You don't have to nest

The nesting instinct is a much-discussed phenomenon of pregnancy. 

Evidently, it’s totally common for pregnant women to get a huge burst of energy during the second trimester — or the last few days before giving birth (or both) — because we’re anxious to ensure that everything is “just so” for the arrival of our newborn. 

“Make freezer meals!” the online parenting articles urge frantically. “Scrub the bathroom grout with a toothbrush! Hang whimsical art in the nursery!” 

“Nursery?” was my irritable response to these web-based instructions during my first pregnancy. “Since when did a bedroom need a special name?” 

And then I’d read the entire Dear Sugar advice-column archive (

Not that kind of mom

My response to the reality of my imminent motherhood was something that might best be described as “the denial instinct.” 

“I’m not one of those pregnant ladies,” I’d think to myself as I wedged my 32-week bulk through a sold-out crowd at First Avenue. 

“Look at me — a total badass!” I bragged to my inner admirer as I performed fancy Pilates moves during an advanced reformer class.  

In retrospect, I think I understood, on some level, that my life was about to change in a very huge and fundamental way — and I was terrified. 

While some women (more rational women, I might suggest) channel their anxiety by getting themselves as prepared as possible (washing onesies, stockpiling diapers, stenciling woodland creatures on the walls), I took my feelings of fear and anxiety and did what I do best — suppressed them, squeezed into an ironic T-shirt and headed down to the 331 Club to check out a loud rock show. 

The lifeboat arrives 

Lucky for me, I had people in my life who knew firsthand what I was getting myself into and helped me prepare. One friend, a mother of three, stopped by my house to drop off a bassinet, a bouncy seat and about 50 pounds of baby clothes. 

My coworkers bought me a fancy jogging stroller. My dance instructor gave me a huge box of baby wipes. My best friend’s mom gave me a changing pad and a ton of diapers. 

In short, my friends totally bailed me out. Without them, I wouldn’t have just been a weepy postpartum mess — I would’ve been a weepy postpartum mess fashioning diapers out of old T-shirts and stashing my baby in a hatbox. 

Enjoy the life before 

That said, I don’t completely regret my head-in-the-sand approach to my first pregnancy. 

When I witness friends falling into the rabbit hole of compulsive pregnancy preparation (obsessing over the “right” kinds of diapers, labor-preparation exercises and so on), I want to grab them and say, “Hey — you’ll have plenty of time to obsess over everything once the baby is here! Go ahead, eat a French fry.” 

I guess the moral of my story is, “Be prepared — at least a little.” 

It’s good to come back from the hospital/birthing tub in the living room/place where you adopted your baby and find food in the refrigerator and diapers at the ready. 

But it’s also good to take some time to honor and enjoy the ephemeral soon-to-be-parent state that marks the transition between free-and-easy, childfree person to responsible full-time caregiver. 

So go ahead and book that trip to New Mexico. Meet a friend for dinner instead of attending yet another “meet the midwives” summit. And when you’re at home in the evening, grab your keys and walk out the door without a handbag/laptop case/diaper bag/infant bucket seat in tow, just you — gloriously alone. 

Trust me on that. 

Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to