Reader Sarah submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My husband and I are hoping to adopt a newborn. We could therefore be in a position of bringing home a newborn with very short notice. On the other hand, we could be waiting years. Some people I’ve talked to in a support group have said that they set up full nurseries, but that doesn’t feel right to us. We want to be prepared, but we don’t want to keep a lot of baby stuff to make us sad that we’re still waiting. Do you have any advice for figuring out and balancing what baby stuff we should get in order to avoid panic if we get the call, but without having stuff around that would end up as physical and emotional clutter until the baby comes? Thanks.
Initially, this question might seem like its answer will only apply to people in your very specific situation. This is not the case. When anticipating any life change, we all go through something similar. We want to look forward to the event (graduating college, starting a new job, having a biological child, getting married), but we also don’t want to be consumed by it. We don’t want the “one day” stuff to clutter up the present, but we also want to be properly prepared.
When we were in your exact situation, we did not set up the nursery. Even after we were notified we had been chosen and we had his delivery date on the calendar, we did not set up the nursery. It wasn’t until after we brought our son home that his nursery was assembled.
For one of our many state-mandated house visits for our home study, we had to show we had a place for our son to sleep and basic supplies for him. We showed our social worker what we had purchased, and all of it was being stored at the back of our bedroom closet. We had a Pack ‘N Play with a bassinet attachment (still in the box), a set of sheets for the Pack ‘N Play (we washed them and had them stored in a shoe box), a stroller (also in its box), a baby carrier a friend loaned us, a six pack of BPA-free bottles (still in plastic), and a diaper bag (but no diapers or wipes). That is all. State law required we buy the car seat within 24 hours of picking up our son, the box had to be unopened, and the receipt had to be taped to the box. So, obviously, we didn’t have a car seat, though we would have had one if the state would have allowed us to. Since we didn’t know at the time if our child would be a boy or a girl, how large the child would be, or if he/she had any dietary restrictions or allergies, we didn’t have clothes, diapers, or formula.
When we picked up our son, he actually came with some clothes, diapers, wipes, and formula. He also had a blanket, a stuffed animal, a quilted book, and a photo album. As we were walking to the car, my husband remarked that he was unaware children came with so much stuff. Even people who have biological children will comment that they didn’t realize they would be leaving the hospital with so many things in addition to their kid, but everyone does. Manufacturers of all-things baby and different charities give tons of stuff to hospitals every year that are passed along to new parents.
We have no regrets about not setting up a nursery. That being said, if there comes a point when you really want to make up the nursery, go for it. There isn’t a right or wrong way. You do what is best for you. It took us two and a half years from when we started the adoption process to when our son was home, and I can’t imagine walking past a decorated room that entire time. (People who have biological children don’t typically set up a nursery before they’re pregnant, so I don’t think our decision was all that odd.) For other adopting parents, though, a decorated room is a source of hope and excitement. It’s what works for them, and that is great for them. You do whatever you have to do to keep your sanity through the waiting period.
I offer the same advice to anyone eagerly anticipating a life change — do what is best for YOU and helps YOU to keep your sanity while you wait. If the stuff associated with the big change is a distraction (as it was to us), keep it out of the way or don’t have it at all. There will always be a way to get it when you need it. Besides, if your adoption ends up being from out-of-state, you’ll have to spend at least two weeks in that state before being able to travel home. You can always order everything you’ll need while you’re hanging out in the hotel (best yet, get a room in an extended-stay hotel, you’ll want the dishwasher and refrigerator) and all of the nursery stuff will be delivered by the time you get home.
If you feel like you should do something while you wait, I recommend reading books on parenting and child development. Ask your friends and family members with children what authors they like, and read those works. I’m a fan of the Love and Logic series, the Healthy Sleep Habits books, and Laura Berk’s child development texts. You won’t have much time to read once the little one arrives, so check out the books now. Plus, reading a bunch of different books on parenting styles will give you an idea of what type of parent you want to be. Another thing you can do while you wait is interview pediatricians in your area. We did this and it was nice to be able to sit and talk with the doctors about their styles of treatment without the pressure of “we need a doctor right now” hanging over us. The first time we took our son to the doctor, we already felt comfortable with his doctor and knew all about her experiences working with adopted children.
Thank you, Sarah, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I hope I helped you in some way, and good luck to you and your husband on your adoption.
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