Tag Archives: crib

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.

But.

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.

Gulp.

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.

Advertisements

The curse of too much choice

Almost everyone who has spent time in the developing world knows the paralysis that can hit you in the cereal aisle of any well-stocked grocery store after returning to a land of plenty. There’s something about trying to pick from 435 types of cereal after you have been confronted with the fact that many people in this world have no choice in what they eat for breakfast – and, indeed, count themselves lucky to have breakfast at all – that is both horrifying and overwhelming.

The particular type of guilty, angry immobility that can ensue when you are smacked in the face by this sort of shocking abundance of choice does not, unfortunately, only strike in the cereal aisle. In the past I’ve found myself overwhelmed in the milk aisle, the cheese section, and when trying to select toilet paper. I also learned long ago not to go near Starbucks during the first three days after returning from Africa.

Yesterday, when I picked up a magazine devoted to comparing various baby-essential products, I was unexpectedly ambushed by a similar dynamic.

I am now almost seven months pregnant, and pretty much the sum total of my material preparation for this baby has consisted of organizing to buy a crib and a set of drawers from friends in Laos and handing out my address to lovely friends across oceans who have posted me a bunch of maternity and baby clothes they no longer need. So in browsing this magazine that someone gave me last Friday, I was trying to do the responsible thing and start to plan ahead.

Maybe I should have left well enough alone.

“What did you do today?” Mike asked me when we talked on skype last night.

“Well, one of the things I did was look through a baby magazine and get totally overwhelmed by adds for 500 different products, each of which had 500 different choices,” I said.

“And each of which cost 500 different dollars?” Mike asked.

“Sometimes more. Strollers and cots and baby carriers and car seats and nappy rash creams and diapers and baby monitors and… There was this one cot – some European design – very cute, round, wooden slats, on wheels. Guess how much?”

“$1200.00,” Mike said.

“$1499.00!!”

“Well, if you really have your heart set on a round, European wooden cot on wheels,” Mike said, “then cut out the picture and we can bring it back here and take it to the nice Vietnamese man who made our bookshelves and he can make it for a whole lot cheaper than that.”

“No,” I said, “the cot we’re getting second hand there for fifty bucks will do just fine. But, the point is, I got totally flooded and I’ve decided that I don’t want the baby anymore.”

“Well, to me that statement implies that you have wanted the baby at some point. So, therefore, I think we’re making good progress,” Mike said cheerfully.

“Yeah, well,” I said, “since I left Laos it’s just been me and the baby, no you or Zulu to distract me, and I started to feel quite kindly towards him at times – you know, when he wasn’t kicking me hard from the inside. Overall I’d say I’ve been neutral-positive towards the baby most of the last week. But not today. Now I’ve changed my mind.”

“Neutral-positive is great!” Mike said. “You are making progress.”

“But now I’ve changed my mind,” I said.

“Because of a magazine? You know, plenty of people the world over have babies in places like Laos and manage to somehow do without fancy strollers and round European cots and organic diaper rash cream,” Mike said.

“And $95.00 thermometers that can take your babies temperature without you having to touch them?” I asked.

“Yeah, those too.”

“I think this is the part of the conversation where I’m supposed to admit that you have a point and change my mind back, but I’m not there yet,” I said.

Now, of course, part of my reaction to being assaulted by this magazine was wrapped up in my ongoing ambivalence related to impending motherhood. And maybe part of it was due to just being one week away from the visible poverty of Laos. But most of it, I believe, was simply the burden we feel when we’re “overloaded by options.”

It seems funny, doesn’t it? Most Western societies are founded on the premise that the way to maximize personal freedom and happiness is to maximize choice. Increasingly, however, psychologists are suggesting that past a certain point this equation does not hold true, and that this point is reached long before you have 285 types of cookies and 175 types of salad dressings to choose from.

Barry Schwartz, who delivered a fascinating TED Talk in 2005 called The Paradox of Choice, even argues that what is true of salad dressing is also true of too many available choices related to health care, where and when we work, and perhaps even decisions related to marriage and parenthood. Too much choice, he says, produces paralysis rather than liberation. And even when we manage to overcome this paralysis and make a choice we often end up less satisfied with the result of our choice than we would have been if we’d had fewer options to choose from.

So what’s the answer to this when it comes to baby gear? I don’t know. Clearly I will need to figure out what to do about a stroller and diapers at some point in the near future, but I’m certainly going to limit my exposure to baby magazine issues devoted to comparative advertising. Maybe I’ll just go the old fashioned route and ask those who have trodden this path before me to share their wisdom.

So, (virtual) neighbors. Any recommendations regarding stroller models, cloth diaper brands, baby carrier types, and other essential must-haves, leave a comment!

And, on a broader note, have you ever been overloaded by too many options? What has triggered this for you in the past?