Unbeknownst to us, when we moved into our current apartment, I was pregnant (or maybe got pregnant shortly after moving in... whatever, don't think about it too much HA). We knew kids were probably going to be in the picture soon, but that didn't stop us from moving into a one bedroom place. People all over the world live in MUCH smaller spaces with many more people, so my hope was that we could do this with one, maybe two kids, for a period of time. This ain't the suburbs, folks, and Seattle is 'SPENSIVE.


When we moved in, I said, "I'm not moving again for two years. I'm sick of packing and unpacking." Well... that wish may not come true (more on that later), but it's all for the best. 

Anyhow. Once we found out we had a little Stals on the way, we set out to arrange our space to accommodate three people instead of two (plus Butter). Can't be that hard, right? She'll be tiny, how much space does she need? Turns out, it's more about the stuff that comes along with Baby that requires so much space. I vowed to be a minimalist parent, but some things are kinda necessary. Other things aren't necessary, but definitely make life easier (like a designated spot to change diapers at 3am). 

So here's a little peek into how we made our one and only bedroom work for us and Esther. And... in the spirit of real life and transparency, I definitely did a lot of cleaning and de-cluttering before taking the finished shots. Most of the time, our bedroom/nursery looks like the first few pictures, but with more decorations on the walls. JUST SO YOU KNOW. : ) 

It was a slow process to start out. My mom is a wizard with interior design, and drew up a whole plan for us, detailing how we could use this space most efficiently. As we started accumulating more baby gear, we moved our furniture around, using half the room for me and Dave (which is pretty much just our bed), and the other half for Esther's nursery. I made a Pinterest board (duh, of course I did) to keep track of what I liked and condense ideas into a cohesive theme. I'm hoping that most of the decor will grow with her, and not look like just a baby room as she enters childhood. 

The crib provided a useful corral for laundry and baby stuff that hadn't been put away yet. Ten weeks after birth, it's still serving that purpose, as Esther is still in the Moses basket next to our bed. We'll probably transition her to the crib around 3 or 4 months. 

Part of the original plan was to hang a curtain from the ceiling down the middle of the room to create a visual divide. This would make the two spaces feel more separate, and also block Esther's view of us from the crib (which should aid sleep). But since that doesn't matter until she's older, and since we're probably moving out of this place soon anyway, it became a moot point. 

We ditched the hanging clothes organizers that I used in our closet and bought storage cubes and baskets from Ikea. Those are for my clothes and Dave's, and the dresser serves as Esther's clothes storage and changing table. It was a very gross shade of burgundy, and one of my summer projects was to paint it white. Eventually I'll change out the hardware too. 

I saw a pin a long time ago of a black and white version of this crib sheet, which I LOVED. Then I was poking around Land of Nod one day and saw this pink one and snatched it up immediately. Never mind that it was $35 — I still had Crate & Barrel gift cards leftover from our wedding (two and a half years ago — yikes). Land of Nod is totally outrageous, but also seriously adorable. I want all the crib sheets. 

I have a thing for gallery walls (and fur). The wall above Esther's crib has the ugly breaker box for our apartment, and needed to be covered with something pretty. I scoured thrift stores for mirrors and finally found this one at an indoor flea market that  my friend Jordan and I frequent. The frame was originally black, so I spray-painted it aqua. I was going for more robin's egg blue, but it's hard to tell from the paint lid how it's going to turn out. Maybe I'll redo it at some point. 

The animal prints are from Ikea, the butterflies are a gift from Jordan's shop in Snohomish, and the North Carolina flower print is from the cutest gift shop called Gather in Cary. The shadowbox dress was a gift from my mom... the dress was her's as a baby! And the triptych frame was a hand-me-down from a friend, and has Esther's 8 week and 20 week ultrasound photos, and a shot from our newborn session in the middle. Since she looks like a little frog in the 8 week ultrasound photo, maybe I'll replace that one with another picture someday too. 

Inspired by Pinterest, I made a pillow cover with gray fleece and pink and white pompoms. I didn't want the nursery side of the room to look too childish or girly, since Dave and I live in there too, but I did want a few feminine touches here and there. This pillow was for the glider, but has ended up in the crib most of the time. I mean seriously... here I am at 8 months pregnant, SEWING. Do I not look like the nestiest little nester ever? PS - pompoms are a mofo to sew onto anything. There's got to be a better way...

And here's the finished (and cleaned up) product (the pom-pom pillow is in the crib). 


The glider was a Craigslist find. I knew I wanted one with white wood, and I preferred gray fabric, but chambray was a nice compromise. My mom also found this awesome tutorial (something like this one, but I can't find the original) that I think we'll attempt at some point in the future. 

If you want to know what this looks like on a normal day, picture a nursing pillow tucked next to the bed, a stack of books and technology on the nightstand, Butter and her bones on the rug, a half-used box of nursing pads next to the cubbies, and a crib overflowing with baby gear and laundry.

However, I will say that I make an effort to make the bed every day, because I feel depressed when I walk into the room and the bed isn't made. And it feels so much nicer to climb into a made-up bed at night than one that's still rumpled from the night before. 

