Baby Love

When is the right time to try for a baby?

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I’m not a decisive person, as anyone who knows me reasonably well will tell you. If I chose the cheesecake for dessert I’m always quite convinced the moment I’ve done so that it’s not the best option and will swap to the soufflé at the last minute. Conversely I also absolutely hate faffing (for those of you not familiar with this northern term it means mucking about, taking far too long to make a choice, usually with great amounts of flapping and unnecessary discussion…). Perhaps my dislike of faffing is the only thing that keeps my lack of decisiveness in check, although then I worry I’ve made a snap decision, just to avoid the horrors of faffing…

There is a point to this, I promise.

A few years ago I realised I was no longer bemused by my friends’ choices to bring squashy little bundles of joy into their lives and indeed, began to imagine myself possibly doing the same at some point in the future. The months rolled on and I found myself hugely enjoying the company of these small humans (playdoh, cuddles, lots of stories and jumping in puddles- what’s not to like?) and I imagined myself doing this, with a small human I couldn’t just hand back at the end of the day. Strangely, the thought pleased me. I imagined dealing with nappies, tantrums, repetitive story reading and sleepless nights and again, it was okay (apart from the lack of sleep- I prefer to think that any child of mine would sleep eight hours a night from two weeks onwards- don’t burst my bubble). I even, perhaps immodestly, thought that I might be quite good at it.

My lovely husband is also very good with children and agreed that adding a fourth member to our little family (number three is our cat) would be a nice thing to do ‘soonish’. We discussed what we would tell them about Father Christmas, about religious beliefs, about being kind, what books we would encourage them to read and how soon it was acceptable to take them rough camping and were pleased that, in the main, we agreed, at least on the big things.

Yet, three and a half years after our first goddaughter was born and I wanted to do nothing else in the world but cuddle her constantly, here we are, still not quite certain about our choice, still not 100% about our future plans. Why?

Children or not? Long lie ins or sticky kisses? Exotic holidays or baby giggles?

I rather envy people who have wanted children from a young age and who have that total conviction throughout their lives. That said, I have also recently become a little envious of those people who are equally certain that bringing more humans into the world isn’t for them. Either way, having that level of confidence in your choice impresses me hugely. Perhaps this is you? However, as with so many things in my life, I’m struggling to make a decision, and this time it’s longer lasting and a much bigger deal than sticky toffee pudding or chocolate fudge cake.

Children or not? Long lie ins or sticky kisses? Exotic holidays or baby giggles? ‘The Gruffalo’ five times in a row or an hour with a novel and a glass of wine? (I am aware of course that many of these things aren’t an ‘either or’ but there’s the cost aspect- certainly for us, having a child would mean considerably less money coming in and therefore less opportunity for many of the things we currently do).

How do you know for sure? How can you be confident in your decision? I worry desperately that if it isn’t the right choice then (while I couldn’t help but love them) I might be hideously resentful at the loss of freedom, the lack of sleep, the break in career.

So, in the time honoured fashion of the lifelong indecisive type, we have decided to do what so many have before us and simply wait. I’m increasingly certain that part of my indecisiveness stems from not feeling quite ready yet- I want to travel more, have a few more weekends with the ability to sleep late and then drive somewhere for a long lunch and the choice to spend an entire holiday with my nose in a book if I so wish.

Articles in the media have convinced our generation that if women don’t have a child by the time they’re thirty five then its curtains for that part of their life.

These things might not be important to others but they are to me. I’m willing to put them to one side eventually, but not yet, and although everyone says that no-one is ever 100% ready for a baby, I would like to be as close to 100% as I can be.

Articles in the media have convinced our generation that if women don’t have a child by the time they’re thirty five then its curtains for that part of their life. They often go on to suggest that we should all have our children while we’re in our twenties, but for many of us, that simply isn’t or wasn’t an option, money-wise, stable home-wise, or maturity-wise. Rising house prices, cost of university or training and other things we can’t control have conspired to mean that for most people, having a family at twenty-five simply isn’t an option. It’s undeniable that as women we need to be aware of our body clock and fertility, as sadly it isn’t something we have much control over, but equally we shouldn’t be slaves to it- your fertility isn’t going to snap to ‘off’ the moment you hit that mid-thirties birthday. It’s essential that the choice is yours and, where possible, that it is made without panic and to suit you.

The more we do wait the more I think I can see a way forward that works for us and (fate allowing) I’m fairly sure a small human does feature in our future somewhere. If the choice is mine to make then I think I want the future to contain puddle jumping, baby giggles and cuddles I don’t have to hand back, but, for me at least, it’s a huge decision and one that has only come with time and a great deal of soul searching.

