Building a nursery is how I maintain my sanity while trying to conceive

Guest post by Surly Canuck
All photos by Surly.

My husband and I are trying to make a baby. I don’t know anything more grueling than trying for a baby. There are the well-meaning/oblivious comments (“What do you mean it’s hard? Don’t you like having sex?”), doing things that would have baffled my pre-conception self (staring at used toilet paper as if it’s a Rorschach test, “Now what kind of mucous is this?”) and the hopefulness that turns to despair if the red tide rolls in.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve been on this ride for almost a year now. About five months ago, I started doubting that my partner and I would ever be able to get things started. I was a mess. It wasn’t pretty. I think a big stressor for me is that a lot of the baby-making responsibility rests on my uterus. I’m the only one who can take my temp in the morning. I’m the one tracking my symptoms. And I’m the Bad News Bear when my period shows up.

I was tired of feeling like I was letting my partner down. It didn’t matter that I knew he was disappointed in the situation and not with me. I still felt responsible. I didn’t need him to say anything, I needed him to act. So I gave him a responsibility: I asked him to do something for the nursery-to-be. Whatever he wanted. What I was really looking for was reassurance that he thought we’d get there eventually.

My wonderful partner scoured the city and brought home a stuffed otter. It was perfect. I LOVE otters and the fact that they hold hands so they don’t float apart… well that left me teary-eyed. Most of all, it gave me hope that my partner truly believed that this was going to work out for us. Since then, we try to do something for the nursery every month.

It doesn’t have to be anything big or costly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Pick up a favourite children’s book
  • Get pictures/art framed
  • Complete one of the countless DIY projects you’ve pinned on Pinterest
  • Clear out the storage locker/garage (and make room for future baby gear)
  • Donate or sell unused furniture clogging up that room (workout equipment, old furniture you’ve held onto “just in case”);
  • Make an extra contribution to the baby fund (maybe from your Craigslist or Kijiji profits);
  • Move things around (we used to keep our cat’s litter box in the library/nursery-to-be);
  • General upgrades (repainting, installing a new light fixture, putting up shelves, adding a door); and,
  • Consider the many options available for big ticket items and discuss what would fit your family’s needs (for us, with only 750 sq. feet to work with, it’s a real game of Tetris).

I really feel that by preparing the space, we’re preparing ourselves. Another bonus is that since we’ve started sprucing up the library/nursery-to-be, we’ve been getting a lot more use out of it.

This extended nesting might not work for everyone, but it’s a ritual that calms me, and it helps my partner and I feel like we’re both part of the process. So if you’re feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, maybe look for your own little otter to hold your hand.

Comments on Building a nursery is how I maintain my sanity while trying to conceive

  1. “I’m the Bad News Bear when my period shows up. I was tired of feeling like I was letting my partner down. It didn’t matter that I knew he was disappointed in the situation and not with me. I still felt responsible. ”

    After over two two years trying (and one early miscarriage two years ago) this is exactly the place I am in. Thanks for your post, I’m going to give it a go.

  2. …and now I’m crying.

    We’ve been trying for 2 years without luck. I don’t even get the benefit of having my vag look like a war zone once a month, because my ovaries suck – so I’m lucky if it’s even once every 6 months. I get so tired of temping and playing with cervical goo and taking handfuls of pills that may or may not fix things enough to make my own body start functioning.

    You’ve just made me feel significantly less insane, because I make things for our future baby, I have bought various baby items, we’ve got quite a collection of kids books….

    Thank you, so freaking much, for writing this.

    • I totally hear you about being tired of the temping and goo. It’s a struggle and way more complicated than Health Class had prepared me for (one teacher warned against dry humping because sperm could potentially swim though jeans).
      Another poster below called it like a hope chest, and I think that is the perfect term for it. We’re not insane, just coping the best way we can. =)

  3. I’ve tossed this idea around a few times, never having the courage to say it aloud, every time we find out we aren’t pregnant. Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants to talk about it and find a way to mark that we are moving toward one day going to have our family. Even if it isn’t this month.