I'm in love with children's books. I remember feeling really sad when I was around 12 or 13 and feeling stuck between the children's and adult's sections at the library, not sure what to read anymore. So having piles of children's books sitting around the house for Esther is my FAVORITE. I also love this elephant my friend Lindsey brought me from Kenya. I'm excited to have more spaces for reading and more piles of books as Esther (and future kids) grow up!

This was my mom's ingenious method of keeping the changing pad cover clean. This one is also from Land of Nod, bought with the very last bit of those gift cards. It seems silly to have so many layers for the place where we change diapers, but 1) putting Esther down on the cold vinyl didn't seem very comfortable and 2) I wasn't just going to use a towel. We were using chux pads leftover from birth for a while, but that was generating a huge amount of waste, so we put a thin plastic cutting board on top of the changing pad, and then a hand towel on top of that. So far, it's worked like a charm. 

Because every blog I read about babies and nurseries involves Sophie the giraffe, here's the requisite photo of Sophie the giraffe.

Honestly, I think it's ridiculous whenever moms post about how amazing Sophie is and how everyone needs one and its on the "baby essentials" list for registries. Because we all know that design-conscious blog moms get it because IT'S CUTE. Like Hunter boots. Which I got for Christmas because they're cute. And also because frequent trips to the dog park in a wet Seattle winter were destroying my other shoes. 

Here's my little muffin, who played so nicely on her playmat while I was taking pictures. She really is the best baby. 

Not the nursery anymore, but here's my solution for when I have to shower and Esther's not sleeping. This little lamb chair has been a lifesaver, but once Esther starts getting more mobile and/or has a shorter attention span, I'm going to have to find a new solution. Maybe I can train Butter to babysit...

Putting all this together was so fun. People say that nesting is part of pregnancy, but I think I'm just a nesty person in general. I really feel that your home is your art. I inherited that love of interior design from my mom, but I think the desire to make our home a beautiful, welcoming place has grown since I left my full-time job and now spend more time working from home and caring for Esther. I love creating an environment that feels comfortable, restful, functional, and visually pleasing. Doing that in a small space is an interesting mind puzzle, and is constantly evolving process. I'm looking forward to starting the whole thing over in our next place!


I've tried to write this for weeks now. I had paragraphs upon paragraphs written, with minute, gory detail. Then I decided that some things are better left unwritten on the Internet, and I'd rather just share the extended story in person. So I'll just share a little bit here. 

On Saturday before Esther was born, at 40 weeks and two days pregnant, we went to get our Christmas tree. I had written a little list of things I wanted to do to distract myself during early labor, and getting a tree was on the list (along with a Costco run, making a wedding album, doing some online Christmas shopping, and washing baby clothes). I wasn't having any contractions yet (not even Braxton-Hicks, that I could tell), but since we had friends driving up to the mountains to cut down their own tree, we decided to join in. That was an adventure in itself, and somehow we ended up with two trees (longer story).

This was special because last year we picked up our Christmas tree (at Rite Aid, ha) right after we visited our midwives and found out that I was having a miscarriage. So this year, picking out a tree just days away from meeting our baby felt so redemptive. 

It's funny... you learn during pregnancy that 37 weeks constitutes a full-term baby, and that you could deliver at any time. I laugh now whenever I see pregnant friends posting on Facebook things like, "37 weeks! Full term today! Come on out baby! We're ready to meet you anytime!" Because... no. Sorry sister. That baby is not coming at 37 weeks. Our midwives told me that they don't start thinking about a first-time mom being "late" until she's 41 weeks and two days (or something like that). 

But MAN. You hit your due date, and everyone and their mom wants to know if you've had your baby yet. I got more "happy due date!" texts on December 4 than I do on my own birthday. I started thinking totally illogical things like, "What if this baby never comes out? What if I stay pregnant forever?" Other moms, raise your hands. I know you've had the same thoughts. 

I hadn't wanted to be anxious about Esther's arrival, so I was trying to mentally prepare for being two weeks overdue (at which point I'd have to be induced and have a hospital birth, instead of the birth center birth we were planning).

Saturday, December 6 was the full moon, and I'd heard that the moon can often affect the start of labor. So I guessed that it would start that day, but alas, no. Still waiting. Enjoying our last few days just the two of us... plus Butter. As you can see, she's kind of needy (understatement), and doesn't appreciate when she's not involved in familial displays of affection. Turd.

Dave and I had a really great couple of weekends together before Esther arrived. We got our tree(s) and decorated them, watched some Christmas movies (Muppet Christmas Carol! I'd never seen it before! So good!), had some coffee dates, and walked along Lake Washington during the Luminaria (which is beautiful — do it next year, if you're in Seattle). 

Early labor started for me on Monday (December 8) around 11:30am, but contractions were manageable and I slept through the night. They picked up on Tuesday, and Tuesday night I was awake all night in this position on the yoga ball, coping through them every 7-10 minutes. 

