x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Nest or flight syndrome

Observing life The nesting instinct usually sets in around the fifth month of gestation, but we were busy packing our worldly effects into boxes; we weren't tying up loose ends, we were fraying them.

When my wife, Rose, and I arrived in Abu Dhabi, we got down to the grind of settling in. We submitted to the blood tests and X-rays, set up our bank accounts, anxiously graduated from hotel to apartment and began arranging furniture deliveries, leaving a furious trail of passport photos and dirhams in our wake. Everyone is impatient to get such things over with, of course, but we hacked our way through the formalities with particular urgency: Rose was seven months pregnant, and the last thing we wanted was to bring our first child "home" to a hotel room. Or, for that matter, to an apartment stocked with plastic utensils, no gas connection and a lone mattress on the floor.

It was a drama we'd brought on ourselves. The home we left in the United States had been perfect. We'd bought it at the end of 2006 and spent six months wearing dustmasks and wielding power tools to renovate it. By mid-2007, it was just as we wanted. Then we found out about the baby - and before we knew it, we were packing up the house and signing papers to let it out to someone else, having decided to move to Abu Dhabi.

The nesting instinct, according to the pregnancy-themed outposts of the internet, usually sets in around the fifth month of gestation. It is supposedly marked by "an uncontrollable urge to clean one's house," says Pregnancy Weekly, "brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organise your world". When Rose hit the five-month mark in her pregnancy, we were busy packing our worldly effects into boxes; we weren't tying up loose ends, we were fraying them. If Rose and I were birds, an ornithologist would surely have made extensive notes on us: "A pair of Newly Married Americans (mid-Atlantic variety) has been acting strangely, tearing down their nest just after completing it and then setting off on an improbable migratory route. Note: review the literature on avian dementia for possible explanations."

One friend of ours had a theory for our behaviour. Over the course of little more than a year, he observed, we had purchased a car, got married, mortgaged a house and discovered Rose was pregnant. All those events were bridges to a vision of domestic stability, and the last was simply a bridge too far for us, he theorised. Now we were yanking the air brake and disembarking the train - and walking straight into the desert with our unborn child. To which our response was: we have dangerously perceptive friends.

Rose's due date comes in about three hot weeks. The ­effects we packed up in America now fill our apartment in Abu Dhabi. The gas connection in our kitchen is working. The baby is kicking up a storm. I can't be sure, but my instincts tell me the nest is ready. And after many miles of travel, so finally are we. @Email:jgravois@thenational.ae