  4. This is great! My husband and I are not quite at a year, but definitely at the starting-to-lose-sanity point (ok, that’s mostly me). I LOVE buying baby things. Especially clothes, because the tiny cuteness is just the reassurance I need. Recently, we came across a gorgeous rocker and there was no way I could let that nursery item pass by. Now, it sits in my home office, with a onsie on it. Once a day I try to sit in my “baby chair” with y baby clothes and meditate and pray about and for the baby we will someday have.

    Plus, as we’re gotten further into trying, I no longer hide my baby goods when someone comes over. If people ask, I’m honest. I’m taking all the thoughts and prayers I can get at this point.


    • I sincerely hope that I get to the point where I am comfortable not hiding my baby goods away. Right now, it’s such a terribly painful conversation to have with people….

    • I found letting people know to be a relief. Sometimes it can be a hassle but not having to hide makes it so worth it. I love sharing with people what we’ve done so far and all our plans. It’s a way to share our pre-baby excitement.

      By the way, my husband really wants a rocker. What type did you get?

  5. My husband and I had a traumatic first experience being foster parents. I want to redo the child’s room in our house and make it nicer, different (and maybe patch the holes the last kid put in the walls and finally finish scrubbing “I HATE SAM” that he scrawled in crayon all over).
    I don’t know. If feels dangerous. Hoping is so vulnerable. And it feels disloyal. I hate erasing the kids from our lives and our home.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that Sam. I don’t have much experience with fostering (a family friend was a foster parent), but from what I’ve seen it takes a lot of strength and love to give a child a safe place. Do you have pictures of the little one? Maybe you could have a family wall or photo album that you add to?

  6. My husband and I did this for years in a small way. We’ve been together for eight years and knew from the moment we met we’d be together and hopefully have a family some day. The problem was between financially, college, and well just immaturity we knew we weren’t ready to begin that step in our lives. So we used my “hope chest” passed down to me from my Mom to fill little things for our future with. Baby items, and even candle holders before we had moved out on our own. I think it’s a wonderful idea, I can see how it would help people feel a little closer to the dream whether it be children, a house, a wedding….. So many things. Big hugs to you, it took us only 8 months to get pregnant but I kind of understand that pain of waiting and wanting so badly. Good luck to you! Sending lots of good vibes your way!

    • Thanks Dana! I love the idea of calling it a hope chest. That seems so perfect. It does give the feeling of moving foward. Congrats on your growing family and best wishes to you.

  7. My husband and I had something similar, but with my baby brother. He had a room in our home that he chose to (to be fair, we picked the color for a portion of our kitchen and overestimated the amount we needed) paint angry red. He put holes in as many walls as he could, even put a hole through the door (I don’t know if he knew it was an odd size and would cost us a great deal to replace, but I choose to think his rage got the better of him with no ill will). When we finally had enough, and got over the guilt of having enough, we painted. And it was good to put a peaceful scene over the anger.

  8. I did this for so very long. For years I hid it away so no one knew I was stockpiling cutsie stuff but finally I thought what the hell screw everyone else. Slowly building up a nursery was just so healing for us. After 5 years of trying we finally got pregnant and you know what; sure as hell took the pressure off of us to have a nursery already built.

    • At first I hid it too, but then because I a) suck at keeping secrets and b) love sharing stuff I love, I found myself sharing with those nearest and dearest. Sometimes people ask what we’ve done lately for the nursery, which is a lot less stressful than people asking whether we are pregnant yet. Congratulations on your kidlet! I’m hoping that all this prep work will give us one less thing to be stressed about once we see that positive sign.

  9. I always worry I’m going to jinx it to buy stuff. Like, then the baby will never happen. I shudder to think of a day that we give up trying and I would have to pack up and get rid of it all. 🙁

    • This is something that held me back at first, too. I’m not going to lie, it does still color the things that we buy. Like right now our next big purchase is a dresser for the corner. For now it can be used for guests (or wrapping paper storage) and once we are pregnant we’ll add the attachment that turns it into change table. All the things that we have are things we love and that we can use (I have a nephew so that helps justify some things). And right now, it’s about hope. I need that more than I need to be cautious, but that’s me, and I completely understand that it’s not for every one. Good luck!

