From the very start, John and I chose not to find out the gender of our baby until his/her birth. The whole process of getting pregnant was so manipulated and controlled for us that we felt we wanted that element of surprise to be the big finale of that journey! It was actually pretty fun to check in with each other now and then to see if we were feeling “boy” or “girl.” At each ultrasound, we were careful to tell the tech that we didn’t want to know but then scrutinized the screen to see if we could make out any boy or girl parts. Everybody had their own (very strong) opinions of what we’d be having, based on a feeling, how I was carrying the baby, or their own wishes for us. People would give me the once-over and knowingly declare, “It’s definitely a boy/girl.” We did the “swing the ring” gender prediction thing (results were split). My acupuncturist regularly checked my pulses, and over the course of the pregnancy, switched from predicting girl to predicting boy. Though she’s right most of the time, we laughed it off as just another guess and looked forward to the day when we’d know for sure.
The trouble with waiting to learn your baby’s gender is that a pregnant mama wants to nest and it was surprisingly tricky to remain gender-neutral. I wanted to buy adorable baby clothes, to settle on a name, to daydream about what my child would be like. And a big hurdle was preparing the baby’s nursery. I went online to get ideas and many of the things that caught my eye were pretty specifically boy- or girl-targeted. The neutral nurseries seemed kind of boring and lacking personality to me. So I thought about what we hoped for our baby and the kind of life we live. I looked out the window of the nursery at the wide open hillside and blue sky. I thought about hiking and camping and skiing, about wildlife and snow and sunshine. Words that came to mind were “adventure” and “outdoors” and “mountains” and “color.” All of those things worked for any child (or grown-up), regardless of gender. Bingo.
Slowly, the nursery started to take shape. I found a lovely woodland quilt with pine trees on it and some adorable felt tree and mountain pillows to match. I registered for stuffed animals that we see on that back hill often: moose, deer, fox, bunnies. I asked a good friend (and graphic designer) to create a couple of colorful prints that I framed, a big bright sun and some Beatles lyrics. I hung a couple of dream-catchers on the wall, one from Etsy and one that was handmade by Amanda’s daughter. The theme of our Baby Bash was “The Adventure Begins” and the sleepy little fox on the invitation became sort of the mascot of the event, with toy foxes tucked here and there. I used them throughout the nursery, too. I reused a metal shelving unit I already had to store diaper cream, lotion, and All Good Goop within reach, along with all sorts of fun mementos. I envision Oden displaying treasures he finds on hikes and adventures on those shelves.
Reading was a huge part of my childhood and remains a favorite pastime of mine. I hope to instill that love in Oden, too. I reused some picture ledges that were already on the wall to display a rainbow of children’s books. The books themselves become artwork that fills the wall. There are plenty of my old favorites and even a couple of books from my own childhood collection. I tucked a couple of meaningful framed pieces of art in with the books and there are more little foxes here and there.
My parents kindly gave us our crib, which is new and modern. I wanted to balance that out with something vintage so I went shopping with a designer friend. We found a mid-century dresser with plenty of drawers and the shop-owner made a custom top for it. It’s awesome storage and serves as our changing table, too. I also kept a vintage pair of skis in the room along with an old advertisement for Alta Ski Area. Sun, snow, wildlife, mountains, color, adventure… CHECK. It was so exciting to watch the bits and pieces come together as my belly got bigger (and bigger)!
Everyone told me that if you invest in one piece of furniture in the nursery, make it the glider. “You’ll spend so much time in it,” they said. I looked online and found a beautiful glider that fit our style. I read all of the reviews, which were great. It was pretty pricey, but I justified it by remembering the advice we’d been given. When it arrived, I was crushed. It was too narrow to comfortably hold a baby, let alone read with a toddler in a couple of years. It swiveled but didn’t recline. And the kicker was that the back of the seat was too low to support my head. The mid-day naps and late-night feedings I’d imagined weren’t happening in that chair, so the grey glider went back. Luckily, I visited friends who’d recently had twins and sat in their glider. It was wide, soft and comfy, swiveled AND reclined, supported my head, was from a local store, and was half the price- even with custom fabric! It’s true- we spend a lot of time in that chair. (Lesson: shop around and physically SIT in the glider before you purchase it.)
We are lucky that Oden’s room has its own bathroom. I kept the artwork on the wall that was already there (color!) and added some fox details leftover from the Baby Bash. We have a basket of washcloths and a towel rack for hooded towels. We added a bottle warmer when we made the move to bottle feeding, eliminating any need to go up and down stairs or heat a bottle in the middle of the night. Oden got too big to take baths in the sink, so we use a little hammock in the tub that was a gift. He (mostly) loves it!
The final touches to the nursery were figured out as we started to use it. We switched out the bulb in a lamp to a lower wattage for dim lighting and use battery-operated candles at night so we don’t stimulate Oden to become wide awake during feedings or changings. We have a Bluetooth speaker that connects to our iPods for music when we’re in the room. John moved his acoustic guitar up there so he could play songs for Oden. I picked up some rustic woven baskets to use as a hamper and to hold blankets, handmade by my great-grandmother, mom, and dear friend, Nancy.
Right now, Oden sleeps next to me in a co-sleeper adjacent to my bed, so the nursery is mostly a room in which to feed and change him. But I can imagine the fun we’ll have in there, reading together, playing games, looking for animals on the hillside. I love how the room contains both new and old things with meaningful handmade touches everywhere. It will change over time, but it’s a great space with a lovely view that our little adventurer will grow into over the years. It’s a happy reflection of our family and has become one of my favorite rooms in the house!
More about BABY ODEN.
More about Home, Sweet Home.