Are You Ready to Have a Baby?
An excerpt from The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: 2nd edition.
So you’re thinking of having a baby—of trading your relatively sane and orderly life for the chance to hop on board what can best be described as an eighteen-year-long rollercoaster ride. (Actually, friends of mine who have kids in their twenties tell me that the rollercoaster ride lasts a heck of a lot longer than eighteen years, but I have to confess: I’m still in denial.)
Well, before you do anything rash, like tossing the birth control pills out the window or reaching for the thermometer and the temperature graph, put on the brakes for a moment. After all, don’t you owe it to yourself to find out what it’s really like to become a parent before you agree to sign on the dotted line?
If it’s the scoop on parenthood that you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 12 years, it’s what it’s really like to a parent: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, lucky for you, I’m prepared to spill the beans. (Just pour me a hot, steaming cup of decaff and I’m all yours!)
As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, we’re going to start out the book by bravely going where no other pregnancy book has dared to go until now: by considering the plain unvarnished truth about parenthood. We’ll start out by considering the financial fallout associated with becoming a parent as well as the career costs of having a baby. Then we’ll tackle the age issue—whether or not there’s an “ideal age” to become a parent. Finally, we’ll wrap up the chapter by talking about how you may feel about starting a family and what to do if you and your partner aren’t exactly on the same page when it comes to the whole babymaking issue.
Just one small footnote before we move on to the real nitty-gritty. There are a number of important health-related issues to consider when you’re planning a pregnancy. Rather starting out with a heavy-duty biology lecture that might cause you to experience frightening flashbacks to your Grade 9 health class, I thought I’d ease you into the book gently. That’s why I’ve chosen to postpone the discussion of preconception health issues until Chapter 2. (Don’t touch that dial!)
If you’re waiting for some sort of magical signal that will tell you in no uncertain terms that this is really-and-truly-without-a-doubt “the right time” to have a baby, you could find yourself in for a pretty lengthy wait. You see, there are always more reasons not to get pregnant than there are reasons to start a family! In fact, if you and your partner were to sit down with a pot of coffee and a pad of paper, you’d be bound to come up with a whole laundry list of reasons why you’d be insane to even think about getting pregnant right now. Here are a few of the reasons that might very well find their way on to your list:
- You’ve just bought a house and you’re up to your eyeballs in debt. (You figure that if you scrimp and save and do without unnecessary frills like groceries and clothing, you just might manage to pay for the damned thing before it’s time to retire!)
- You just sprung for a hot new sports car—and the interior isn’t exactly baby-friendly. Even worse, there’s no place to attach a car seat tether strap.
- You’ve just booked one of those truly decadent couples cruise-ship vacations and you know that your partner would be less-than-thrilled if you were to spent most of the vacation holed up in the washroom, battling morning sickness.
- You’ve just changed jobs and you don’t want to have to announce to your new employer that you’re “in the family way” before you even get your first pay cheque!
- You’re coming into “busy season” at work and you don’t want to risk having to take any time off just because your stomach starts churning each time you come within 20 feet of the coffee pot.
- You and your partner are getting along so famously that you’re reluctant to risk ruining a perfectly good relationship by adding a baby to the mix. (There’s also an alternative scenario to consider, just in case the phrase “marital bliss” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your partner. If you and your partner aren’t getting along at all, you may wonder if having a baby would ultimately end up driving you to divorce court.)
- You’ve agreed to serve in your best friend’s wedding party eight months from now and you know that she wasn’t counting on having you looking mega-pregnant in all the wedding photos.
- If you were to conceive tonight, you could end up giving birth in the midst of a mid-winter blizzard or a mid-summer heat wave. (Hey, if there’s one thing we Canadians can depend upon, it’s weather extremes!)
- You need to lose weight and you’d like to drop those extra pounds before you start your family. (Or, alternatively, you’ve just finished losing a ton of weight and you’d like to enjoy the sensation of having a flat stomach before you agree to sublet your belly.)
- You find the sounds of a child screaming in restaurants to be annoying rather than endearing—something that makes you question whether or not you’ve really got what it takes to become a parent. (Of course, this experience can sometimes elicit the opposite reaction: it can convince you that you’d be bound to do a better job at parenting that that imbicile sitting next to you at the restaurant!)
As you can see, there are always a million-and-one-reasons not to have a baby. And some of them actually make a lot of sense. I mean, if you and your partner are thinking about calling it quits, a positive pregnancy test may not be exactly what you want to see at this stage of the game. Likewise, it’s probably not a great idea to announce that you’re pregnant when you’re just a week or two into a new job—unless, of course, you happen to be self-employed. But as for waiting until your financial affairs are in order, your calendar is clear for the next nine months, you’ve reached your ideal weight, and you feel psychologically fit to become a parent (whatever that means!), you could find yourself waiting a very long time. (Heck, I’ve got four kids and I’m still not 100% sure that I’m up to the challenge!)
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting.