“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?