1. a little globe-trotting.
We pictured ourselves as young and madcap adventurers who would see the world together. Rory changed that plan a bit, but he didn’t stop us! Although our parenting journey had begun, we still pulled off some crazy schemes and ran a little wild.
I got to wander solo around Dublin for a while, hitch a ride with some kind Irish strangers when I got lost, and meet the most hilarious tour guide who showed us around the city and taught us some naughty Irish words. We had to sadly pass on his invitation to a pub crawl in Temple Bar because of pregnancy and freezing weather.
We explored the parks in Oxford, spent hours and hours in the museums, and stumbled into a fascinating lecture at the Bodleian Library about the preservation of old manuscripts and libraries (I suppose this one doesn’t sound particularly wild but we’re nerdy like that).
We meandered around Rome without much of a plan, lived off of toaster pastries, cheap pizza, and gelato, and, oh yeah, managed to meet Pope Francis and receive his blessing on our marriage and our baby.
Our mini tour of Europe was unforgettable. We are definitely going back someday with our little(s), but it was perfect to have this one trip to ourselves.
2. read ina may’s guide to childbirth.
I am incredibly serious about this. In my opinion, it is THE must-read book for pregnancy! Ina May Gaskin is a professional midwife and an incredible human being.
The first half of the book is exclusively birth stories written by mothers. They are gritty, honest, and oh-so-beautiful. Ina May takes up the second half, walking you through the birthing process, and sharing anecdotes from her work as a midwife. She is hilarious. “There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ, they would brag about it. So should we.” Classic Ina May.
I promise, read this book and you will feel like the life-giving goddess you are. YESSS, you will think, I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS BIRTH THING!
That’s the best possible gift you can give yourself during pregnancy. Read. This. Book.
3. postpone graduate school.
I loved studying child development and was hungry for more as my senior year wrapped. George Washington University in DC has a Master’s program in Early Childhood Special Education. They accepted me, but surprise! Baby on the way!
My original plan was to move forward with graduate school, get a summer semester under my belt, and then take a break to have Rory. I wanted to be one of those awesome moms who go to school while raising their kids. Those moms are my heroes.
But we talked about it and I realized that I wanted to stay home with Rory for at least a year, and it didn’t make sense to take out loans for a degree I wasn’t ready to use.
I feel so grateful that I was able to stay home, and I wish every new mom could afford to make that choice if she wanted to. I have loved caring for Rory and getting to know him. Looking back, I’m not even sure that Early Childhood Special Education is the direction I want to take my career. Staying home has allowed me time to reflect on my goals and think carefully about how I want to use my life.
I’ve also been able to visit our families for extended periods of time so Rory can get to know them, and I’ve fulfilled my dream of starting a blog! When I do go back to school, I will have a much better plan for why and how.
Postponing was 100% the right decision. Plus, it made time for some other pregnancy adventures.
4. teach preschool summer camp.
When I moved to Virginia, I found a gorgeous Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in the area and contacted the director. We built a great relationship and I began to substitute teach at the school. They hired me to teach the 3-4 year olds at summer camp. It was so much fun!
We studied flowers, built cardboard castles, painted anything and everything, splashed in water and mud puddles, gardened, looked for butterflies, made popsicles, and had a VERY popular visit from my guinea pig, Toby.
Several of the families at camp were expecting or welcoming new little siblings. One little fellow talked constantly about his sister, insisting that she was named “Strawberry” (she wasn’t). Everyone had babies on the brain.
“Babies come out through a cut in your stomach!” shared a sweet girl one day, confidently. “Yes, some babies do,” I agreed. “But not every baby.”
“How else do they come out?” she wanted to know. I tried to make the explanation truthful, but age appropriate. “Some babies come out from between the mother’s legs.”
“What??” she was shocked. “Do they have to make a cut there, too??”
I assured her that there was already an opening. Thankfully content with this explanation, she ran off to jump in the sprinklers.
Sharing the experience of pregnancy with my precious campers and their families was such a joy. I loved talking with them and hearing their frank comments about my growing belly. Hopefully Rory will get to experience the excitement of expecting another little Helmick someday, too!
5. download pokémon go.
This super fun app gets the credit for probably 90% of the walking I did after it was released in July 2016. Kyle and I were instantly hooked and explored lots of nearby parks and neighborhoods, eagerly trying to “catch ’em all”.
One of the best features is a tracker that incubates eggs based on how far you walk. We tried to apply this method to my pregnancy because Rory was a week overdue, scheduled for an induction, and showing no signs of hatching. We walked and walked and walked, racking up Pokémon eggs, hoping Rory would decide to arrive.
It didn’t work, but that’s a story for another time. Pokémon Go still got me to exercise while pregnant and have fun with Kyle while doing it.
6. request children’s books.
We asked people to bring their favorite children’s book to our baby shower (this idea probably originated on Pinterest somewhere) and it was so much fun seeing what everyone chose! It was a beautiful mix of funny, sweet, paper, board, vintage, and new books. As a preschool teacher, I already had a good collection, but we were missing some old favorites.
Recently, a good friend hosted a read-aloud party and asked guests to bring favorite passages to share. While I did appreciate the others’ selections of Wordsworth, Chesterton, and Lewis, I brought what I know best: Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies and a hilarious excerpt of A.A. Milne. Good children’s literature is enjoyable for everyone.
7. paint a cute nursery .
I found a Pinterest idea that I LOVED and Kyle sweetly helped me recreate it in Rory’s room. There are still a few finishing touches needed (and Rory is how old?) but when it’s all finally DONE I will do a nursery tour. I can’t wait to share it with you! It turned out so beautifully, and it’s by far the cutest room in the house. Even though he doesn’t sleep there yet, I’m so glad we have this special space for Rory.
8. store meals in the freezer.
We were happy to have easy meals to cook (and clean up!) in the first few weeks of Rory’s life. Some of the meals turned out better than others, but chicken pot pie and enchiladas both handled the freezer like champs.
I still make enchiladas for a quick meal that Kyle likes to pack for lunch the next day, but they are a little more difficult now that Rory has arrived.
Start laundry, change a diaper, and put the baby to bed while you roast 3-4 boneless skinless chicken thighs at 400F for 30 minutes. Leave the oven on, shred while they’re still hot (makes it easier), and mix with about 2/3 can of red enchilada sauce and a few handfuls of shredded cheddar. Quickly wash hands and dash to replace fallen pacifier into baby’s mouth.
Roll a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture in each tortilla (I typically use ~10), arrange them in a greased pan, and pour over the rest of the sauce. Soothe baby with promises that you’re almost done and will pick them up in a moment.
Sprinkle with more cheese and bake until the tortillas are toasty and the cheese is gooey, about 20-25 minutes. If you freeze them before baking, increase the time to about 40-45 minutes.
Enjoy while the baby is finally sleeping or being held by your partner.
9. have too much fun packing for the hospital.
This is hilarious to me now. I have no idea why I thought that Rory would need four onesies, a sleeper, two pairs of pants, a sweater outfit, three pairs of socks, two pairs of mitts, and three blankets. Honestly, he barely wore clothes the entire time we were in the hospital. We kept him wrapped in hospital blankets and snuggled with me in bed most of the time.
BUT the important thing is that I had fun choosing newborn clothes and packing the little outfits and tiny socks. They don’t take up much room. I was so excited and ready for my little guy and I wanted everything to be perfect. So I went a little crazy. I don’t regret it.
What are you glad you did while you were pregnant? Please let me know in the comments or tweet me!