At about the halfway point of our foster parent training our sweet social worker cheerily mentioned that our last class and agency home-study were right around the corner, and Ethan and I looked at each other with wide, panicked eyes. Later that night, we surveyed our spare bedroom with the same sense of panic. At the time the bedroom was being used to house all of the junk we had once started to unpack but abruptly decided we didn't want to deal with, and now all that junk had to find a new home. It was finally time for the nursery.
I'd seen beautifully designed nurseries on my newsfeed as our friends grew their families with precious newborn babes, but couldn't imagine what our own nursery should look like. How do you prepare for a child without knowing their age or gender? We are accepting fosters from newborn up through school age, and as any parent or babysitter knows, the needs of those age ranges vary greatly. Do we need a changing table? A diaper pail? A twin bed? A bed rail?
Our state's bare minimum furniture requirements for a foster child's room are a) an age appropriate bed all to themselves and b) drawers/closet/storage space all to themselves, so we decided to start with these basics and off I went to Google everything.
Let me give you some sage advice.
When you are preparing to create a nursery/kids room/cozy abode for a little one - biological, foster, or adoptive - never (and I repeat never), ever, EVER Google image search "nursery ideas". In this day and age of Pinterest, HGTV, and Restoration Hardware, you (and your budget) will be immediately humbled when the image results look like these:
Even some of the more realistic nurseries will give you mild heart palpitations imagining a) the time and artistic talent required to curate so many beautiful things in one room and b) the amount of money that those beautiful things cost. For those reasons, I was quick to tap out on Pinterest inspired design. Instead, we decided to fill the room with practical, similarly colored items, and then fill in with any fitting and affordable design items we could find.
Since we need maximum flexibility for whichever ages we foster, we researched 4-in-1 convertible cribs and settled on one with high reviews; the only complaints were about paint chipping, though one reviewer admitted their paint chipping was from their dog gnawing on the bottom post. It was an extra bonus that this crib seemed easy to assemble, as one reviewer proudly stated, "I'm a seven months pregnant woman and I could put this crib together in an hour, ALL BY MYSELF!" FALSE. I don't have any pictures of crib assembly because it took my Mom and I (two able-bodied, non-pregnant women) over an hour to put this crib together (I'll admit part of the delay was from me putting one rail on upside down, but WHATEVER).
After the crib was finished, it was on to the dresser. We found a white Ikea dresser that had great reviews from Mommy blogs and wouldn't break the bank (bonus points after finding an almost identical dresser that cost more than a downpayment on a house). One thing I noticed during my research was that every blog only pictured the perfect, finished product and skipped any mention of the actual assembly. We're committed to being completely transparent in the process so here is what our day looked like:
Did I occasionally curse the creators of the wordless, often ambiguous, Ikea assembly instruction manuals? Absolutely. But I won't hold that against them, because at 11 pm that night, Ethan and I had our finished product (as we tossed aside those tiny little wrenches Ikea is so fond of and swore to never tighten another screw with them again).
This story is a bit anti-climatic, because the crib and dresser are truly all that we have so far. Enough to pass our agency home study, and hopefully enough to pass the state home study. We've added a rocker and will add some book and toy storage, but other than that, we're going to leave this a fairly blank slate. Though the nester in me itches to continue to fill this room, it makes more sense for us to pause decorating till after placement; if we foster a younger child, we won't know their needs until after they are placed with us, and if we have an older child, we want them to be able to make this room their own.
So that's part #1 of our adventure in nursery-making! Though it was stressful and overwhelming to put this together in just a couple weeks, it made fostering all the more real knowing there's an actual crib in our house. We know this nursery may never be Pinterest picture worthy, but knowing that some day there will be a desperately loved little one in that crib (in one of its four, easily-convertible options) makes it picture perfect to us.