When I was pregnant, I had an overwhelming desire to overhaul the two-bedroom apartment I share with my husband — not just to make room for baby, but to accommodate our new lives as a family of three. That meant a lot of trips to furniture stores and a lot of putting stuff together, from the crib to a new kitchen island. I also discovered gross stuff lurking behind the trash can that had to be scrubbed off stat, and don’t even get me started on what was in the back of the refrigerator. Yup, I — the girl who is usually allergic to housework — was nesting.
Why we do it
People who refer to a pregnant woman’s urge to prepare the home as an “instinct” are on to something. Sure, birds are the best-known nesting animals, but mammals like us do it too — our hormones may be partly to blame for giving us the impulse to browse for hours searching for the perfect nursery paint color and folding newborn onesies into tidy little stacks. But it’s also our nerves. No matter how much we’re looking forward to life with baby, it’s truly scary knowing that we're in for such a drastic change, and preparing our surroundings as much as possible makes us feel like we have just a little bit of an edge in getting this whole-new mom thing right.
The first surge to expect
A lot of moms-to-be do big-time nesting in the second trimester, when their energy level is at its highest. You might find yourself noticing things that need fixing or reorganizing. You might look around your home and realize that you need to squeeze in an entirely new person — and all of his or her stuff —and clean out closets and drawers to make room. You might do some deep cleaning because things seem too germy for a vulnerable newborn's environment. You might do all of the above. sometimes, the tasks are huge, like a kitchen remodel; other times, it’s as simple as finally finishing that scrapbook. it could be baby-related or not.
...And the second
The nesting urge could kick in again close to your due date — some say that neurotically cleaning your home is a sign you’re about to go into labor. (Case in point: my friend, april, who did laundry in the buff to ensure every stitch of clothing she owned was clean. three days later, her son was born.) Seriously, don’t stress. Sure, some to-dos are important, but others can wait until after baby is born.
Clean, but clean wisely
Okay, so it will feel really good to be prepared for baby, but it’s also important for your health and sanity not to stress yourself. If you have unrealistic expectations for what you can get done before the birth (news flash: it’s never everything), then you’ll just wear yourself out trying. So know that plenty of it can wait until later.
If you suspect your nesting efforts are over-the-top, ask yourself how you’re feeling, since heightened nesting behavior can be associated with anxiety. Remind yourself that it’s normal to be nervous about having a baby and consider talking to someone you trust about your feelings to get it off your chest. and if your nesting seems scary, out-of-control or is affecting any of your relationships negatively, consider seeking professional help. Otherwise, happy cleaning!
The Bump Expert: Carrie Contey, PhD, a prenatal and perinatal psychologist in Austin, Texas
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