Here I am, about 7 weeks into life as a mother. I hardly know where to begin. After a long and somewhat horrific birth I took a little human home with not a clue as to what to do with him. But, like every new mother, I just did it. Sleep deprived I figured out breast feeding, how to get him to sleep, how to change him without getting peed on and how to accept offers of help. While I’ve by no means got it all sorted, baby and I know each other well enough to get through each day and night without completely losing it. I now feel like somewhat of a success, at least for the moment. I have after all kept him alive and myself reasonably sane (thanks mostly to my mom and sister) so I count that as success.
The real question is, how have I managed in my 500 sq ft with this new addition. Reasonably well I have to say. Of course being a little bit too much of a minimalist I did purchase a few items that I previously thought I could live without, namely a glider, bouncy chair, nursing tank, stroller and soother clip, all of which have been complete life savers! Despite the addition of a few items that take up space, 500 sq ft has proven to be enough space for the 2 of us plus a newborn though I don’t know it would have been had my in laws not graciously offered to take our dog…thank goodness. I can see however that at some point more space is going to be necessary but for now I love that he shares an intimate space with us.
The small space has been an advantage in some ways. Specifically, my husband has not had any space to escape to so he has been forced to take an active role. As well not having much space to clean has been nice! I have however found it important to routinely go through clothes and keep things organized to avoid chaos as storage is at a premium and we are both changing sizes. So, 500 sq ft is fine…for now. I am slowly beginning to look forward to a little larger space as it actually becomes necessary. In the mean time it is important for me to simply be content with where we are at and focus on what really matters, not the square footage but the love of the new little life I’ve been given the task of caring for.
“[motherhood] is still the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary – it’s an act of infinite optimism”
– Gilda Radner, comedian and actor
“[motherhood is] a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong” – Donna Ball, novelist
Though I have not quite reached my actual due date, already over a week ago my doctor advised me to be ready as my baby could come at anytime. Ready? What does he mean by ready? Do I have diapers and clothes, a crib and all the other things that are on the must have lists? Is my hospital bag packed? Am I mentally prepared to give birth? Have I read enough books, is my marriage ready, is my body, indeed my life, ready to be forever altered?
Yikes. I’m not sure how he could think anyone can be truly ready for the birth of a first child. I mean despite spending countless hours reading and researching, I still really have no idea what I’m getting into.
As for stuff, I ignored the lists and just got what I thought was important, which probably varies by person. I’ve got a place for him to sleep, a dresser to house diapers, clothes and blankets. I’ve got diapers (going with Gdiapers so I won’t contribute to the landfills for his diapering years) and the home made coconut oil wipes are ready to go. I have some clothes but not a ton as i want to wait and see how big he is. We have a carseat and a baby bath for the kitchen sink and a Girasol wrap to carry him around in. I’m prepared with cloth nursing pads, frozen herbal sitz bath pads for postpartum recovery and nursing bras. I’ve put some baking in my freezer and prepped my husband that he will probably have to take over the grocery shopping and cooking for awhile. (This is not at all daunting to him as he does it half the time anyway.)
My hospital bag isn’t packed because I still need things that I would put in it. I don’t have a stroller because we are going to try wearing him and see how that goes first. I don’t have a special chair to rock him in as I’m going to try a friends first after he is born to see if he even likes it and then pick one up off of kijiji if necessary. I don’t have a change table as I’ve decided to just use the bed, couch or wherever as that seems just as easy (I’ll put something under him to change him of course.). I don’t have a mobile, any bouncy chairs, swings or play mats as I figure if I find it necessary I’ll go get it then. I haven’t written a birth plan though I’ve thought about and discussed our flexible “plan” with my birthing advocate as well as my husband and feel good about it.
I didn’t read any books on pregnancy as they simply didn’t interest me and I thought they would only create more for me to worry about. I did read several books on birth however, as well as some on parenting as those topics were of more interest to me. I feel mentally prepared enough to not be completely naive but also to know that I cannot ever be truly be prepared for something that is going to blow my mind.
So am I ready? Sure, bring it on. After all I’ll never know how strong I can be until my strength and character is tested and I have a feeling that this impending birth and following months will test me beyond the scope of my life experience thus far!
Sometimes I have been hesitant to do to much in our small space for fear of overwhelming the space, however so far any changes I have made have really added to the space! Though all my walls are still white I’ve added a few touches of paint to other surfaces.
The door to our little condo is simply a flat panel door that was painted white (of course!) rather than go to a whole lot of work and try to add wood trim to give it depth and make it match the rest of the interior doors, I simply took a small can of black paint and some painting tape and only left a square of white showing. Here is how it turned out!
The second project I did was simply add a little paint to an old (1800’s) dresser my parents had sitting in their basement. It is going to be used as a change table for the new baby as well as store basically everything of his. I simply applied 2 coats of turquoise paint then took some sand paper to it. I have a little bit of a fox theme going so I added brass fox hardware from Anthropologie.com This is how it turned out!
Though I won’t apologize for it, I will acknowledge that it has been a LONG time since I last did some writing. My last post was in December of 2012 which happens to coincide with when I found out I was pregnant. Was this great news? Absolutely! Did I immediately fear for our minimalistic lifestyle? Yes! Was an extra human going to mean the end of my beloved 500 sqft as the huge plastic toys and Wal-Mart onsies took over? While at first I feared we might have to buy a house, after a great deal of research I came to the resounding conclusion that we could live quite well in our 1 bedroom condo for a couple more years, even with another human, albeit a small one. My inspiration? New York City! While I have yet to actually visit I cannot help but admire, even idealize the way in which many New Yorkers adapt to becoming new parents. They turn hallways, closets, whatever space they can find into baby space and continue to live in the neighborhoods they love. Why can’t I do the same?
What changes are we going to make? Well first off we are not going to change our attitude towards minimalism, baby or no baby. Huge plastic toys and Wal-Mart onsies are out of the question for us (consignment stores are amazing for great quality used baby clothing!!!) Yes I know, they need “lots” of stuff. But what I have realized is that while they do need some things, much of the “stuff” that is accumulated in order to have a baby is fairly unnecessary or at the very least a luxury. So, over 6 months into my pregnancy I have done mostly research and very little buying as we carefully think through what we really NEED. The one large purchase we have made is a used vehicle. While this is admitted with a healthy dose of sadness, in our particular situation where our family lives out of the city or province it seemed to be a wise choice. Though we are no longer a carless couple, we certainly cherish our experience without a vehicle and have pledged to try to use our vehicle only when it is truly necessary (like seeing Grandparents or on very cold prairie days) and keep walking, cycling or using public transport on a regular basis even once our new little man has arrived.
I have had to think through a lot of the norms of Canadian parenting as far as all the gear and conveniences are concerned. I promise to write another post on what I have decided to live without in order to accommodate small space living with a baby. I am so excited about breaking a few norms and doing things our own beautiful, minimalistic, sustainable way and here is to hoping some of it will rub off on the next generation!
Suffice to say, we are very at peace with not changing our location (close to bakeries, cafe’s, walking and cycling paths etc.) nor changing the size of our living space. While the day will probably come when a change of some kind is necessary, today is not that day!