"Am I ready for a baby?" Talk about a life-changing question!
Having a baby is one of the bigger decisions people make in life, and there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to when or how someone decides to become a parent.
The first thing to know is that nothing can fully prepare you for the role of mom or dad, but there are important factors to consider when deciding if the time is right to welcome a baby.
Am I ready for a baby?
Whether the influx of pregnancy announcements has babies on the brain, or trying to get pregnant is imminent, licensed mental health counselor Dr. Joanne Frederick encourages parents-to-be to ask themselves these five questions to help determine parental readiness:
How are you going to get pregnant?
If you are with a partner/married are you going to plan it and go at it aggressively or will you both have a more laid-back attitude? If you have problems conceiving, are you both willing to go through the time, money and emotional roller coaster of IVF treatments? Would adoptions or surrogacy be an option? It is important not to just plan for the best-case scenario but to discuss all possible outcomes and make sure you are on the same page if conception does not occur naturally.
Are you financially prepared for this?
In the excitement of contemplating starting a family, it is easy to “romanticize” the experience without thinking of the practicality. Not only does an infant need food, clothes and medical care, but you must also think about all of the “supplies” that a growing baby will need in addition to the space in your home. Do you have ample room to reconfigure your home to accommodate a baby as well as toys, cribs, and accessories? If not, do you have a budget to move? If you do not work from home five days a week, do you have money for responsible child care? Are you in a position to start saving for college and other expenses your child will need later in life?
Are you ready to give up certain aspects of your freedom?
As a childless person, you are used to traveling unencumbered, saying “yes” to dinner plans on a moment’s notice, having downtime for yourself, putting yourself first, sleeping through the night, using extra money to reward yourself with a treat. When a baby comes, life as you know it will turn upside down, and a small, helpless creature will be 100% dependent on you. Make sure that you have checked certain boxes/goals before you have a baby. It does not mean you have to give them up forever, but in the early stages of parenthood, they may have to take a backseat.
Do I really want kids?
This might seem like a silly question but it is far from it. So many women take it for granted that they are “supposed” to have children because that is what their family or society expects from them that they never consider the option of not having children.
Dig deep inside and make sure that this is what you really want before embarking on this lifetime commitment.
How will having a baby now impact my career/education?
Women are having babies later in life than ever before, primarily so that they can establish themselves in careers and seek higher education. Ask yourself if having a baby now would impede your ability to finish a graduate degree, complete a training program or move to another city in pursuit of your dream job. Certain times in life are more ideal than others to have a baby. Make sure the timing is right for you.
Frederick also stressed the importance of mental health during pregnancy and into parenthood.
"A mother’s mental health must be a top priority," Frederick told TODAY Parents. "Those who are prone to depression, mood swings or anxiety should speak to a licensed therapist about hormonal changes during pregnancy, post-partum depression, the anxiety they might feel about becoming a parent, and managing stress as a new parent."
In addition to physical well-being, the Washington, D.C.-based mental health professional explained the importance of emotional support.
"Up to one in 10 women and one in 20 men experience antenatal (during pregnancy) depression," she said, adding that worries may include miscarriage, premature birth, a baby's health, and capability as a parent. "Studies have been conducted that found that pregnant women who had lower levels of support had significantly higher levels of anxiety while pregnant, as well as an increase in depression."
Frederick continued, "If there is a partner involved, emotional support strengthens the bond between the two prior to the baby’s birth. Lower stress in mothers during pregnancy may help infants as well."