Is There Ever a Right Time to Get Pregnant?

“My daughter still tells me we should never have had children when we did,” a friend confides, remembering how broke she and her husband were when their oldest was born, how far from town they lived, and how she used to haul baskets of dirty cloth diapers 17 miles to the laundry mat since they had no running water in their cabin.

Another friend, Steph Auteri, has recently launched a relationship blog on YourTango (where she also works as an editor) where she’s chronicling her decision to become a mom. In today’s post she asks the question, “Is there a perfect time to get pregnant?”

Some couples need only look coyly at each other and they are nine months away from having a baby. Others try for years to conceive, go through soul-wrenching infertility treatments, and end up giving up the dream that they will become parents. Although so many people take fertility for granted, you really don’t know if you’ll be able to get pregnant until you start trying.

And even if you do get pregnant, you may not stay that way. We planned to have our last baby before I turned 40 and tried to conceive so the baby would be born in the spring. Sure enough I got pregnant. Some days I was so nauseous it was all I could do to crawl out of bed, splash water on my face, and take care of my other kids. But even though I had all the right symptoms, something about the pregnancy didn’t feel real. I wasn’t surprised but I was totally heartbroken when I started bleeding. I bled for two weeks and wasn’t pregnant anymore.

There is no perfect time to try to conceive. There’s no perfect time to be pregnant. And there’s no perfect time to have a baby.

No matter how much money you’ve saved, no matter how much help you’ve lined up, no matter how much job security you think you have, no matter how fit and healthy you are, babies–who then grow up into children–change your life. They change everything about you. They change what you want. They change how you think. They change who you are.

“We wanted our lives to be exactly the same after our son was born,” a high-achieving totally brilliant friend once said to me. “We hated seeing how all our friends changed when they became parents.”

But changing and growing and learning and becoming someone new has, for me anyway, been among what I love best about becoming a parent. My children have helped me open my heart. I never knew you could love someone so much it ached, and keep loving them that much, ache after ache, until my children were born.

Maybe you’ll want to rush back to your old life like my friends did. But maybe you’ll realize how self-centered you once were, how much you used to take your time and space for granted, how much of a privilege it is to have a tiny creature to care for, and how lucky you are to be the person who makes your baby’s eyes crinkle every time she sees you, lighting up your heart with her toothless drooly smile.

If you have children, what surprised you about becoming a parent? Did you plan your pregnancies or did your children come as a surprise? What factors do you think people should take into consideration when they are thinking about starting a family and trying to conceive?

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21 thoughts on “Is There Ever a Right Time to Get Pregnant?”

  1. Hi Jennifer – it’s funny that you’re posting this because I started my whole blog to kind of document this journey for my family. I totally planned when to get pregnant and thought I had everything all buttoned up. I even ended up with my “perfect” one girl and one boy scenario. And, let me tell you, it has been nothing but one big, joyous, a**-kicking all the way, bundled inside of a tremendous spiritual discovery. It started about 5 minutes after I got pregnant and is still in full-tilt-boogie to this very day.

    There are pros and cons to getting pregnant younger when you have more energy and less money, and older, when you have money and maturity (you hope) but less energy. Maybe there is a time that is “perfect” for each of us, but I agree with you, never a truly perfect time. I really just cling to my belief that everything happens for a reason, even when I don’t get to know what the reason is. And I have to trust that the reason is different for each one of us. And when I run across people that are over-planners like myself, thinking that they are getting it all planned out, I just chuckle to myself, knowing that their humbling moments are coming. I’m sure there were plenty of people chuckling at me when I thought I had it figured out!
    .-= Codi´s last blog ..Migraine-ology =-.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Jennifer! And yes, I have to admit: I’m one of those obsessive-compulsive neurotic-types who tries to over-plan for every eventuality, especially when it comes to the Big Stuff, like getting married, buying a house, and having kids. I get the feeling, however, that you and Codi (and everyone who commented over at my blog) are right: nothing ever goes as planned, and the life I end up leading once I child enters the equation will look like nothing I previously imagined. I’m excited, though. 🙂 Back when I was little, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up, aside from an author, was a mom. And that hasn’t changed.
    .-= Steph Auteri´s last blog ..Is There A Perfect Time To Get Pregnant? =-.

  3. I love this. I was a plannner/controller with a busy successful career and God taught me something profound and painful with my two colicky babies. No matter how much you prepare, no matter how calm and happy the birth, the “you know what” can hit the fan and have you on your knees begging for mercy. That’s where I have been and now I have settled into a new normal. Humbled and in full realization that life is a wild journey and we just gotta hang on for the ride! Luckily my husband and I are still together after all we’ve experienced! My motto: HOPE FOR THE BEST (that means REALLY visualize it) AND PLAN FOR THE WORST. Oh yes, and the other phrase that got me thorugh the early weeks/months THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH. My current goal is to become more of an UNDER-REACTOR. Still working on that but better every day. 🙂 Sarah Jane

  4. Gosh, we sort of planned my pregnancy after much hemming and hawing about whether it was the right time. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right time as just when you think it’s the right time, things change and you’ll think it’s the wrong time and then things will change again. My only hope is that my children will be happy and healthy and will love each other regardless of how far apart or close together they are in age.
    .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Tasty Side: Asparagus with Chives and Lemon Zest =-.

