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Nesting Instinct in Overdrive

Nesting Instinct in Overdrive

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

36.5 weeks pregnant here, with baby number two (firstborn son just turned four). I am nesting like crazy and can’t do anything about it because my wait-til-the-last-minute husband STILL HASN’T FINISHED CLEARING OUT HIS OFFICE WHICH IS GOING TO BECOME THE NURSERY. I have all this energy that I am just dying to pour into getting that room ready: there is IKEA furniture to put together (no, I promise I won’t try to handle anything heavy on my own)! There are clothes to sort! There are books to arrange! There are room decorations to be purchased and hung! And I can’t do a thing about it because hubby’s sh*t is still all over the room. (The silver lining is that I’m plowing my energy into organizing the preschooler, but still.)

To be fair to him:
-He is scrambling to get ahead at work so that he can take a good four weeks off when baby girl arrives.
-I’ve had an extremely difficult third trimester so he has been handling the bulk of the parenting duties with the four-year-old, and I know that you know how much energy a stubborn preschooler will suck out of you.
-He is taking good care of me and is always game for a late-night ice cream run when I run out.
-He HAS begun to organize and move some of the stuff out, it’s just that it’s not done yet.
-He’s well and truly exhausted from all of the above.

It’s just that he doesn’t seem to realize just how much I am going bonkers feeling like he’s holding up my baby preparations. I am still working full time for a few more days, but this is my last week and I really, really want to spend my first week off going all-out to get ready, especially since firstborn arrived ten days early and I am not really expecting to go all the way to my due date. I recognize that practically speaking, we don’t need the nursery ready when baby arrives – we have a cosleeper already put together and waiting and she will live in our bedroom for the first few months at least – but for my mental health I need it ready because NESTING. I am driving my poor husband crazy by hovering over him when he’s trying to do his own thing and attempting to give helpful suggestions to help him manage his time and get this stuff done. I KNOW that I’m being irrational but I just. can’t. help it. How can I stop driving us both mad? I need a verbal smack upside the head. Please give it to me.


My nesting instinct was so strong, so powerfully irrational, that my husband called it my nesting syndrome. He was…not wrong.

So while my no-longer-pregnant self can technically say all the stuff you admit you know already — seriously, you don’t need a perfect nursery set up for day one, your husband is excelling in the Good Supportive Husband in so many other areas, blah blah blah — my formerly-pregnant self is basically sitting here clawing at my face because I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL AND IT’S AWFUL.

First up, I want you to take some deep breaths. In through your nose, pushing your belly out, then exhale through your mouth until your lungs are empty. Do this 10 times. The next time* you find yourself standing at the office/nursery door while screaming internally, repeat this exercise. Somewhere else, somewhere quiet. Consider a full half hour of quiet meditation when your 4 year old is at school. I know this sounds corny and woo-hoo-y but trust me, as I speak from three-time experience. When the nesting instinct gets this strong and powerful, there is a tiny twinge of anxiety/OCD to it, so any sort of calming, anti-anxiety strategy can really help bring you back to center.

Next, look for any and all other projects you can throw your energy into. My nesting didn’t stop, by the way, once the nursery was done. Oh, noooooo. That restless, pent-up energy stuck around. I organized non-nursery closets. I washed the windows. The morning of my c-section I dragged all the trash and recycling cans off the curb because my husband said he’d bring them in “later” and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about them. I’m not saying that ANY of that stuff was really that important, or was anything other than a sign that I was slowly going batshit, but…it did help. That energy has to go SOMEWHERE, so look around your house for any (safe) project you’ve been putting off and consider tackling it instead.

Finally, talk to your husband. Show him this email (says the advice columnist who always kinda judges advice columnists when that’s their advice). Explain how you’re feeling, how grateful you are for everything he’s done, how irrational you know you’re being, but that you just. Can’t. Help. It. Find out if there’s anyway to compromise on his sort-and-organize-and-THEN-move process. Can the bulk of things simply get packed up in some nice bankers boxes and labeled for a more detailed sorting later? Can he focus on just one area (closet, corner for crib, etc.) so you can at least get started on one space? Once you’re home could he leave you with some instructions on how to take over the organizing/moving process? Could you possibly bring in a professional organizer for a few hours of super-charged progress? (Yes, these people exist and appear to be made of magic, as once I am no longer pregnant I suddenly revert to having a high tolerance for clutter and a hatred of all things organizing.)

