I was 30 weeks pregnant and on my hands and knees, scrubbing out the empty fridge of the house we were leaving. My back hurt. My arms hurt. My womb hurt. My toddler pulled at my shirt, trying to get my attention. There was so much more cleaning to be done, and that was just to close out the old place, not to mention the mopping and dusting that the new house needed. And then the unpacking. I looked around the rented townhouse we were leaving, gutted of all our things, fighting off tears. All the pregnancy advice flooding my inbox told me not to move with the pregnancy hormones raging -- that it would be too tiring, too physically and mentally demanding during a time when I was focused on more internal things. And there I was, doing just that.
My husband and I had planned to move after the baby's birth, but an initial meeting with our real estate agent, not to mention a nasty leak in our ceiling, changed our minds. Lori McAlees, our Realtor in Rochester, NY, said we'd be better off buying before the baby came to distract us -- and before the real estate market heated up in the spring. In the brutal month of February, when we found a house that fit our budget and our space requirements, we snatched it up.
McAlees sees plenty of families buying homes with newborns, but she's in the move-while-pregnant camp; house shopping is a whole lot harder in that postdelivery haze and chaos.
Two years ago, I moved when my first baby was 6 weeks old, which cut into that precious newborn snuggle time, and while I'm happy we moved predelivery this time, some say the postpartum move is the way to go. Why? Read on.
Moving while pregnant? Here's the upside:
- No open house waits for a breast pump. There's no room for the weary in real estate. If you're actively searching for a home, you need to be ready to pounce at a moment's notice, and nursing, napping, and nappie changes make that awfully hard. And if you miss a bit of the open house, you've got even less info on which to base your decision. As McAlees points out, you may spend a total of only 20 minutes in a house before you decide to buy it, and you need to make every second count.
- The nesting instinct is no joke. I found myself with my head deep in the kitchen cabinets of my new home, armed with a toothbrush for scrubbing those hard-to-reach corners. You might reorganize the closets and cupboards, get the linens in order, and even defrost the fridge. You won't be able to curb the instinct. Research shows that the nesting instinct peaks in the third trimester -- better to already be settled in the new place so you don't have to sort all the baby onesies by color and size twice.
- If you move after the kid comes, you might screw up his or her sleep. Not to frighten those mamas-to-be, already nervous about impending sleep deprivation, but here's something to consider: One source notes of moving that "well-established sleep patterns can be disturbed as a consequence of change in a baby or toddler's environment." Babies thrive on routine. Believe us: If your baby has finally settled into a sleep rhythm, you'll do anything to preserve it.
- Postnatal recovery takes a lot longer than you think. You just pop the baby out and move on to the next thing, right? Some women feel minor-to-moderate discomfort (we could elaborate on that, but we'll spare you) for weeks -- some face serious problems that can affect daily activity for months. One study suggests that it takes up to a year to recover. Sure, you're not going to win a weightlifting contest when you're pregnant by schlepping boxes, but you've got to decide which discomfort is worse: pregnancy or recovery.
- You could save money. I moved while pregnant from a rental into our own house, where our mortgage was cheaper than our monthly rent. We were lucky in the affordability of housing in our area, ranked among the top 10 least-expensive housing markets in America. Though we had to pay a fee to get out of our rental lease, we still saved a total of about $3,000 by moving.
- You'll waste spend less money on baby gear. What's better for your sanity in the early chaos of mothering than an uncluttered house? Let's say you have a baby shower. Let's say you receive every co-sleeping, snuggling, distracting, milk-extracting item you could ever, or never, want -- plus a diaper swan. If you're still carrying the kid, you can sift through that stuff, quietly discarding or passing on the unwanted items, before you pack.
Actually, on second thought, here's why you should move after the baby comes:
- Oy, your aching back: Baby bumps and moving do not mix. The American Pregnancy Association advises pregnant women: Get someone else to do the heavy lifting. Doing so carries a heightened risk of premature labor, low birth weight, and hernia.
- You'll have to give up your Formula 409 and rely on vinegar. Nontoxic cleaners like vinegar are safest for pregnant women to use. As much as we aspire to have the greenest household on the block, we have to admit it: Some of those heavy chemical cleaners do a much better job. Pregnant women need to avoid oven cleaners and products that contain ammonia and bleach. Of course, you might decide to go clean-green after the baby comes, too.
- You'll know better what you need from a space. Spend a month or two with the kiddo in your old place, and you'll figure out what's missing: Man, could I use a bigger kitchen, or a real laundry room, or an office now that the baby junk has consumed my corner of the living room. After some time with your tyke, you'll have a much clearer sense of what kind of home to look for.
- Bye-bye, baby bump! Even if you're in those weeks or months it takes to recover from childbirth, you won't have that big baby bump to contend with as you sort and arrange your new space.
- You'll make mommy friends a whole lot faster. Babies are a great way to get to know people. Moving with a newborn can feel more relaxing and enhance your social connections in your new home. Many neighborhoods have mommy groups, storytime, and, in some places, mommy happy hour. With a baby in tow, you'll have instant access to that world of new parents.
- Newborns are easier than you might think (except the colicky ones). Though first-time moms might not believe it, newborns are pretty easy to manage -- they basically just sleep and eat. And poop. Keep them fed, warm, and dry, and they won't even notice they've moved.
- You could save time. When your new baby comes, time will get even more precious. You've heard the clichs -- it speeds up to warp drive (it really does!), and you'll treasure every minute you have with your new one. If you wait to move until the baby's an infant, you can enjoy those early days, and if you're lucky enough to have maternity leave, you can use your leave to bond with your baby, instead of rearranging the flatware or troubleshooting those inevitable kinks in your new house.
But let's face it: As with all things parenting, no matter what decision you make, someone (probably a member of your own family) will tell you it's the wrong one. And thus, as with all things parenting, the trick is this: Go with your gut, even if your gut is hiding painfully behind your giant baby belly.
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