  5. I was a great planner, but my body didn’t cooperate. Fertility treatments finally did the trick, both times, but it wasn’t an easy journey. In the end, you have to be ready to wait and take it whenever it comes. I wish I hadn’t waited so long between babies and had had a few more.

  6. Jennifer, I totally agree with all your sentiments (beautifully) expressed here. There’s no way I was prepared for the total devotion and selflessness I’d feel once my children were born. And it continues to fill me to this day, even though they’re just-about grown and don’t need me as much. They’re an extension of me and have filled me with so much joy, awe and warm fuzzies:)

    And nothing I’ve had to give up is a sacrifice. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    .-= Sheryl´s last blog ..How to Survive a Trip to the ER =-.

  7. I realize there are personality differences that play into the picture, but I can’t help wondering if your own upbringing doesn’t have something to do with all this compulsive planning about babies. In my (elderly now) generation, when we were kids, we wandered around the neighborhood, got together our own sandlot baseball games, and had nothing scheduled but school and maybe piano lessons. So when we got married (or, god forbid, before) we just had babies. Nice little surprises. Didn’t know the sex until they were born. Didn’t know how soon the next one was coming.

    In the thirty-something generation, as children you were scheduled for EVERYTHING. So naturally you think you should schedule babies for the “perfect” time.

    Just wondering.
    .-= Vera Marie Badertscher´s last blog ..Prize Winning Book From New Zealand =-.

  8. We kept putting off having kids. When we unexpectedly became pregnant, we embraced it, realizing that we likely never would have reached a point where we felt “ready.” Then we lost that pregnancy. It taught us a lesson, though, and we tried to become pregnant again as soon as we could. Fortunately, it didn’t take long. 361 days after we lost the first pregnancy, I gave birth to Tye. She’s rocked our world in ways we couldn’t imagine, all for the better. When people say that they don’t want their lives to change when they have kids, they just can’t comprehend how much they are missing. Parenthood is just that amazing.
    .-= Mama Em´s last blog ..Happy Mother’s Day! =-.

  9. I chose to become pregnant, I was fortunate enough to have that option at 22. I had my three children young, starting in 1970, when most women of my generation were starting a career. And, I did it in France. Whew. I look back now and think, how could I? At least this is what one of my daughters, now 38, often has asked. She has no children. She turned down men in her past for career options. I watched, miffed. Now she is afraid she will never have children.

    There is no right time, but I certainly do not regret having been a young mother and having done things backwards from my friends. (I divorced my French husband, moved back to the US with a Swede, home-cared my elderly parents, and now own a successful inn that I manage.)


  10. What surprises me most is how little I care about the things that I thought I didn’t want to part with pre-parenthood: fine dining, a vibrant social life, etc. Then what also surprises me is the one thing I crave and miss the most: a moment of quiet time in the morning. My husband took our daughter camping over the weekend and I got Sunday morning to myself. It was blissful to sleep in and not have to do anything when I woke up. But it’s worth it. It’s been so gratifying to share myself with another.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..It

  11. I also wish we’d started earlier–I would have likely had one more. Now I’m just too old, too burned out, too cash-poor, and have 3. Three is good though.. lots of activity in our home for sure. When we decided to have our second it was one of the most difficult years in our marriage. Business had crashed in the wake of 9/11 (I worked primarily in financial district and Morgan Stanley was my main client), things were bad. I just wanted something GOOD to look forward to. It was not easy but it was something I really wanted. I have never regretted the timing of any of my children. I have a 5 yr gap between first two children and 2 between second two. To be honest, the eldest needed that gap. He needs to the most from me. The other two get along superbly and it worked out SO well. My eldest would not have handled getting a sibling when he was 2. So.. I guess I’m saying that it all just works out.

  12. Vera, I think you’re really onto something. I too (being not quite of that 30-something generation) wonder about the long-term effects of over-scheduling our children and being over-involved in their activities. We used to come home completely unsupervised after school and play kickball in the street by our house with other neighborhood kids. Though I don’t romanticize my childhood (parts of it were really painful), I do think too much planning, be it of playdates or when to get pregnant, can give people a false sense of control and also take a lot of the pleasure and spontaneity out of life.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experience, Codi. It’s a good reminder that even when we think we’re getting exactly what we want, it often turns out completely differently from how we expect it to. I can relate to your feeling of being on an a**kicking rollercoaster ride in this crazy parentland.

