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Runck: Nesting instincts are a privilege, not a burden

Jessica Runck, Homegrown Hollywood columnist

Last week, I convinced my husband, Jason, that we needed to replace all of the furniture in our living room.

The week before, I took out every book on our floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and dusted it. Last month, I emptied out my office and donated half of everything to Goodwill. I believe this is what people call "nesting."

For the first five months of my pregnancy, I had no nesting instinct at all. I felt smug about it, pleased I wasn't fitting into the cliche of a pregnant woman cleaning her bathroom with a toothbrush. But then one day, I looked around at our lovely house and our perfectly good furniture and announced to Jason we couldn't possibly bring a baby into this dump.

He listened patiently as I explained our baby will be meeting us for the first time and we needed to make a good impression. For the next few weeks, I was possessed. All I could think about was cleaning and organizing and figuring out what color of couch would look best in our living room.

An internal battle raged as the hormonal side of my brain shouted down the practical side. "I definitely shouldn't buy new furniture." (DO IT NOW!) "I shouldn't be on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor." (IT'S THE ONLY THING YOU SHOULD BE DOING.) "I don't have time to dust each book." (YOU DO AND YOU MUST.)

This compulsive need to make everything ready for our upcoming child feels manic, almost desperate. Beyond hormones, it seems to be rooted in remembering how I was raised.

When I was born, my parents brought me home to a cozy farmhouse, on a gravel road, in the middle of rural North Dakota. Now, I'm about to bring a baby home to a rented bungalow, on a paved street, in the middle of the second largest city in the country.

I don't know what that kind of childhood will be like, so I try to control what I can. I ease my anxiety with a midcentury modern sofa and stuff away the fear with a velvet chair. Maybe if our child can play on a nice couch, he won't notice his backyard is mostly concrete.

I was outside on our porch last week, wondering how angry our landlord would be if I jackhammered the cement and planted grass, and I saw my reflection in the window. I looked stressed and a little sweaty, but more importantly, I looked pregnant.

Pregnant. A thing we thought might never happen.

Seeing that reflection stopped my mind. In the scheme of things, all this stuff I'm worried about doesn't matter at all.

I've been hesitant to continue writing about pregnancy because I'm concerned it seems like I've forgotten the struggles it took to bring us here. But every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection or feel the baby kick, I think about it. Every day, through every phase, it's there in the back of my mind.

Having gone through years of infertility makes things like an intense need to dust or worrying about the location of our home seem like nothing — a privilege more than a burden.

So I try to breathe into the fear and remember how grateful I am. City or country, new couch or old, it doesn't really matter in the end. What does matter is that we get to bring a little life into the world.

Now I need to go clean my bathroom with a toothbrush ... and our new couch comes on Wednesday.

Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.

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