    • I feel like I’m Not Allowed to buy baby stuff for myself because I’m still not pregnant. But I can’t bring myself to buy it for other people because then I’m standing in a department store crying over tiny socks with puppy faces on them. Which is totally not a thing that has happened.

      • I know exactly what you mean, I’m in the same boat you are. Right now I don’t have a job so I actually can’t buy cutsie stuff, but it always makes me really sad passing by the baby aisles at different places. And I totally did not also burst into tears over an adorable pair of baby socks at the store. Totally did not happen at all.

  10. I agree so much with the sentiment of this post! One other thing I can add that is a cool thing to do is to learn a craft, particularly a fiber art related craft such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidering, etc. It helps keep you busy and sane, it allows you to add to that future baby pile, and you end up with lots of items that are ready-made gifts for others. I did this and it truly helped me.

    Collecting books is wonderful too, I wholeheartedly agree. I have a lovely little book collection now for my expected-in-October munchkin. 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. We’re only 6 months into trying, but I bought my first onesie a few months back, I wanted to use it as a way to tell my husband that we were pregnant. Now it just sits wrapped up in tissue paper in a little draw. Every now and again I go and look at it and have a little cry. So glad I’m not the only one

    • Hey Louise, yeah this whole babymaking business can feel pretty lonely. I’m sorry it hasn’t worked out for you yet, but I’m sending you lots of good vibes.

  12. The bonus is you get an eclectic baby space that came together over time!
    It started with an owl bank for me, then a folk art fox and a ceramic jellyfish with yarn tentacles! A few years after the collection started, they have all moved out of their plastic bin and into my daughter’s room. ( that she doesn’t sleep in :P)

  13. I actually did the same thing. It helped me to get through my miscarriage and have something constructive to work on. I had plenty of time to paint the room in multiple colours collect children’s books and refinish old furniture finds off kajiji. I didn’t want to show it to anyone since it was almost too personal to explain. We are now pregnant and most of our family and friends have seen it. They all were pretty surprised to find out what I had been doing and I think they understood a bit how lonely the process is.

  14. I like this idea! I’ve been cleaning more and “nesting” while we work on conceiving. We’ve been trying four months and my period has suddenly decided out of no where that it would like to become irregular. That four months has been two cycles of around 60 days each. It’s maddening. So yes, preparing our home for a baby has been helping me too!

  15. After trying for about nine months, I got pregnant, but hubby forbid me to buy baby things until we reached three months / told people. Two months in, my (tight) shirts started (paranoically to me) showing, so I bought a few maternity shirts behind hubby´s back, but he loving smiled when I caved and showed them to him. I miscarried a few days later, so if I wasn´t “allowed” to buy baby things while pregnant, you can only imagine what I´m “allowed” to do while WAITING to be pregnant 🙁
    I have to admit, between TRYING and the aftermath of the miscarriage, I´m a hormonal bipolar on the verge of getting depressed… :´(

    • That’s one of the worst things about early pregnancy: the secret. We’re so afraid of miscarriage, but when I had mine, I didn’t have anyone to share my grief with until much later. Perhaps that’s being unfair to my partner, but he was going through his own grief and I felt the need to be strong for him.

      Hang in there. Keep hoping.

  16. I had so much guilt when I first started getting baby things. It was as if I was stealing from some other woman shopping for her baby. I wondered if I was sick and torturing myself. But finding a deal on bottles, or cute little shoes, it made me so happy. After two years and one miscarriage, it’s hard to find anything about this process that makes me happy.

    Still, I hide it. I don’t want to jinx anything, and I don’t want the questions. I have little monster mittens peeking at me in my sock drawer and a plaid baby hat on my bookshelf.

    It’s part of the dream. Thank you for reminding me of this. <3

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