When mothers feel the need to nest

By Sara Dimerman, Psychologist on April 30, 2014

Even though it was over 15 years ago, I still vividly remember the last few days of my most recent pregnancy. My husband was sure I’d bring on labour as I jumped on and off the kitchen chair, sorting through and rearranging the items on the top shelf of our hallway closet. Once that was done, I polished the dining room table and chairs, organized the kitchen drawers, cooked and froze a bunch of dinners and made sure that we had a month’s worth of pet food in stock.

This sudden burst of energy after complaining about feeling so tired was no surprise to me, but was to my husband who didn't remember my being just the same before the birth of our first-born years earlier. I not only remembered but knew this to be a normal period – often defined as “nesting”. 

When I think of “nesting” I envision a pregnant mama bird gathering the last few twigs so that her nest is extra comfy once baby bird enters the world. I envision her making sure that it is sturdy and stable, with everything in place. Like any mama, she knows that for the first little while after her chick is born, she will be immersed in focusing on his needs and ensuring that he will be well fed and fit to survive. Just like the mama bird, we too want to make sure that our house is in order by the time we bring baby home. 

Although the urge for nesting is at its peak just before baby is born, pregnant women (and even those who are waiting for a surrogate or birth mother to give birth to her child), may experience the desire to tidy up, organize and prepare for the new member of their family at any point in the nine-month journey.

Satisfy your zest to nest but keep the following in mind:

  1. Don’t be surprised if the urge to organize doesn't hit you until your second trimester. During the first, you are more likely going to play it safe by not planning too far ahead. Some people may be superstitious about organizing a baby’s room or buying specialty items until later in the pregnancy. During the second trimester, as your hormonal levels change, you may feel a sudden burst of energy. Along with physiological changes, you are most likely more excited about the prospect of becoming a mom to the new babe. This excitement may propel you into preparing for his or her arrival.
  2. Just because your friend or neighbour is moving at a frenetic pace in anticipation of her baby’s arrival, know that there is no normal level of nesting behaviour. Some may be on a high, while others at a lower speed. If you’re not feeling any need to nest, this may be indicative of something else – perhaps you are so superstitious about feeling anything in advance of the baby’s birth that you repress any urge to nest. If you’re depressed or very anxious about having a baby, then you may be focused on these feelings instead. Maybe you’re just too tired or have other responsibilities (including other children or a career) that overshadows a strong desire for nesting. 
  3. Don’t be shocked if your partner is showing nesting behaviour, too. It’s not just the birth mom that wants the nest to be ready when her baby is born. 
  4. Be safe rather than sorry. In other words,don’t climb a ladder into the attic or work so hard that you cause harm to yourself or your baby. Take frequent breaks and remember to eat and drink. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  5. Know that the break between bringing baby home and getting back to “normal” is not so long or far off that you need to get absolutely everything in ship shape before baby arrives. Relax and enjoy as much time off before the baby comes home and remember to spend quality time with your partner too – especially if this is your first child!

By Sara Dimerman, Psychologist| April 30, 2014

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