As I wrote about previously, I wasn't able to "nest" at all during my pregnancy with little S. Instead, I was packing up our spacious two bedroom apartment and preparing to move... somewhere. Until two weeks before she was born, we had no idea where we were going. When D accepted the job in Williamsport, the great apartment search began. It became pretty obvious that we would only be able to afford a one bedroom apartment, which didn't seem ideal with a new baby arriving soon. Two days before S was born, D found our new home: a nice one bedroom apartment within walking distance of his work. I love our new apartment, but I didn't see it until we moved in two weeks after S's birthday.
All this uncertainty about our living situation meant that I couldn't prepare a space just for the baby, and this was hard. Especially with so many of my creative and organized friends posting pictures of their cute nurseries with matching crib sets/hampers/diaper bags and adorable wall clings. Yes, I had nesting jealousy (and still sometimes do!) But, in reality, our situation ended up being really good for me in several ways:
1) We don't have the disposable income to spend on decorating... well, anything. So no matter how many cute baby nursery ideas I stumbled across on Etsy, I was able to save tons of money and avoid the temptation simply because I didn't have a room to call a "nursery."
2) I wanted to avoid getting overwhelmed with too much stuff. We had several baby showers and were very blessed with many great things for S, but without a room to fill I had a good excuse for not getting all of the so-called "necessities" that baby stores try to push on you. I wanted to avoid the rampant consumerism that has become parenting (well, as much as possible...) and not having an actual nursery made this a lot easier!
3) It kept things in perspective. Sure, it would be great to have a separate room for the baby, where I could rock her to sleep and then lay her in her crib, turn the baby monitor on, and go spend some alone time with my husband. But that idea is a luxury; in many places around the world, families of many generations share a room out of necessity (if they even have a room to share). While this isn't as common in the US, I think my complaints about not having a second room just for our infant seems pretty minimal on the global scale of problems.
Anyway, all that is to say that one part of our bedroom is now designated as the "non-nursery." This is where I keep all of S's clothes, diapers, toys, etc. And when she no longer sleeps in our bed, she'll sleep in the pack n play, in our room. The best part about our "non-nursery": it was totally free. Everything we have in the space was either used elsewhere in the house pre-baby, or was a gift. Here's a tour:
|Cloth diapers in the blue bin (which used to hold hats & gloves), baby wipes, and all of her toys, extra warm blankets, and 6 month & older clothes in the white bin (which used to hold winter clothes).|
|This wooden stand we bought at a yard sale three years ago for $2 (it used to hold tools) is the perfect size.|
|On top of the wooden night stand is a basket of diaper covers, a basket of socks & hats, and then some first aid supplies and the baby monitor.|
|These are the only decorations in her space. The wall hanging was D's when he was born. The cross I made in college (it used to hang in the kitchen).|
|The Willow Tree figurines and the autographed plate were gifts, and add a little something to the windowsill.|
|Little S enjoying her dragonfly toy.|
We use a pack n play instead of a crib, because it didn't make sense for us to have a crib AND a pack n play stored away somewhere to use on trips.
This room arrangement works out really well for now. Since S sleeps in our bed for the time being, the pack n play is really only used for diaper changing and naps, but sometime in the next month or two we'll probably transition her out of our bed. (She'd probably be okay with it right now, but I love cuddling with her at night, and it makes night time feedings much easier!)
As for the baby items that don't fit in our room, they are scattered around the house (hopefully in a charming, well-organized way and not a "oh my goodness a baby exploded" kind of way.) The rocking chair and her swing are in the living room. We find this arrangement works really well because it allows us to rock her and still spend time together (or throw on an episode of Mythbusters during a fussy time and calm her without losing our minds). I nurse her wherever I am when she needs it; in the rocker, on the couch, or in bed. She has a bouncy seat in the kitchen, so when I'm cooking I can still talk to her and she can still see me. Her bathtub lives in an alcove in the hallway (our bathroom is too small for it), and any other items we have for her that she's not big enough for are stored in my closet.
Note: the two things that you don't see in the above pictures that are also in the nursery space are a trash bag for wipes and a laundry basket for dirty diapers. Since both had dirty items in them, I thought they didn't need to make it into the picture. Right now, I just use a regular laundry basket for her diapers because that's what we had, but I might transition to a closed bin of some sort if I get the chance (so I don't have to see her dirty diapers every time I walk into the room).
