No Sugar Added: Unfeathering the nest

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As one gets closer and closer to labor and delivery, there is a phenomenon that occurs – widely known as “nesting.” I remember this fondly from when I was pregnant with my first child, the lovely Ophelia.

She was due on Dec. 23. A holiday baby. On Jan. 3, she had yet to vacate my womb. Thinking that two weeks was more than any first-time mother should be expected to wait, and to err on the side of safety, an “induced” labor was put on my doctor’s calendar for Jan. 6. The Epiphany.

This option was not a pretty one, and I recall feeling slightly miffed that even after giving this child two additional weeks to come out, I’d still require a Pitocin drip in order to force her to leave the premises. She was apparently not interested in entering this cold, cruel world, and was going to remain a tenant as long as possible.

Although I had never really believed in the whole “nesting” thing, as soon as I received marching orders from the doctor, I began cleaning. For three or four days, all I did was clean. I recall standing on chairs, emptying out the top shelves of closets. Had my mother been present, she surely would have stopped my 9 1/2-month pregnant self from going anywhere near a chair. Or a ladder. But my husband was there, not my mother, and he knew that any attempt to stop me would be futile.

I am not a cleaner by nature. In fact, could I spend my spare cash on one single thing, it would be a cleaning person. But the textbooks were correct; pregnant woman, especially very pregnant women, want to clean. I was a woman possessed. Could this power be somehow harnessed, our country would sparkle like the Hope Diamond.

I hadn’t thought much about this pregnancy behavior of long ago, until very recently, when my little Ophelia was deposited at college.

When I returned from delivering her to her chosen institution of higher learning, I found myself feeling many of the same emotions I felt as I was on the brink of delivering her into this world. After crying for a night or two (which I also recall doing after nine months and 14 days of pregnancy), I found myself with a desire to do something I have not felt compelled to do since 1993: clean.

Suddenly, I was uncluttering closets, Windexing windows that hadn’t been touched since the stock market collapse of 2009, and dusting nooks and crannies that not even a mouse would go near.

It struck me as odd, until I remembered the whole pregnancy “nesting” syndrome, and then, it seemed to make perfect sense.

When you’re about to bring them into the world, you feel the need for cleanliness, for empty shelves, for a fresh start. It only makes sense that when you’re launching them out into the world, you feel the same need. Only this time, you’re cleaning for a slightly different reason.

You’re cleaning away bits and pieces of them. Microscopic particles of dust that contain their DNA. You’re putting a blanket of freshness between the life you once had, and the life that is to be. Cleansing your heart, to ease some of the pain that you’d feel were you to leave all of those bits and pieces lying around. No matter how tiny.

My daughter was off in her new dorm room, embarking on a new journey. Meeting new people, experiencing new things, starting fresh. And although I’m not running off to a new city or a new home, somewhere inside, the forces of human nature are protecting me, driving me to do things to help me on this journey. To soften the blow. To make the transition a more pleasant one.

Instead of crying myself to sleep, I’ve been noticing that I have more room on the bathroom counter, and that I no longer have to be entrenched in the dramas of high school.

And for the first time since she was born, I can find my eye makeup remover.

My nest may not yet be totally empty, but it’s getting cleaner every day.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at