound of nothing but water rushing over me was pure bliss.
I patted my pregnant, naïve self on the back for her efforts. But there's no way she could've known what I know now.
If a pregnant woman asked me that question today, my answer would be, "That's not the question you need to ask."
What you need to know is what you won't be able to do anymore.
You should know that every time you walk across a room, you'll have a flailing baby in one arm, leaving little-to-no room in the other to pick up the mess she's created in her wake.
You should know that your husband will ask you at the end of the day what you did, and you'll struggle to remember "What, exactly, did I do?"
You should know that your body is no longer your own. Especially if you're breastfeeding and your little one can't go more than two hours without suckling on you. Which also means everything you wear from now on must be easy to open and hard to care about because it will get soaked at some point in your day.
You should know that every day no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your baby. And right when you think you've got the hang of it, they'll switch it up on you.
This takes some getting used to—for everyone. But I got there. I got used to the chaos. I got used to our new normal. I caught my groove. And I was feeling particularly proud of myself once I got to this place. I had even mastered my morning shower. (The trick was to bring her Pack & Play in the bathroom with me during her highest energy peak in the mid-morning).
And then, it happened. I caught the flu. You know, where you spend half your day in bed and the other near a toilet flu?
My husband cancelled his work trip and stayed home with our girl the next two days so I could recover and keep my distance from her. For the next 48 hours, I was banished to my bedroom. No contact with my daughter allowed.
I may have slept more during those two days than I have all three months, three weeks, and three days since my baby was born. I would only come up for air to pump and fill up my gigantic bottle of water.
Of course, before heading back down, I'd wave longingly at my daughter from across the room as she cooed in her Daddy's lap. She'd glance my way and flash me THE biggest, cutest smile, and with her big brown eyes, she'd say to me, "MOMMY! There you are! Where have you been? I miss you!" It was agony. Pure agony.
As I sat there, staring up at the ceiling, in between naps, it occurred to me. I've been begging for this amount of freedom for months. For a brief moment in time, every cry was not mine to answer. Every poop was not mine to change. Both of my hands were free to use them for whatever I please—read my food science book, type up a blog post, watch that business webinar, do a yoga session, pitch an article. Time for the things that used to define me before my daughter entered my life. The things I yearn for on weekday afternoons when my daughter just can't close her eyes.
Though I was still sick, near the end of the second day, I scrounged up the energy to do some of those things. But here's the crazy part: With every aching bone in my body, I would've dropped them all in a heartbeat just to hold my girl in my arms again.
Yes, I realize that we're talking two days here, not years. But when you've spent every waking (and sleeping) moment with a human being for three months, three weeks, and three days, they become a part of you. And suddenly, you couldn't dream of having it any other way.
At the end of our 48-hour stint, my husband had to leave to catch an early flight. Our plan was to switch places as soon as she woke up. Instead of getting my last few moments of precious sleep, I found myself hovering over her crib at 5:30 am, just watching her breathe, waiting for her to stir.
At 5:42 a.m., her eyes popped open. We locked eyes, smiled, and picked up right where we left off.