Making Room

A few thing babies don’t need:

  1. Perfect nurseries.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

  • LOVE this. I am almost 6 months pregnant with my first and am eagerly (anxiously) awaiting my due date! I’ve found that having a plan is good, but I’m going to do my best to not get bent out of shape when things don’t go according to plan and to leave room for adjustment to the plan. And you’re so right. Fluffing the nest…..really is just fluff! Although I am enjoying putting together a cute nursery :)

  • Oh, this makes me kind of chuckle. I have this 30×40 canvas that I started painting for my daughter’s room while I was pregnant because I had painted a mural for my son’s nursery at our old house and didn’t want her to suffer from the “2nd child curse” of being slighted. She’s almost two and a half and I’ve yet to finish that thing! But the great thing is, now that I’ve had time to watch her grow and develop some likes and dislikes, I realize that she loves owls and kitties and ducks more than the sea creatures I had originally planned. So who knows, maybe I’ll paint over it and start again, with all her favorites, and make it a gift for her third birthday-lol!

  • Your blog always makes me smile.Reading this today brought back many memories of my theee toddlers creating messes and filling my heart with so much love.
    Wishing your family many happy and loving moments!

  • Oh, how anxiety I didn’t know I had about this just went away reading your words. It’s perfect. Babies need so little, except a lot of love.

  • Your words always move me, even as someone who isn’t a parent yet in this life. I am a witness to friends and family members adding to their family – and it is so amazing to watch. What I can also see is the focus on all the stuff and the room, on needing this sense of perfection. I cannot predict what I will be like as an expectant mom in my future; all I know is I just want to be able to bring a baby home into somewhere simple, and into our already cozy home. We will just continue to adapt as time goes on. =)

  • Thank you for this, the gentle permission to let go! Reading this almost made me cry- probably a combination of your lovely words and pregnancy hormones and nervousness about being ready for #2 to arrive in less than 2 months. I am afraid of shortchanging my firstborn since my attention will be even more divided, and I feel guilty that #2’s room is still a guest room with nothing prepared for baby. This has reminded me to breathe and pace myself. Thank you. :)

    • oh, brie — i get it! and congrats on #2!!! i’m sure your transition will be precisely what it needs to be, and i’m so thrilled for your sweet firstborn to learn how to grow in love, as well. we’re all learning along the way, after all. ;)

  • Amen, sister! I had a nursery set up and that’s where he slept (because it was dark) but otherwise we hung out downstairs and I changed more diapers on the living room floor or guest room bed than I ever did on the official nursery changing station… = )

  • This is brilliant. We will welcome baby #2 in June and are NO WHERE near thinking about a nursery. With a bunch of life transitions lately, and a 2.5 year old, nesting/organizing a special room hasn’t been a priority. We are so excited to welcome him to our family, and I think this is the BEST way to do it. Maybe also by including something special for Big Sister as she will also be making room in her heart for him as well. Thank you for the beautiful reminder to live life slowly, and make changes that feel right (instead of pressured in to doing what “everyone else does”).

    • oh, congrats on #2, anne —– wishing you a beautiful transition full of love and learning!!!!! :)

Comments are closed.