What is nesting, anyway?

Last week I found myself wandering around the cute shops in Bangalow. This little town is smack in the middle of eucalypt forests and green fields filled with cows, yet the stores are crammed with vintage wicker furniture, porcelain tea sets, handmade jewelry, expensive clothes made out of hemp, and giant wooden Buddhas going for $600. Even after my seven years in LA, Bangalow is way too trendy for me.

I managed to resist the giant wooden Buddhas and the hemp clothes, but I did almost buy a cookbook of chocolate recipes. This cookbook was a work of art. There were luscious pictures of brownie bites topped with cheesecake and raspberries, and mini chocolate cakes stuffed with cherries, and chocolate pancakes topped with cinnamon-glazed pears… I was utterly entranced. The book had three strikes against it, however. It was heavy. It cost $45.00. And we have no oven in Laos.

I put it back with a sigh but cheerfully reported on my near miss to Mike that night via skype, heartened by the thought that I had been enticed by something so very domestic as baking.

“I’m nesting,” I concluded triumphantly at the conclusion of the tale about the cookbook that nearly was.

“Um, I think nesting is when you find yourself doing things for the baby,” Mike replied, “not for yourself.”

There were a couple of easy answers to this disparaging nay-saying. The first was that a happy mother makes a happy baby and so, by extension, anything I do for myself (or that anyone else does for me, come to think of it) is indirectly being done for the baby. The second was that I am quite sure the baby would have been wildly appreciative of raspberry cheesecake brownie bites. You know, if we lived somewhere we had an oven, we could get decent chocolate and raspberries, and I could actually make them for him.

But all this cross-equatorial flippancy has had me thinking about nesting more seriously this last week.

It seems that most women experience nesting by going on marathon cleaning sprees, washing and organizing all the baby clothes, preparing the baby’s room, cooking meals to freeze, fretting about school districts, and packing their labor bag. So, let’s take a look at these.

Cleaning? Well, not exactly. Mum found mould growing in my shower yesterday and was deeply disturbed.

“Didn’t you see that there?” she asked, confused, after she’d taken it upon herself to spray it with mould killer and warn me not to go in there for several hours.

“Oh, I saw it,” I said, looking up from my desk and shrugging. “But it’s no big deal. It gets much worse in Laos.”

Baby clothes? Well, with the exception of a giant trash bag full of second-hand clothes that has now been sitting on the floor of my bedroom for 11 days, I’ve washed and sorted the baby clothes we’ve been given. Well, OK, Mum washed at least half of them (after informing me that baby clothes should be washed with baby detergent and not regular detergent… who knew??) but I sorted them. That sorting, that was definitely all me.

Preparing the baby’s room? For the first eight weeks of his life the baby will be sleeping in a crib that my grandfather made for my mother. This crib is very cute, but doesn’t have a mattress. Having a custom-fitted mattress made would cost a pretty penny, so Mum and I recently bought one of those change mats with the raised edges that we thought would fit well inside the crib. However someone (not me) measured the top of the crib rather than the bottom when we went shopping, so when we got the mat home it was too big for the crib by several inches.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Dad can just use his circular saw to cut some off of the edges and then it’ll fit fine.”

Mum didn’t look convinced by this. Neither did Dad.

“Cutting the edges off that foam will render it structurally unstable,” Dad said.

“And I think it’s too soft,” Mum said.

I rolled my eyes.

“He’s only going to be sleeping in there for seven weeks,” I said. “And it’s not like he’ll be wiggling very far. It’ll be perfectly safe.”

(Here I would like to pause and point out that a decade ago I spent six months working on a baby-death review team. That job scarred me for life and I don’t take baby safety casually. I really do think this mat would be perfectly adequate, but I’ve been overruled. Apparently we’ll be procuring a new mattress.)

And what of the rest of the nesting signs? Well, there has been exactly no cooking of meals to freeze (though I have baked chocolate malt-dipped cookies, slices, and a number of rhubarb and apple crumbles). On the other hand there has been a little fretting about school districts (or, more accurately, the fact that there are no suitable schools for this little one where we currently live). I have not packed my labor bag.

So using the traditional yardsticks I’m not scoring too well on the nesting front.


The whole point of nesting is preparing the environment for the baby’s arrival, right? Well, in a world where most babies are born into environments devoid of fancy cribs and closets full of clothes I’m less concerned about this baby’s immediate physical environment (which is already way more than adequate to meet his needs) than I am about my mental environment and what that will mean for this baby.

On that front I think I’ve been making good progress in clearing the decks and getting things organized so that I can give him my attention. I’ve sent manuscripts and book outlines to agents, I’ve wrapped up all my consulting commitments and invoiced clients, I’ve submitted articles to magazines, I’ve got things squared away with the psych registration board and the tax office, I’ve filed insurance paperwork and I’m making slow progress on answering email. A shrinking work-and-life-admin to-do list may not look much like traditional nesting. But this, more than anything else, is making me feel a little more prepared for this baby to actually arrive on the scene sometime in the next month or so.