  14. At the risk of sounding trite, I think whenever you conceive is the perfect time to make a baby because whomever is born to you is who you love so dearly.
    .-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..Mother

  15. When my husband and I decided it was time with our first baby, we just felt like someone was missing in our family. We didn’t think about money (we didn’t have any anyway), we didn’t think about timing, we just knew we wanted to meet this little person. We figured I’d be pregnant instantly–it didn’t happen that way. But when our daughter did arrive I just couldn’t imagine her not being around. Kids teach you so many lessons that I think it would be hard to learn any other way.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Swan Cream Puffs =-.

  16. When my daughters were born, I was surprised by the depth of love I felt for them. I could sit for hours, just looking into their eyes, touching their little hands, singing songs to them (horribly, but they didn’t seem to mind!). Even to this day, I feel like a part of me is missing when I am away from them! My girls were both planned and it’s almost embarrassing how easy it was to conceive. We thought the first time was luck so we decided to start trying when Hestia turned three months. You can guess the rest…Hestia and Calliope are 13 months apart!

    As far as what should be taken into consideration before trying to conceive, that is a question that depends on the individual and I’m fairly sure that for every mom-to-be there is a different answer. One thing I staunchly believe is that a mom-to-be should not have a child unless she can care for him or her without utilizing public assistance. I wouldn’t want to put responsibility of providing for my child on the taxpayers; I’d feel guilty! Now, family and friends helping out is a totally different matter. It really brings together a family to “rally ’round” a baby!

  17. Hi…this is an interesting discussion. What I find a more valid question today is how many children is too many? We are having an unchecked population explosion worldwide and natural resources are being stretched, like clean water for example. Do we have a moral obligation to control our population for the sake of our climate, our earth, even in areas of the planet where the direct effects of too many people are not directly felt, unless you count the climate change in general. I have two children…and the choice to have a 2nd child was very difficult not because of the timing but because of what our personal responsiblity is to our planet and everything living on it. If you question whether there is a population crisis, Mother Jones, the magazine, has articles discussing it this month…

  18. Heather, I worry a lot, too, about the unchecked population growth and the way our species is hurting the planet. That may sound strange coming from someone who has chosen to have a big family. But I’ve noticed that a lot of Americans who have no children, or only one or two children, end up using a huge amount of resources. Just today a friend with two kids told me they bought a second mini-van for their family after their smaller car broke down. Although my family is far from perfect for so many reasons, we generate a lot less trash than most of our neighbors, we are six people with only one fuel efficient compact car, and we walk and bike as much as we can. In Niger, where we lived for a year, people with very big families used almost no resources, wasted no water (taking a shower and getting clean with a single bucket of water), and re-used everything. What I think I’m trying to say is that I suspect it is not the number of children any one person has but how you choose to live and how much you and your children consume.
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..A Letter From an Angry Fit Pregnancy Reader =-.

  19. Yes, I totally agree with you on the way we raise our families can make an enviromental impact. However, I do believe our country needs a nation wide dialog about this taboo topic–population control. Regardless of the way we raise our children, they are still another growing person that will (may) eventually have children of their own. There is no way to guarantee they will not live their lives in excess. And unlike you, perhaps, most don’t make the resource cuts or even realize what is happening. US children take up more everything. I am guilty–my children have plenty…their needs are always well met. There have been studies showing that no matter the car you drive, the kind of food and diapers you choose, the clean energy enhancements you make to your home–like solar, grey water, composting toliets, etc, we, as Americans, use too much. I wish I could quote directly, but I don’t have the reports in front of me. Bottom line, each person brought onto the planet takes resources for the rest of their lives.

    Iran, of all places, has noticed this, and through a marketing campaign, free birth control, and education for girls has brought down their population growth to 1.7 per family. I believe they have a forward thinking approach to population growth, unlike the scary Chinese policies.

    I don’t want to sound all “high and mighty”. I contantly question my choices when it comes to raising my two kids. It is hard for me to not go nuts on their birthdays. Haha. However, I am pushing out in every way right now about this topic because I passionately feel our country needs to take action to help contribute to the worldwide effort of climate control. Slowing down our population or even reversing it would help the rest of the natural resources on our planet have a little more room. I am not trying to be too soapbox-ish. I am truly and deeply worried about the future.

  20. This OCD control freak would never have found “the perfect time” to make a baby. So it’s just as well it happened when it did. And what a blessing in my life, in so many ways, not least of which: letting go of some of those obsessive/controlling tendencies and learning to live in the moment.

    When I meet a woman who is pregnant for the first time who thinks she knows exactly how the pregnancy/birth/child/parenting/spouse is going to be/work out I just smile. Truth is, we all just stumble along and do the best we can but there’s not a script to follow, and the sooner you make your peace with that, the more enjoyable mothering becomes.
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Inside Berkeley

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