That's Sarah, our doula, with me after we got to the birth center on Wednesday morning, December 10. Once we arrived around 8am, one of my midwives, Christine, checked my progress and I was at 6cm. This was super encouraging, because supposedly, getting to 5cm is really challenging and then your body sort of finds a flow and it tends to go faster from there. So I felt like all my body's hard work since Monday had been worth it. 

I was in this position for about an hour or so, and tried some other things, and then I got in the tub (which was amaaaaaazing - they don't call it "the midwife's epidural" for nothin). I finished dilating in there (took another 5 or 6 hours or so, and in hindsight, wasn't that painful), and then started pushing... sort of. The midwives were getting ready and prepping Dave to catch the baby in the tub because it looked like she was coming soon, but turns out I pushed for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS. Note to people who have never had a baby: this is not normal. In a hospital scenario, I would have had a C-section after like 2 hours of pushing.

Also, second side note: I never felt the urge to push. I guess everyone's birth story is very different, because I'd heard over and over that pushing was the best part, and felt relieving. But this was THE WORST for me. 

(third side note: I'm really thankful for Sarah and Taylor, our other midwife, who picked up our camera now and again and took some photos for us. Not that these are the most flattering ones of my life, but they're invaluable and I'm glad we have images of that day.)

When it was clear after a while that I was not going to give birth in the tub, they got me out of the tub and on a birth stool next to the bed. Dave sat behind me and supported me, holding my shoulders and whispering encouragement all the time. I can't even describe his love for me on this day — it overwhelms me still to think about it. It deserves a story all its own, but it's hard to wrap my mind around how to even share it. 

This was a few minutes before I actually gave birth, so maybe 8:30pm or so. I had been in labor for so long (something like 58 hours since my first contractions, although not all of that time was super intense), and had been pushing for much, much longer than anyone anticipated. At one point, Dave was concerned about how tired I was, and that I might not be able to endure until the end (I hadn't had any drugs at this point, because, BIRTH CENTER). The midwives said their three criteria for transferring to the hospital were 1) baby is in danger 2) mom is in danger or 3) mom is totally losing her coping mechanisms. And none of those things were happening, so we stayed. Also, I couldn't conceive of getting in a car and driving 15-20 minutes to the hospital while the baby was in the birth canal. 

But then the baby's heart rate did start to drop, and so things got very urgent very fast. I summoned some kind of reserves from I don't even know where and pushed Esther out, head and body all at once. She screamed right away, her color was great, she was perfect. 

After that, things got even crazier and I lost a lot of blood and the paramedics came and it was all very dangerous and scary, mostly for Dave. I was too out of it to even really know what was happening, but it was bad. Because this is a blog, this is going to sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm telling the truth when I say that the midwives saved my life.

You hear unbelievable things, sad and tragic things, about childbirth 100 years ago, or even right now in the developing world, but you really don't expect that it will happen to you in 21st century North America. We're all thankful that I'm here and well and raising beautiful Esther Natalia with my husband.

And the real truth is that the hand of God was protecting me and Esther throughout the whole day(s). When her heart rate dropped, it was down briefly and then came right back up again. When she was born and I hemorrhaged, everything happened in just the right timing so that I didn't have to transfer to the hospital, and was stabilized there at the birth center. He preserved both of our lives and rescued us. 

I can say all this in hindsight, because honestly, neither Dave nor I really "felt" the presence of God with us during labor and birth. It just felt quiet. I keep thinking about that cheesy "footprints in the sand poem," and as I reflect on December 10, I know that God was with us, carrying us, even if we didn't sense it right then. It's one of those times where faith and emotion are pretty separate. Sometimes I want to "feel" something to count it as a spiritual experience, but this taught me that it's not always that way. 

We stayed at the birth center longer than normal, because of the post-delivery complications, and headed home around 6am. I was on bed rest for about 10 days, and was so thankful to have the help of our families, especially our moms, for that time. And to have a husband who lays down his life for me... Dave is such a servant, and I was humbled and overwhelmed again by his love for me. 

And I'm still a HUGE midwife fan, because ours were awesome, and gave the best best best care. They did many of our follow-up visits at our home, so we didn't have to get out the door with a newborn. Esther nursed (still nurses) like a champ and was above her birth weight 8 days after being born. Way to go, baby girl. 

My mom flew in two days after Esther was born and stayed for 10 days to help out. Our original plan was to have time as a new family to bond, just me and Dave and Esther. But we didn't anticipate needing so much hands on help for Esther AND for me. I couldn't get out of bed to do anything without lots of assistance (aka Dave carrying me by the armpits), and pretty much just lay in bed and fed Esther for 7 straight days. I was starting to feel crazy by the end of it, but I know that was crucial in my body's healing, which still took several more weeks.  

Esther slept through her whole first bath, and then pooped in her towel while my mom was holding her. : )

So we're coming up on Esther's two-month birthday, and starting to find our rhythm as parents. I already can't believe how big she is, and how fast she's growing. It sort of blows my mind that she came out of me, equal parts Abby and Dave, and that she's growing JUST from what I'm feeding her. It's amazing, and I'm sure my mind will continue to be blown in the coming years.