Will I be a worse mother for this? I don’t think so, but maybe it does mean I’m one of those women for whom motherhood isn’t a completely comfortable state and it’s definitely something I’ll have to learn and adapt to. Perhaps this is the case for lots of women? I’m not sure- it’s not something we often find it easy to talk about. I worry that if I don’t appear 110% committed to the idea of a child then I would be considered someone who isn’t that bothered but it’s more complicated than that. Some days I desperately want a child of my own.

Other days I am quite happy in my own life and start to plan my next holiday, somewhere not terribly child-friendly. Perhaps that’s okay and over time the scales will tip further in one direction or the other but it does wind its way into your consciousness and I do begin to feel under pressure. One of many sensible online women I know suggested ‘periodical soul searching, thinking deeply and hard and then doing the same thing again a few months later. Ask yourself what you want and keep coming back to the question’. I think this advice is wonderful.

I have no idea what the future holds, but if nothing else, I’m very grateful to have the opportunity even to contemplate this decision, as so many of our ancestors and sisters in other countries did not and do not have. Choice is an immense privilege, I just don’t know which is the right one yet.

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18 Comments

  • Interesting read thank you. For me, it came down to have I done ‘enough’. So not all I wanted to do, there will always be another country, but have I done enough. Have I experienced life enough, is my job high enough, is my house good enough, is my future stable enough. Learning that good enough is good enough has been a big lesson in 2017 for me. After that, do I picture our lives with children? If yes, then where does age factor into that? (eg what happens to the age of their grandparents if we keep waiting and how do I feel about that? How close to retirement might I might be with them at home and do I want that? Etc)

    So for me, that’s how we reached a decision to try at the end of this year (32 and 35). Because a leap into the unknown, one that changes your life inexplicably, is always going to be unknown, so that’s kind of good enough as a decision tool.

  • Well, medical science has clearly come a long way, given that you have so aptly been able so step INTO my brain and concisely (and eloquently) put into words how I’m feeling about babies right now. Bravo!

    I think what is partly to ‘blame’ (for want of a better word), is that we are living in a culture of endless choice and opportunity – we can have whatever we want and nothing is out of reach, unlike generations before us. But all this choice can be paralysing because when does it end? I’ve travelled extensively; but there are still more places I want to tick off before children. I own a lovely home; but I still want something a bit bigger. I have a good job; but perhaps if I wait another year it could be an even better job. I often eat out spontaneously; but there are always new places to try – and would a baby stop me from doing all of this? If I waited just one more year, would I be in a better place then? Could we save a bit more money, own a bit of a bigger house, be further down the line in my career? Would that give my baby (and myself) a better life? This is in no way suggesting that I’m criticising our good fortune of opportunities, but I do think it holds me and my partner back from making the commitment of a baby-responsibility right now, because we just keep saying to ourselves “Well, let’s have just one more holiday and THEN we’ll have a baby”. 2 years and countless holidays later, we’re still saying the same thing and planning our next child-free-trip in June.

    Then we spend time with friend’s children or our wonderful nieces and nephews and they bury their little heads in my armpit or quietly slip their hand into mine and my heart melts. And we drive home at the end of the day reflecting on how lovely it was to spend the day together, but won’t it be nice to have a quiet glass of wine when we get home?

    The ups and downs are normal for a lot more people than we realise! And we will get there too, just like you. But until then… mini breaks, spontaneous dinners, cinema trips and Sunday Sofa Sessions are what I’m taking advantage of, until the day comes that our hearts get a little bigger for a little extra person.

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Emily- I think more of us feel this way than we know… I agree entirely about the issue if endless choice and freedoms that many of us have in the modern world and how that plays havoc with our abilities to make choices and decisions about our lives (choices we are lucky to have certainly, but it doesn’t make things easy). Enjoy your break in June x

  • Really interesting article Shona, thank you.

    I think for me I always knew I wanted to be a mum and if I’m honest I would rather have had babies much earlier in my twenties but I hadn’t met the right guy. I wanted to ensure that the father of my children held the same values as me, and we had shared hopes and dreams of what being parents was all about.

    I met my husband aged 34 and we very quickly knew babies was a priority, as was marriage and cracking on with living our shared best life together. Our trying to conceive journey was a tricky one, but I have just had my first baby Sonny in November and I am very excited to hopefully have a brother or sister for him in the near future.

    I am in absolute love and my life feels complete, I guess looking back my life was a journey to this point, it absolutely wasn’t complete for me without Sonny x

    • Emma that is beautifully written (apologies for my delayed reply- I’ve been away without internet access). I’m thrilled that you’re so happy with your decision and wish your family the very happiest of times x

  • I was always very much the same – not knowing adamantly one way or the other whether children should be part of my life, although I was aware that my husband knew he did want children. We eventually realised that we had got to a point where we were in the most stable situation we had yet achieved in our lives (secure housing, jobs, as well travelled as we felt we needed to be, etc.) and were ready to take the plunge – we now have a son who is nearly a year old.

