A few thing babies don’t need:
- Perfect nurseries.
- Perfect parents.
You could call Scout a surprise baby, and you’d be somewhat right. We were prepared to welcome a new addition someday, yes, perhaps over the next few years. We were prepared to sit down, to meet a birth mother, to pray and wish and hope she’d grant us the high honor of parenting her child, and then we were prepared to be cautiously optimistic as her due date inched closer.
We were prepared to wait a lot and then a little, and then maybe a lot again.
But alas, life fast-tracked the slow living girl.
No meeting, no preparation, no plans.
Just a phone call on an unmarked Wednesday, a gathering of the keys, a growing of hearts.
Three to four overnight.
Our conversation on the long, midnight drive to the hospital shifted between matters of the heart to matters of the mind, Ken and I talking over each other excitedly as we filled in the blanks – We need a car seat! Is the crib in the attic? Where’s the baby sling? – while Bee fell asleep with a smile, head leaned to the right, a bowl of uneaten snacks in her lap.
Our friends and family, of course, rallied. While we were miles away in a quiet hospital room, girlfriends delivered diapers and sleep gowns, stocked the fridge with food and chocolate. One friend pumped breastmilk, another brought formula. Ken’s mother spent the day cleaning out the guest room to transform it into a makeshift nursery, and in less than 24 hours, our dear little village had made Scout a home.
We all go to great lengths to prepare ourselves for babies, don’t we? We line up baby shoes and tuck them safely into tidy drawers. We arrange diaper cream and bath bubbles on carefully curated shelves, heavy on the wooden teethers, please.
We prepare our babies in hopes we can prepare ourselves.
And then, of course, those tiny bundles arrive and we spend our days in the oblivion of rocking and wiping and nursing and changing and shushing – our nights feeling around in the dark for the missing pacifier.
If you’re a new mother, or not a new mother, or a hope-to-be-mother or a trying-to-be-mother, here’s the smallest, most tangible piece of advice I can muster:
Skip the nursery decorating, if you’d like.
Skip a lot of things: the puree recipes, the sleep training books, the Montessori-approved stroller flashcards. Heck, skip the stroller if you want.
You do you.
Months after Scout came home, we spruced up our bedroom. Scout was spending more time in our room than his own, after all, and we were feeling the itch to get things in order. We hung a wall weaving, added a few cozy throw pillows. We switched out our industrial nightstands in favor of more functional storage – an impromptu burpcloth station for late-night feedings. We added a bassinet.
We subtracted the rest.
We made room, is what I’m saying. We made room in our room instead of his – in a way that made sense for us, in a way that created a space for us to become parents a second time.
It is one of my favorite rooms to retreat to.
Scout still has a makeshift nursery. His closet still hides the vacuum cleaner, spare linens, extra toothpaste. There are no baby shoes tucked safely into tidy drawers, no carefully curated shelves displaying diaper cream and bath bubbles.
But there is love, love, love.
Two tips for those of you making room for baby, whether you’ve got nine months or nine minutes:
- Plan ahead.
Listen. Babies are new, uncharted territory. They can be terrifying, these giant question marks wrapped in skin. If you feel better facing the journey with theories and philosophies and charts, give yourself full permission. Resist the temptation to turn yourself into a laissez-faire mother when you are decidedly un-laissez. Research away, ladies. Pin 120+ recipes for puree. Find the best BPA-free sippy cup with 5-star reviews. Earmark the books on schedules, routines, and gather every Type A plan you can find.
- Then, explore.
Go ahead; veer off-course. Go rogue. You don’t need to decide today whether you’ll be a helicopter mom or a tiger mom, whether you’ll make your own baby food or nurse until your kid has teeth. You don’t need to decide if you’ll wave the banner for co-sleeping or cry-it-out. Meet your baby. Get to know your baby. Try really, really hard to enjoy your baby. Chances are, you’ll be a beautiful mix of all of the above, and chances are, you’ll be all the better for it.
Ken and I are older now, and wiser. We know enough to know we know very little. We know enough to know that nothing truly prepares us for babies, for children, for these old souls toddling around in tiny bodies, requesting apples and attention.
We know enough to know that – in matters of fluffing the nest – it’s all just fluff.
And for everything else? There’s plenty of room to grow.
This is an essay for Land of Nod, one of my favorite brands for kids. Thanks for reading!