Here are some tips I found for keeping it cheap (or free) when preparing for baby:
- Register carefully. Don't fill your registry with too many "frills." If you only put on what you need, then you will get exactly what you need and not have to spend money on your essentials. Of course, it's not a bad idea to think big when registering either. I knew we would need a baby monitor; I thought it would be helpful to have one with video. So I put that on the registry with a note that any baby monitor would really be fine, and ended up getting the nice video one I requested. (This doesn't always work - the stroller on our registry is super expensive, and we never got it. But since I wear S in a wrap most of the time, a stroller wasn't one of our top priorities and, especially at this age, I wouldn't use it much anyway.)
- Figure out what your essentials really are. We did this by not getting a crib and just going with the pack n play. When we tried to register at Babies R Us, they gave us a list of "necessities" that had over 100 items on it. I found this to be a bit ridiculous. Really, a baby doesn't need very much... it's the parents that want these things to make our lives a bit easier. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're on a tight budget and not blessed with overly generous family members, keep in mind that babies really just need to eat, sleep, and be loved on. Oh yes, and get lots of diapers (But that crib-side wipe warmer? Maybe not...)
- Re-purpose old items. Shifting around some storage space gave me the chance to use some bins and baskets for baby items. Old t-shirts make great spit-up rags or diapers. Be creative!
- Hand-me-downs are your best friend. S's first doll is a rag doll my mom made me when I had my tonsils taken out at age five. The wall hanging by her pack n play was made by D's aunt when he was born. Many of her blankets and toys were given to us from friends whose children had outgrown them.
- Think outside the (matching) box (set). Many baby things are sold in matching sets - sheets, blankets, towels, wall hangings, diaper holders, hampers, etc. If you don't have the budget to be all matchy-matchy, then remember that this nursery "ideal" is only ideal if it fits your budget. I am quite pleased with the way S's space looks, even if it isn't color coordinated or have a homogenous look. And if you do want everything to match, remember that many things sold for babies are most likely sold (cheaper) in other departments of the store.
- Don't be afraid to be a bit "ghetto." If we had not received a pack n play, S's sleeping space would probably have been a laundry basket or a dresser drawer. I can guarantee she would not have known the difference. Also, while we got a lot of clothes for her, we got them in many different sizes. She only has so many outfits that fit over her cloth diapers and still fit her well at 5 weeks and 10 pounds (almost too big for newborn, still too small for most 0-3 month), and since she spits up after every feeding (or so it seems), we can go through several outfits a day. The solution? Naked baby! It's summer, it's hot, so whenever we're in the house she hangs out in a diaper. (Bonus: cloth diapers come in cute patterns so she's still adorable.) I dress her when we go out, but that's basically it. It saves me from having to buy her an excessive amount of clothing (and then having to find a place to keep it now, and then store it later when she outgrows it), and it also saves me from doing full laundry loads of onesies.
- Don't compare your stuff to your friend's stuff. This is probably the biggest tip I can give. I spent many a pregnant evening with the blues when I heard of other expectant friends picking out the paint colors for the nursery, coordinating crib sheets, getting monogrammed blankets, and so on. This led to a lot of unnecessary (hormone-related) doubt about my ability to provide a good home for my daughter. I know that sounds insane, and now that my hormones aren't nearly as haywire I am almost embarrassed to admit it.
I was nervous about not having space just for the baby, but it is working out really well. She has become a part of our lives pretty seamlessly, even with all the transition we've gone through. She is learning to sleep when there is noise, or when a light gets flicked on in the middle of the night (at least, for now). And because we all share a space, I believe this facilitates D's interactions with her, as well. When he gets home from work he spends a lot of quality time with her, but if she's napping he can still be in the same room with her without having to seclude himself from me.
I know a lot of people who are waiting to have children until the time is "right," usually referencing having more money or better living conditions (buying a house, getting a bigger apartment, etc.) To be honest, I am so glad we were blessed with little S before we thought we were "ready." If we had waited until our medical bills and student loan payments are manageable, or until we made enough to live in a bigger place or buy a house, we would have never had children! Trust me - I know I am only six weeks into motherhood, but it is entirely possible to have a baby and be happy without a lot of extra money (especially if you have generous friends and family) or lots of extra "space." After all, all a baby really needs space-wise is a pair of loving arms:-)