Finding yourself internally asking, ‘Am I ready for a baby?’ Well, obviously no internet checklist can tell you definitely yes, or no, BUT, we have a chat to an expert about how you can get prepared and if there is ever a ‘right’ time to have a baby.
Maybe you’ve been seeing babies everywhere you go – as though you’re suddenly surrounded by them, or found yourself feeling a little jealous when a friend – or complete stranger – announces their pregnancy? Are babies suddenly on your radar, big time?
But perhaps you’re also worried that you’ve never been able to even keep a houseplant alive, or the fact that you haven’t been saving much – or perhaps any – money. Is now the right time to be thinking about a baby?? Especially as we hurtle towards a recession?? (In my opinion, the houseplant is not one you need to worry about. Some of those plants have zero desire to stay alive and are impossible to look after.)
Kristin Ward manages the Family Coaching team at Parenting Place, and is also a mum-of-three, so she knows what it’s like in the trenches! She also knows what goes into preparing for a baby aaaand working out whether it’s actually a good time to have a little human (is there EVER a right time though???). We asked her all the difficult questions to help you work it out – and in turn, perhaps ask yourself (and your partner) some difficult questions to see if it’s the right move…
IS THERE EVER A ‘RIGHT’ TIME TO HAVE A BABY?
This question is understandably complex and the answer will be unique to personal situations. Rather than offering a prescribed ‘right time’, I can suggest helpful things to think about and useful questions to ask.
First up, have an honest conversation with your partner spoken about your expectations and dreams for having children. Are your ideas and values aligned? Do you feel emotionally ‘ready’? Maybe one of you does, and the other doesn’t. Ask each other about your fears and concerns. Discussing your feelings about having a baby can help you get on the same page as each other. And don’t worry if either of you doesn’t feel 100% sure that you’re ready to start a family – that is pretty normal. What will life be like with a baby? You won’t know for sure until you get there. Plenty of ‘what if?’ questions can’t be answered in advance, so there will always be a certain element of ‘taking the plunge’.
How do we physically prepare?
Traditionally there has been a huge focus on the mother’s health, lifestyle, alcohol consumption, smoking etc, prior to and during pregnancy. However, studies are increasingly showing that the father’s health, age, alcohol, tobacco and drug use also affects baby and the health of future generations. “A man’s diet and lifestyle or exposure to stress or chemicals may modify epigenetic markers contained inside sperm. These epigenetic markers can be passed down to children and affect their health…. Wider awareness of the role both biological parents play is needed.” (Wilkinson, Low & Gluckman).
How do we emotionally prepare?
Pay attention to strengthening your relationship with your partner or spouse. While it’s still just the two of you, it’s the ideal season to strengthen the foundation of your family – your relationship as a couple. The stronger your relationship is, the better. Consider going on a marriage/relationship course (local churches often host these or you could find an online provider). These courses can operate as a WOF for your relationship, trouble-shooting any issues before you enter the intensity of child-rearing together. Remember, prevention is wisdom! Couples that attend to small conflicts or tensions, prevent bigger conflicts later.
Pay attention to your ‘village’
Do you have whānau and friends living nearby who can form part of your village as you raise a baby? If you feel isolated, it is a very good idea to be intentional about finding your village. Join an antenatal group that can turn into a coffee group after the babies are born, or enrol in your local Space group.
It’s amazing how emotionally supportive it is to have people to talk to about any worries you have about your baby, especially if they are people who really love your baby – and love you! It really does take a village to raise a child, and the little gems of insight and encouragement we share with each other can be life-changing. I remember my friend letting me know, “Oh, you have put that nappy on backwards!” And it was my mum who solved for me the mystery of strange brown marks on my toddler’s tee-shirts. Who knew that banana stains?
Pay attention to your mental health.
Most people know a bit about postnatal depression or the ‘baby blues’, but recent research tells us that mental distress can begin at conception or rear its head up to a year after birth. We all need to be aware that this is a vulnerable time for women. Perinatal distress “is thought to affect at least 15% of New Zealand women, although this figure obscures the heightened risk among women of Māori, Asian, and Pacific ethnicity, for whom rates can reach one in three.” (Wilkinson, Loh & Gluckman).
Much can be done to support those experiencing perinatal distress and early detection is extremely helpful. If you have experienced previous mental health concerns, let your midwife and GP know this background. “If distress can be detected and managed during pregnancy, that helps prevent it worsening after birth.” (Wilkinson, Loh & Gluckman).
If you feel anxious or depressed, or are experiencing other mental distress during pregnancy or once your baby has arrived, don’t dismiss it. Confide in your ‘village’ (partner, whānau, friends,) but also make sure you speak to your midwife or GP about any symptoms of mental distress. Similarly, dads can be vulnerable to depression during this big life change, particularly if their partner is struggling or depressed.
So back to our original question – is there a ‘right’ time to have a baby? Well, clearly it’s wise to take the decision to start a family seriously! There’s a lot to consider, but remember that there is also a lot of support available to those embarking on this wonderful adventure. And it’s a wise parent who asks for help – we all need support and encouragement from time to time! Parenting Place offers parenting courses for all the different ages and stages of child-rearing. Sign up to receive helpful articles via your inbox and browse their website for resources.