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Essay: Moving the Nest

Babies are game-changers. When you have one, your home is no longer a crash pad. It’s a nest. When I delivered my first child seven months ago, I was living in a smallish two-bedroom apartment in Queens. In the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, we spent days meticulously acquiring and setting up baby gear. We decorated, baby-proofed and organized. I spent hours researching new parent groups, parent-baby classes, the best neighborhood parks and baby-friendly restaurants in our neighborhood. We wove a nest we were proud of, and it paid off when the baby arrived in the midst of a winter snowstorm that shut down public transit---but that’s a story for another time.

The first weeks and months after my daughter was born were wonderful, and the nest proved to be a perfect space. Washer-dryer in unit, no stairs, and everything within arm’s reach. We had ‘round-the-clock help from ecstatic grandparents, and we were all happy, healthy and joyfully sleep-deprived. But after the grandparents went back to their homes 150 miles away, after my maternity leave from work was up and childcare expenses kicked in, reality descended. We fast became exhausted, lonely and broke in the Big City. The best my daughter could’ve hoped for at that point was a daily walk up and down the block, maybe a weekend outing to the park, and a lullaby to the tune of discordant car horns and elevated train rumblings coming in from outside. Not ideal for raising a child.

It takes a village, as they say. We had a city of 8 million people. But as time passed, we discovered that all we wanted—all we needed—was a village. A village full of family and friends and the comforts of home to raise our daughter.

So we decided to move 150 miles up the Hudson River to a new city where the mortgage on a whole house—with a lawn, a driveway, a washer-dryer, the works—costs about half the rent we were paying in New York. Where my daughter can see her grandmas and grandpas every day. Where our friends all have kids my daughter’s age and where the best she can hope for—and have—is the perfect, idyllic existence I envisioned for her.

And we all lived happily ever after. Sort of. In our excitement to get to the horizon, we forgot one major mountain range—the fact that we’d have to literally tear up the nest we’d so meticulously crafted and rebuild it again. Break down all the little fibers—memories of sweet and sleepless first days and first experiences, as well as all the little parts of pack and plays and swings and bottle warmers—and weave them anew, all while balancing a bouncing six-month-old girl on our hips who needed all those things every second of the day. Carefully assembled toys and contraptions were dismantled and packed into a 14-foot truck, along with hundreds of pounds of our own furniture, clothes and personal items.

Where are the diapers? Oh no, I forgot to take them out of the bag that I stuffed in the box that’s now underneath the couch frame at the very back of the truck. That merited a last-minute run to the Duane Reade on the corner. to pick up another package of diapers. What about the wipes and the pacifier? Oh no, those too. Back to Duane Reade. Where are the baby’s pants? Unpack the truck, we have to find them! By the time we were ready to drive the truck, my car, our two extremely nervous cats and ourselves up I-87, we had assembled practically a second, temporary nest in the backseat. And then the baby went ahead and slept for the entire 2.5-hour journey anyway.

When we arrived at our new house—at half past midnight, no less—there was not so much as a sheet of toilet paper, no towels, no food and no internet. The baby slept in a hastily unfolded pack and play and we slept on the floor. It took weeks to get things unpacked and reassembled, three times as long as it would have taken without the little one in tow. Four weeks in, and I still don’t know where all the baby’s things are. We’ve had to borrow bibs and toys from friends down the street.

The whole process was exhausting, but I’m happy to say the house is now a very comfortable home. The grandparents are over every week. And we’re out and about every day, teaching our daughter about the wonderful world around her.

I’ve moved close to a dozen times in my life. My husband likes to say during every move that he wishes we could fast-forward to the point when we were all sitting on the couch together in our unpacked living room, curled up with a warm blanket and a good movie. I know what he means, but in hindsight, I'm not so sure about the virtue of skipping all of the packing and unpacking and frantic searches through piles of boxes for that one vital item we know is packed away somewhere. Without all of those headaches and hardships, we wouldn't have the memory of building our own nest... Again.

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