Oocytes, the female germ cells, contain all the messenger RNAs necessary to start a new life but typically wait until fertilization to begin development. The transition from oocyte to fertilized egg (zygote) involves many changes, including protein synthesis, protein and RNA degradation, and organelle remodeling. These changes occur concurrently with the meiotic divisions that produce the haploid maternal genome. Accumulating evidence indicates that the cell-cycle regulators that control the meiotic divisions also regulate the many changes that accompany the oocyte-to-zygote transition. We suggest that the meiotic machinery functions as an internal pacemaker that propels oocytes toward embryogenesis.