The decision around having a baby can be loaded with romance as well as uncertainty. On one hand, there is the possibility of joy and new meaning in your life, but on the other, there’s saying goodbye to the freedom and flexibility of life without children. So, how do you know if, and when, you’re ready?
There is nothing quite like the delight of a newborn’s tiny hands and feet or that unmistakable newborn smell. But getting pregnant and having a baby also means the loss (even temporarily) of child-free perks. Think weekend lie-ins (let’s face it, sleep in general), impromptu nights out, long lunches, and a good part of your bodily autonomy.
Just as the decision whether to have children is an intensely personal one, so is the choice around when you are ready to try to get pregnant.
Here are five signs you may be ready… or not.
1. You’re OK with change
Many first-time parents believe ‘the baby will fit in with our current lives’. Hint: they often don’t. We learn very quickly that these little bundles of joy turn our existence upside down.
The transition to parenting will likely come with a wide range of emotions, from excitement and joy, to ambivalence and fear. These shifts and differences in your world can also take others in your life by surprise, including family, employers and friends – even your partner.
In fact, considering these people in your life is a good way of thinking about how a baby will fit in within your world. If you are considering having a baby, take a good look at your life and realistically imagine how a child fits in. Knowing you’re okay with all the changes they will bring is a very good start.
Don’t forget, not all of these changes are negative; life ahead will be different in unexpectedly positive ways too. To know if you’re ready for parenting means that (for the most part) these changes don’t fill you with anxiety, but anticipation.
2. You’re healthy, inside and out
If you decide to try to get pregnant, your body is about to undergo a major test and transformation. Eating well, managing life stressors, and being physically active before and throughout pregnancy has countless benefits. GPs also often recommend scheduling a visit with them before trying for a baby.
Starting to look at your work/home balance is worthwhile. Working flat out to the last minute, then assuming you will make the necessary changes when the baby arrives may leave you stressed, adding to the pressures of the changes about to take place in your life.
Getting ready for a baby in your life isn’t just about training yourself for the new demands; it’s getting those around you to adapt too. For example, are your boss and colleagues ready to have different – perhaps more realistic – expectations of you? Talking to others at work about how family life fits in with jobs or careers is an important step when deciding whether to start a family.
3. Your relationship is in a good place
Some people mistakenly believe a baby will fix any cracks in a relationship, or fill a void in your life or your partner’s. That’s not how it works.
If you’re considering moving forward with bringing a child into your life, your partnership needs to be strong. Having a baby together will mean your relationship must cope with significant change. If you’re planning on being a solo parent – comfort and confidence within yourself is vital, as well as a good support network.
Raising children can create strain in any circumstance, so being able to manage that and communicate effectively with your partner or your support network is essential.
4. You have a support system
Think about who you have in your corner. Whether that’s a partner who will raise the child with you, friends or family members who can help in case of emergencies, or a solid community of fellow parents.
While it’s true you’ll be adding one (very cute) person to your inner circle, being a new parent can prove surprisingly isolating. Just as you must adapt to the new addition, your friends and family will have to adapt as well.
You may even find that some of your friends who aren’t at the baby-stage of life slowly depart from your life, and new networks need to be built. You may want to consider being part of a parent support group offered by your state’s health services with others who are experiencing the same joys and challenges that a new baby brings.
5. You have financial stability
Babies and children may be small, but they can be expensive! Do you need to have a million dollars? Probably not.
However, while money shouldn’t stop you from wanting to grow your family, considering your financial situation is a smart move. When you have a child, expenses pop up when you least expect them.
In general, you’ll want to know that you have enough cash flow to cover childcare and necessities, like nappies and healthcare. It’s never a bad idea to imagine what your baby-life-budget would look like.
Finally, there is nothing like pregnancy to bring out the opinions and judgement of everyone you meet. Most people seem to feel they know what they should tell someone who is trying to have or who has just had a baby. This advice includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is amazing how many want to warn you, or tell negative stories, all under the guise of just giving you “tips”. It can be worth listening to some of this, and also tuning some of it out.
Try to seek out the information that suits your emerging philosophy of childbirth and parenting. The main thing is to expect the unexpected. Have some good ideas, but if they need to change, don’t let that derail you. Ultimately, the most important thing is your health and the health of your baby.