It seems a worthy cliché. Many mothers will tell you that at some point during their pregnancy, often between the 5th and 9th months, they felt a strong urge to clean, decorate, organize and otherwise prepare the home for the arrival of their new baby. Many call this “nesting.”
Look out your window on a spring day and you may see human moms are far from alone. Mother birds demonstrate the art of nesting with great skill, selecting a location, identifying elements and bringing them together in time for baby’s arrival. Throughout wildlife, we can see the inclination among expectant parents to prepare in advance for the arrival of their newborns.
But if your nesting feels a little more frantic than birds, butterflies and blue skies, we understand! The desire to create the perfect nursery can be intense. So we reached out to the expert, Dr. Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist who specializes in women’s health with a focus on fertility, prenatal and postpartum adjustments and transitions in motherhood.
In the Q&A below, Dr. Zucker helps us understand why pregnant women “nest” and how we can best use this instinct to our advantage during pregnancy. She sheds light on the psychological as well as the practical components of nesting, inside and out.
Bonavita: Why do pregnant women nest?
Dr. Zucker: Not every pregnant woman goes through this, but many do find themselves intensely focused on preparing the home for baby.
There is something beautiful about it- the way we want to create a sacred base for the next generation. Often developing families want to engender something peaceful and inspiring within the home and within themselves in the midst of this transformative time as we want the next generation to come into a space that is nurturing and mindful.
Becoming a parent is such a significant milestone, often stimulating feelings of being incredibly out of control, not knowing how life will feel post-pregnancy. There is this sense that if women can have all of the diapers in place, the clothes folded, and the perfect stroller, the transition will be potentially gentler for them than it was for a friend who felt overwhelmed and out of control.
The desire to prepare is natural and healthy, so long as you are enjoying the process and not letting it overshadow the significance of what it means to be creating a family.
Bonavita: What advice do you have for expectant parents looking to create the perfect space?
Dr. Zucker: There are so many choices available in the marketplace for budding families. It can be overwhelming to make decisions, particularly with feedback from friends, family, and strangers chiming in about what to buy and what to avoid, not to mention the hormonal shifts that are taking place within the body. Try to hone in on your families values and sensibilities rather than wasting energy on keeping up with your neighbor’s nursery. Creating your baby’s nursery is not a competitive sport so I encourage people to focus on what feels authentic for your family and what feels deeply representative of your aesthetic.
But more importantly, my advice is to spend some time doing internal nesting as well and creating time to bolster internal resources. That means understanding your personal history, considering the way you were parented and the way your partner was parented, and deciding how you wish to parent your own child. Keep a balanced mind when it comes to preparing for baby’s arrival. The tendency to want to organize and create the perfect external space arises, in part, out of a need to organize what is internal. Pregnancy provides a poignant opportunity for internal nesting, family reflection, and exploring personal historical issues of significance. Research shows that mother-baby bonding and attachment are even more positive when the mother has a solid sense of who she is and how she was raised.
Bonavita: What type of atmosphere do you recommend for a nursery?
Dr. Zucker: The ideal atmosphere for your baby is one that is mindfully arranged and reflects a sense of your family. In your home, growing families want to create an atmosphere of beauty, safety, and trust. Trust develops when a feeling of safety and attunement exists. If you struggle with issues from your childhood around trust, pregnancy and new motherhood may be a great time to address these challenges. Research reports show that if you have a clear and honest sense of your personal history, it can do wonders for early attachment and bonding with baby.
Bonavita: How much nesting or decorating is too much?
Dr. Zucker: If you are enjoying the process, then perhaps you are doing just what feels right for you. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, this is completely expectable! Be sure to set aside time to think about who you are, what you want in terms of values for your burgeoning family, and what type of role model you want to be. Though color schemes and layout of the nursery are important parts of this incredible transition in women’s lives, feeling settled internally and in your partnership is just as significant. Thoughtfully creating a psychological space, as well as a physical space where baby will be raised, will positively impact the family as a whole.
Research reveals that perinatal and postpartum mood disorders are often linked to strivings for perfection, unprocessed traumas, among other things. Emotional wellbeing is something you can strive for throughout pregnancy. The perfect nursery? That’s the nursery where you and your family get to enjoy one another. If the core matters are in order, everything else will fall into place.
Dr. Jessica Zucker is a psychotherapist specializing in women’s health and award-winning writer residing in Los Angeles. She is a key contributor in the PBS project, This Emotional Life as well as a contributing author to Knowing and Not-Knowing and Sort-of-Knowing: Psychoanalysis and Uncertainty (2010). She also contributes to The Huffington Post.
Here are some other great blogs about nesting! Daniela Barbosa is techie nesting, and writes on her blog about reserving domain names for her baby! Lindsey Ivory spent the weekend nesting, and that included raking the garden. While Danielle is mentally redecorating her bathroom in advance of her baby’s arrival!
You can also read up on the nesting adventures of some expectant Mom’s at theBump.com And, while you’re there, make sure to enter theBump.com Bonavita crib contest for a chance to win a Hudson Crib, CoCaLo bedding and Serta mattress!
How are YOU dealing with Nesting? Have you been cleaning the house from top to bottom, obsessing over color schemes, rearranging furniture in the baby’s room or deciding between wallpaper and decorative trim? We’d love to hear from you! Share your personal story in the comment section below!
And, as always, Bonavita wishes you Inspired Nesting!