Gently gliding back and forth in the rocking chair of my soon to be baby girl’s nursery. I remember the feelings of nervousness, excitement, curiosity and peace that this nightly ritual provided me. I also fondly recall the planning. The preparation. The detailed list of tasks I created and then embarked on with great zeal as I readied the nest for my newborn.
Like many first-time moms to be, I was so excited to create a baby registry. That detailed list of a zillion items I never knew I needed, but was suddenly convinced that I could not live without. I am pretty sure that first list had at least 300 items on it. Who were the 300 people who would buy me all the items on that registry? It didn’t matter! I wasn’t making that list for other people to buy me presents, the truth is that I was making it for me. Every night I would sit in the nursery in the rocking chair which my mother had once rocked me on as a baby and poured over my baby homework. I would carefully read the newest edition of “Parenting” magazine, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. I would also talk to every mother I knew. Who am I kidding, I talked to every mother I saw. In the checkout line at the grocery store, at the bookstore, in my doctor’s office waiting room, it really didn’t matter who they were, I felt a sudden and instant connection with other mothers. I was now part of a club and they were profound sources of knowledge and wisdom whom I wanted to learn from. Each week for roughly nine months, I am pretty certain I made the pilgrimage back to Babies R Us to amend my list based on the profound revelations from my baby homework.
The nesting was not limited to the creation of a baby registry. One cannot underscore the importance of readying the actual nest. The detail I put into laying out the nursery…the crib had to be positioned so that the baby would get sunlight. But not too much sunlight that it would impair her ability to sleep soundly. The color palette on the wall needed to be peaceful and just the right hue. The clothing needed to be washed and hung on matching hangers. I am pretty sure I even ironed the crib sheets. I carefully selected a variety of books for the bookshelves and meticulously laid out toys in strategic play zones that I created in her room.
Fast forward to the day of her birth. My planning had paid off beautifully. I was ready, or so I thought. I calmly slept through the night before her scheduled induction. I arrived at the hospital on time and all went according to plan. I watched tv and joked with the nursing staff as I waited for my body to tell me the time had arrived. Finally, the moment came. Still calm, I relied on my planning, my preparation and proceeded to follow the directions just like my doctor told me until the moment he said, “One more push and she will be here!” I froze and screamed “STOP! I need a minute.” In that moment I realized I wanted time to stop. Not forever. Just for a minute. I became keenly aware that the last push was the final step in my nesting. After that, my life would change forever. My baby was about to inhabit the nest.
It’s been eighteen amazing years since that January 8th. I am on the home stretch of my firstborn’s last two months of high school. The college selection process has literally consumed our world. At first it was high school course selection and the meetings with guidance to ensure she took courses with the perfect amount of rigor. The lengthy hours of extracurricular activities and balancing homework. Then, came the dreaded SAT preparation. The intense test preparation classes and the large SAT prep book which she should probably ritualistically burn now that the testing is finally over. Finally, we arrived at the college application process. Road trips to visit potential schools. Pouring over college websites and school statistics. Tweaking the perfect essay. Writing the detailed resume and completing the time-consuming applications only to wait in great angst for D day. After an arduous process, my daughter made her selection. She would be Bama Bound as she chose the University of Alabama! She did it! She made her choice. The prep work is done…or so I thought.
In the past two months since my daughter made her selection, a funny thing has happened to me. My natural propensity for planning and list building has gone into hyper overdrive. Each Saturday I have awoken early, laptop in tow and have begun the process of supporting my daughter as she readies herself for the next chapter in her life’s journey. I have researched everything there is to know about the University of Alabama, the state of Alabama, the town of Tuscaloosa and every nearby city. I have watched hours of YouTube videos of the university campus, researched each sorority on campus and poured over every aspect of the school’s website. I’ve even researched every dorm down to comparing the square footage of rooms. I’ve joined Alabama parent blogs and Facebook groups and of course every person I meet who went to Alabama or has a child at the school I feel an instant connection and bond with. My daughter and I direct message each other dorm ideas from Instagram no less than five or six times a day and of course we share a Pinterest board where we collect dorm ideas. I’ve even taken my insane planning to a whole new level of absurdity and created a PowerPoint vision board for her dorm room, alongside a color coded and tabbed Excel sheet of things we need to do in the next 126 days (but hey, who’s counting days?).
The shift to overdrive of my behavior in the past two months has had a warm sense of familiarity. But last week the connection hit me square in the eyes with great clarity. I often look back comically at my behavior back when I was pregnant for the first time and how much attention I paid to planning for the unplannable realities that come with having children. I realize now (a few kids later) that the perfect nursery really doesn’t matter and the best laid plans frequently go out the window when you experience the unexpected realities of the unknown. But nonetheless, the planning is part of the nesting process. We plan in the name of our children’s nest way more for ourselves than for our little ones because the planning is a way to control our fear of the unknown. Life is truly a cycle and I realize that my maternal nesting instinct has kicked into overdrive as I find a sense of peace in planning for the nest my little bird will soon inhabit. I wonder, do birds even live in nests on their own or do they build them only to support their babies until they can fly? I am not sure, but I realize that my first-born soon will be leaving our home to start an amazing new chapter in her life. I want to once again scream “STOP! I need a minute.” My instinct to nest in preparation for my firstborn’s departure is how I am preparing myself to watch my baby fly.