We purchased our first home as an excited, newly married, relatively cash-strapped couple. I’ll clarify that: the bank purchased our first home. So thrilled were we to be part of the real estate market that we overlooked the house teetering on the edge of a goat track with vomit-swirl carpet and a mission-brown kitchen.
It was and still is, the house of potential. Completely livable, just not to our exact tastes. Something we knew we could chip away at, over time, as we saved money towards renovations. Just like our folks did. None of this instant gratification “I have to have a new and modern house or I won’t survive” codswallop.
Naturally, the renovation timing coincided with each pregnancy. Or rather, an all-consuming desperation to get things done before the baby arrived.
Pregnancy number one saw a kitchen replacement. We ripped out our “old friend” mission brown and replaced him with a secondhand, albeit more modern, white and stainless steel number. When I say, "we", perhaps I need to elaborate: I was at work, while my husband and two mates took a sledgehammer to the kitchen. The adjacent laundry, separated by a wall and a sliding door, fell victim to a hammer happy husband. His love of cooking fuelled his justification for demolishment without consultation – he knew his wife would welcome a spacious kitchen, especially if the husband was head chef. Who needs a laundry anyway, right?
I arrived home to a roomier kitchen with an apparent “European Laundry”. There was nothing European about it; Third World slum, maybe. Add to my lost laundry, plasterdust over the entire house, kitchen crockery distributed throughout every room, (I believe the toilet was spared), slate floor and old laminex benches all over the deck, and the 7-month pregnant woman had a near meltdown. There was no space in our home that was not touched by filth. I knew it was fixable but it was so overwhelming and I had nowhere to hide. And no laundry to do washing in.
Ye of little faith should never have doubted the husband. He came through with the goods - the kitchen was installed before the baby arrived, with all the crockery returned, the dust was vacuumed and the washing appliances duly reconnected. His family jewels were no longer under threat from his hormonal wife.
Pregnancy number two welcomed an extension. You’ll never guess – an extra bedroom and a laundry. I was almost wetting my pants with joy (and failed pelvic floor) at the prospect of not having dirty underwear in the kitchen so I glorified the renovation process, suppressing painful memories of the kitchen experience. Each weekend my husband slogged it out: digging, carrying, cementing, framing, nailing, plastering, puttying, painting while I kept a toddler out of harm’s way. The renovation continued until after the baby's arrival, when I had the bonus of trying to quieten an unsettled baby amidst power saws and nail guns. A few meltdowns from me, the toddler and the baby and I swore I’d never renovate again.
But where there are babies, there are renovations.
Pregnancy number three was thankfully only minor adjustments to the house. Vomit-swirl carpet was ditched in favour of floorboards. Sanding. Many coats. Much dust. Then, the sweet, intoxicating fumes of stain and oil which forced a temporary relocation to the grandparents’ house.
We are now on the home stretch of pregnancy number four. Hubby has decided the useless 1980’s built-in-robes should go, to free up some much needed space in the tiny bedrooms a couple of our boys have been inhabiting. A seemingly simple task, unless you are happy to yet again have plasterdust all over the house and a husband who thinks drop sheets are overrated. Five additional loads of washing later (all those clothes from the cupboard had to go somewhere – the bed was the obvious choice while he slammed and ripped that enemy, the cupboard, out from the wall – who was thinking ahead with a protective covering from all the debris?) and we have meltdown number three.
I’m over it.
Although this is the final pregnancy it is sadly, not the final renovation. We have plans for a larger extension currently awaiting approval. I have suggested ever-so-gently to my husband that we will not be going ahead unless we can afford to pay someone else to do it, or he can fly me, a Nanny and the four kids to a tropical island for twelve months while he completes it.
Perhaps I was a little hasty to dismiss that whole “I have to have a new and modern house or I won’t survive” mentality. Which would be worse: finishing renovations or selling up and buying a finished product? Either way, Fiji sounds mighty appealing.
Have you renovated (or built) while pregnant? Comment on Kylie's blog.