Every expectant parent wonders how to best prepare for their coming baby, don’t they? There are volumes of books and online articles dedicated to helping parents plan for adequate supplies of onesies, blankets, bottles, and their dream nursery. Hopeful adoptive parents are no different in their curiosity about when to shop for a crib or start stocking up on diapers. Several times in our online community, we’ve fielded the question about when it’s appropriate for prospective adoptive parents to set up the nursery for their hopeful new arrival.

Not surprisingly, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of when to set up your nursery. Each adoption process is unique, and many factors may impact when you set up the nursery of your dreams. We’ve compiled responses from our online community from different conversations about setting up a nursery. We hope these perspectives help you think through the best plan for your adoption journey.

What Are Your Agency’s Recommendations?

Generally, most agencies will not give you a specific timeline to follow regarding how and when to start purchasing furniture and baby gear. However, some agencies might suggest that hopeful parents set up a baby’s room so you can include photographs in your adoption profile. They may tell you that, in their experiences, an expectant mother likes to see the environment in which she’d be placing her baby.

Sometimes, if you ask, your caseworker might offer a range of ideas about what other parents within the agency have done about a nursery while they waited. Still, other agencies will say nothing about nursery planning beyond what they require for the home study process.

In addition to considering what your agency might suggest, we found that hopeful parents fell into several general camps when asked, “when do I set up the nursery?”

Do Only the Basics Ahead of Time

It turns out that many of our group members are planners. We got a lot of feedback from adoptive parents about setting up the nursery before being matched or bringing the baby home, even if their reasons for doing so were different.

“I am a planner and didn’t want to be scrambling. We …ended up only having 10 days before the baby was born so there were lots of last-minute things that needed to be done…” ~ R.B.

According to the parents who set up their nursery before bringing home their baby, you should consider the possible benefits. You can do it all at your own pace, without battling sleep deprivation or the learning curve of caring for a new baby. Assembling furniture and washing baby clothing in advance leaves you free to enjoy your new child. Planning and setting up the basics of your nursery before the baby comes home also has the added perk of spreading out the expenses over time.

“We did our nursery in gender-neutral colors …and we are picking up things here and there when we get paid, etc. So that we don’t have to buy everything all at once. We at least have most of the necessities at this point.” ~ S.M.

Another mom chose to set up the more significant nursery pieces early in the wait. She offered this insight into what you need for those first days together at home.

“We ordered a crib and changing table but didn’t have it delivered until after our daughter was placed with us. Honestly, all you need is a bassinet and a car seat at first.” ~ R.S.

Wait Until the Home Study is Finished

Many parents shared that the finalization of their home study process was their “go” signal to set up the nursery. The home study represented a milestone for them, that “this is really happening.”

“…after the home study was complete, I got the basics: crib, car seat, neutral newborn clothes, and diapers. It helped me feel prepared and hopeful.” ~ C.C.

Even if they thought they might be in for a long wait until a match, these parents wanted and needed the hopefulness and affirmation that their adoption was “really underway now.”

“This really helped me know that one day we would have a baby in there. I’m glad we did it like that because we got matched very quickly after that.” ~ L.R.

It makes sense: the home study is a significant investment in the adoption process, both financially and emotionally. It also represents the approval of their potential as parents to their yet-unknown baby.

Transitioning Home as a Newly Adoptive Family

Wait Until “The Call” Comes

Of course, there are a good number of experienced adoptive parents who advise that you wait until “The Call” that baby’s arrival is imminent. There are several excellent reasons for this advice, including the chance that the expectant mom will choose to parent once the baby arrives. It’s also wise to consider that it can feel coercive to have Baby’s nursery finished before she gives birth, especially if you tell her about your preparations. Only you know your relationship with the expectant mother and how sharing about setting up the nursery might impact her.

One adoptive mother uniquely avoided both of those potentially sticky situations by creating an online registry while they waited. As she and her partner drove to the hospital after “The Call,” she was “tapping Buy Now,” and it was all set to be delivered to the house just a few days later. That feels like genius-level planning! They got to enjoy the shopping experience and “nesting” without infringing upon the birth mother’s experience of giving birth and choosing to place (or not) her baby.

Waiting to set up the nursery can also be self-preservation, as one mom vulnerably shared. She couldn’t bear to set up a room for her little one until the week that he came home. Walking past an empty but ready nursery without him in it would have felt too sad. After years of infertility, she knew she couldn’t handle that kind of pain and heartache. We resonate with this perspective. The losses that bring many of us to adoption can feel raw again when we consider that this adoption might not come to pass and become yet one more loss to grieve.

Wait Until Baby is Home and Paperwork is Signed

Several adoptive parents suggested that hopeful parents hold off on any nursery setup at all until the birth parent surrender rights. It’s an understandable position. Birth moms should have every opportunity to decide to place or not place once the child is born without feeling the pressure of our preparations and dreams. It may feel as if you are bringing Baby home “hoping for the best but prepared for the worst,” but several adoptive moms put it this way:

“We didn’t want to buy anything in advance in case the mother changed her mind. I would not have wanted to come home to a completed nursery.” ~ D.T.

Another couple decided that all they needed to meet their baby was a car seat. (After all, who hasn’t let Baby sleep in a car seat for as long as he slept?) They intentionally only brought “the barest basics” with them to pick the baby up. Once the birth mother signed the paperwork, family and friends “threw a shower later.”

It bears mentioning that most of what we consider essential to welcome a baby is often more about us than about the baby. That’s not a bad thing. All the baby gear that creates a beautiful nursery is so much fun to put together. But beyond a safe place to sleep and a safe car seat for the trip home and doctor appointments, all our babies really need in the earliest days is warm clothing, clean diapers, plenty for Baby to eat, and snuggling arms. The rest is “icing on the shower cake.” Setting up the nursery can indeed wait if you have friends and family to help you fill out that registry and build that crib.

There is No Right Answer

We told you: there is no one right time to create your baby’s beautiful nursery. Choosing what works for your adoption journey can be boiled down to how you handle the wait and how you navigate your relationship with the expectant mother. If you need to prepare in advance, but you know the expectant mom can’t talk about paint colors and murals, think carefully about how you prepare and what you share with her. If you are aware that you cannot create the nursery of your dreams until you are confident that the baby of your dreams is here to stay, wait. Tell those who love you that this choice is best for your mental and emotional health.

As with all the steps of this adoption journey, craft a plan you think works best. Be willing to flex and adjust along the way to meet your needs, the needs of the mother with whom you are working, and of the baby you will rock to sleep in that beautiful room.

Have you adopted an infant? Tell us when you set up your nursery, here in the comments!

Image Credits: Nathan & Jenny; Paulo O; Shrie Bradford Spangler