Yes, OK, I’ll think about moving “pack the labor” bag up that list in terms of priority, and maybe deal with the remaining baby clothes. Right after I answer some email and bake brownie bites.

Any thoughts or stories about nesting? I’d love to hear them.

18 responses to “What is nesting, anyway?

  1. With Joshua, my nesting instinct set in just a little bit late. Like, when the contractions started, Tim asked if we should start packing the bag. 🙂

    • That’s awesome. I must say, I haven’t started packing it yet, but I have started gathering up the really important things. Like, you know, movies I might want to watch during labor, and books to read, and music for the iPod. Currently I’m trying to figure out if there’s any way passionfruit sorbet would stay frozen in an esky if we took it to the hospital.

  2. I suspect nesting is more for us to reassure ourselves we won’t accidentally kill the baby, right? Who knows…we’re moving internationally less than two months after our baby’s born, so what difference does his environment make anyway? Shoot, he won’t know he slept in a suitcase padded with baby blankets. Unless we show him the photos later….hee hee.

    • I think a suitcase padded with baby blanket is a great idea! (But this is coming from someone who, were she responsible for buying baby clothes rather than receiving O So Cute second hand clothes, might be buying 8 lots of an identical, practical, outfit). So… back to Florida, is it? Are you looking forward to that, or mixed?

  3. This has nothing to do with nesting but the baker in me must know what slices are. This is the second time I’ve heard you refer to them. Is it some amazing dessert I’m missing out on?

    • Well… I don’t know if they’re as amazing as cupcakes, to be honest. Especially yours. But they’re sort of like dense cakes topped with icing. Since I’ve been back I’ve made a ginger slice topped with lemon icing (except it turned out to be a Cinnamon slice topped with lemon icing because, well, I didn’t read the label carefully enough and, yeah, apparently I was super vague that day. But it tasted fine anyway, oddly). And there’s been a chocolate and coconut one. Here’s a link to a slice on an Australian recipe website, though I’ve never followed this recipe and can’t vouch for it – but it’ll give you an idea. http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/13553/chocolate+coconut+slice

  4. With Noah I didn’t think I was nesting until Nathan came home from work and found me on top of the kitchen counter cleaning the tops of the kitchen cupboards. The next day he came home to find all the nursery furniture had been assembled and I was on the couch with pulled muscles in my back and tummy.
    With Beau, nesting consisted of lots and lots of lists for everyone else on how to look after Noah. I only packed my hospital bag after my OB told me to go home and do it, and we still had to send Nathan home to fetch it when I found myself in hospital 3 weeks early during a snow storm.

  5. I was in that river in Egypt for two of mine (de Nile…denial), one came too early for any preparation at all and one I decided to paint, paper and redecorate the entire family room in a single evening three days past my due date and while I was still working. I can’t say that this particular child has turned out to be any more ‘normal’ than any of the rest of my mad brood so not really a big fan of the nesting thing…the river thing on the other hand holds a great deal of appeal 🙂

  6. I can relate to that. Last week I spent hours cleaning up my email accounts and doing overdue paperwork.
    Yesterday I suddenly found myself packing the labor bag – it ended in making a list of things that I still need until I go to the hospital and have to pack later anyway.
    I still have to borrow a cradle because my son is still sleeping in the crib-turned-to-toddler-bed, but a baby can sleep anywhere and sure is going to prefer the spot next to me during the first weeks. But I’m far more relaxed with this second child anyway.

    • Yes, there are still things on that list – I think the shopping will be next week’s main task. I still need to buy things like diapers and wipes etc. I was waiting until after a recent baby shower to see where the necessity gaps are. Happy planning.

  7. Hi, Lisa. I just returned from a trip to Haiti, but am thrilled to get on here and see that your pregnancy is going well, chocolate brownie bites and all. Yeah, nesting is one of those strange phenomenons that I wish would attack me now, eight years after giving birth. I could use to do a little “nesting” around my house about now. Or at least wash my clothes from the trip.

    • Thanks! I see that you’ve returned from Haiti to that O So Familiar “shock upon returning home” zone. Glad to hear the trip went well and that you’re back safely. Maybe there will be some element of nesting involved in resettling after the time away :).

  8. Nesting-schmesting. Go for the brownie “bites” but make them big. More like Brownies-the-size-of-my-face bites. 🙂

    • Yes… those bites would be bigger now than they would have been nine weeks ago. My belly’s not the only thing that’s grown since I landed in Australia, my face is rounder too (go figure). I’m sure it has nothing to do with all the chocolate cookies I’ve been baking and the fruit crumbles I’ve been eating for breakfast. Yeah, nothing at all.

  9. Yes, nesting. That didn’t happen for me (other than getting the baby clothes washed). I am usually over prepared for things. Not his birth. I packed for the hospital right after I hung up the phone with my husband telling him to get home since we were due at the hospital immediately for an induction. The bites, slices, crumbles, and closing out consultancy obligations count if you as me.

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