If none of those things are options, or just continue to NOT HAPPEN FAST ENOUGH, go back to the previous two paragraphs and rinse and repeat. Deep breaths, relaxation techniques. You can certainly remind yourself that your daughter will actually come home to your room, not the Room Of Which We Do Not Want To Think About Right Now OMG, but do it in a kind way — no berating yourself for feeling this way or ordering yourself to STOP IT. Acknowledge the feelings, then visualize them flowing through and out of you, just like they will on the day your baby arrives. (Because seriously: POOF.)

Then, I dunno, go clean out your car, or rearrange a closet for kicks.

*Full disclosure: When I went to proofread this column I realized I’d typed “next time” as “nest time.” That amused me and I wanted to share. Also I am clearly still holding on to a bit of the third trimester crazy.


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Published May 8, 2015. Last updated March 27, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Karen

    May 8, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Congratulations mama! This is super awesome advice and will be useful from nesting overdrive stage all through parenthood.

  • Liz

    May 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Batch and freeze, baby!!! I spent my second round of nesting (baby is 2 months old now) doing all sorts of cooking and freezing for later. Soups, pulled pork, veggie chili, Amalah’s toaster pancakes (google it!), pesto pasta sauce, muffins. Anything and everything. And wow, it’s wonderful to have those easy breakfast and dinner options now. Amy’s right, it really helps to redirect your nesting energy into something you CAN have access to! Good luck for when you do get into that office/nursery, and here’s hoping for an easy smooth birth. 🙂

  • Brittany

    May 9, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Girl, I know I am also super pregnant and nesting, but you don’t sound OCD/illogical to me at all!  We are also converting an office into a nursery, and it is a lot of work!  You mentioned that you’ve had a difficult last trimester, but is the office-cleaning something that you can help with?  Maybe if you suggest the two of you put aside some time to work on it together, it will get done quicker?  Good luck OP!

  • Michelle

    May 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    LW here and thanks for the great advice! Of course knowing the laws of the universe, I had very little time off before baby arrived yesterday! I did manage to channel some of my energy into organizing and sorting, even though the clothes are still in boxes/baskets instead of put away nicely in the room of doom, but then my silly water had to go and break on me before I was ready (we all are happy and healthy). I’ll be bringing her home tomorrow for Mother’s Day and you’re right about the craziness disappearing with the pregnancy because even though I obviously still want the room done, it isn’t giving me crazy anxiety like it was before. Thank you!!

  • Caroline

    May 11, 2015 at 3:01 am

    I became totally demented by the idea of ”not having enough food in the freezer”. This translated into meals for WEEKS AND WEEKS AND WEEKS, which was plainly very useful, not least because I had an emcs and was in hospital for 3 nights post-birth and because I am THAT OCD, when we were staggering out of the door en route to the hospital in labour, I snatched a chicken bake from the freezer and thrust it into the fridge ”for when we get back hungry”. I know. All about the bloody food, who gives a sh1t, right? Me! That’s who, apparently. I also remember sitting at the top of our stairs, like a very round caged tiger, lying in wait for my husband, dog-tired, back from work, to hiss accusingly ”the cot isn’t erected”. He asked if he was allowed to go to the toilet first and I cried because this translated into You Don’t Care, No one Cares, This Child Will Be an Orphan. I was that caricature of a pregnant woman. Nesting is perfectly natural and now you want to get on with it. Explain it really nicely to him, offer to help, follow any of Amalah’s suggestions, but really, you will not be happy till it’s done. Then, when it’s done, you will find something else that cannot be left another second. Like… ooohh… cleaning the tops of shelves or cupboards or curtain rails. That’s always good.

  • CJ

    May 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Our nursery was mostly put together – except for the hole in the ceiling from where the carpenter fixed a leak, that needed to be patched and then the whole ceiling repainted.  My husband – for weeks! – said, “I’ll patch the hole and paint the ceiling over Memorial Day weekend” (a week before my due date). Guess who had an emergency C-section the Friday of Memorial Day weekend?  My dad ended up painting the ceiling and my stepmom organized all the nursery furniture while we were in the hospital.  

  • kimm

    May 12, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I was experiencing this, we had a room of doom where his cats lived, because I am allergic. When we got pregnant he said we would move them to the garage and that would be the nursery. That did not happen til I was 7.5 months, i was sooo frustrated. Our office& small bedroom had tall stacks of baby presents. I think he was in denial maybe? That a whole new person would be here soon& if the room wasn’t ready it wouldn’t happen. But finally it happened. Cats got the garage &a nice patio fenced in, & baby got a room& crib set up with the help of great friends. Whew.