    The finality of having children is a difficult concept isn’t it? It’s not like you can ever truly test drive the experience and you can’t decide that actually it’s not your cup of tea and you’d like to undo your decision… It’s an amazing leap of faith to take and I agree with you on the point that in some ways not knowing you’ve always wanted to be a mum might make you feel like you should question your commitment… Certainly sometimes I ponder whether I will be enough for my son and will rise to all the challenges of being his parent, it is in my nature to doubt myself in this way. And I am not sure I will ever be any different. But that said for the most part being a mum has been an enjoyable ride and it’s lovely to see my baby boy getting bigger and learning new things.

    Hopefully if you keep weighing up your own situation periodically you will get to the point where the scales tip one way or another and you can make a choice that you feel happy with.

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Nicola- the finality and lack of ability to turn back on the decision to have a family is a massive leap of faith and (to me) a scary thing. Its so lovely to hear your leap of faith has certainly worked out though. We continue to weigh things up in our minds periodically and in the meantime, continue to book holidays 😉

      (Apologies for the delay in my reply- I’ve been away with no internet access)

      x

  • Great article. I haven’t met the right man until a year ago, we’re 33 and 34 and I feel like we have to cram in may years of relationship into the next couple of years, including getting married, buying a family house together and then squeezing in a couple of kids before it’s too late. We both wish we had met five years ago but that’s life. I do feel enormous pressure that I don’t have much time but I really want to make sure we’ve had plenty of special time together first

    • Hi Bunny, Congratulations on finding the right person for you. I hope you’re able to do everything you want together xx

  • Interesting article. I think I fell into the trap of thinking that when I did finally feel ‘ready’ it would happen quickly and easily, and that hasn’t been the case. I’m now 9 months pregnant after several hurdles but I wish we’d have started trying earlier. Waiting until you feel 100% ready means you want it to happen ASAP and it adds stress to what is already a stressful situation!

  • Shona, like others have said I literally feel like you’ve somehow peered into my brain, extracted my thoughts and written them down much more coherently than I could have done!

    I think about this every day and (dare I say it) have even considered leaving the LMD/ALL community as, due to the groups’ nature, there are lots of pregnancy announcements and talk of starting families. This serves to confuse me even more as I just can’t make my own mind up when (it feels like) everyone is having babies. Do I want to be a parent because I truly want it, or because everyone else is and I feel like I’m missing out? Or because it’s the next logical step in my life, or because my mum keeps saying she can’t wait for me to announce I’m pregnant?

    I love children and always thought I’d be a mum one day, but it’s so true that the world has changed and there are endless opportunities and places to see. Will I ever feel like I’ve done “enough”? I love long lie-ins and binge-watching Breaking Bad, and carefree holidays. I don’t want to resent my decision to have children, but equally I don’t want to regret not having them.

    I am slowly coming to think that maybe there is no one right answer for me. I can see a future in which my husband and I are childfree and happy and go on great holidays, but if one day we decide we are ready then maybe another future exists for us too, one in which we have a child (or children) and have a happy, albeit different, life. For now that’s as certain as I can be.

    • Hi Ellis, thanks for your reply. Your second paragraph resonated a lot with me- I’ve certainly felt the same about social media generally and wondering how much of my wanting a baby is to do with friends and family announcements. Unfortunately in this day and age it is very hard to be in a place where only your own opinions and thought are in your head!

      I loved what you said about there not being a ‘right’ answer too- I certainly need to remember that sometimes x

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as well over the past few months that even when you make the decision to stop contraception that things may go all sorts of ways. After lots of talking and thinking we decided to go for it. I was worried we might not be able to get pregnant or that it might take a year or so so why not try now. Little did I know that getting pregnant wouldn’t be a problem but that we would go on to loose 2 pregnancies around 10 weeks in the space of 6 months or so. Pregnancy loss hadn’t crossed my mind really before all this happened and though the first miscarriage happened itself, the second was more traumatic and more scary for my husband as I wasn’t really aware of what was all going on. I guess all this to say everything was very different to what we expected and its been a time of thinking again as to what we can handle and also physically what I can manage if we were to try again.It’s opened my eyes to pregnancy loss and made me more conscious when speaking about the minefield of pregnancy with friends and colleagues. Such a delicate topic. Sensing lots of love wherever you may be in conception and pregnancy journies xxx

    • Isobel I’m so very sorry to hear about your losses.

      Its definitely something to bear in mind, that even when a decision is made whether to go for it or not between the two of you, that in many cases we don’t have ultimate control over every situation. Sending love and very best wishes for whatever you decide to do in your futures xx

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