One of the most exciting and rewarding experiences is when we help bring a new life into the world. Witnessing the birth of a baby is nothing short of miraculous. As the father of three incredible children, I know first-hand what it means to be a parent.
And I discovered early on that being a parent doesn’t start with the birth of your baby. It starts when you seriously begin contemplating bringing a baby into the world – your world.
As you may know or are beginning to realize if you are already a parent, there are so many issues that understandably come up for us when contemplating being a parent. This is completely normal!
We have questions.
Some are related to the physical aspects of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the time of post-partum. Some questions we have are about actually being a parent: Am I ready to be a parent? If you have a partner are we ready? What are my views about parenting? How can I be a good mother or father for my baby? What challenges might we face as parents? Again, all of these questions and any others you may have are totally healthy and normal to be asking.
My clients have told me that it was and is very helpful to talk about all of this before and after their baby is born. They tell me that having these conversations has really helped set a good tone for their pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the beginning of parenthood. Having these conversations has proven to be good for parents-to-be and for their baby.
Many of my healthcare colleagues, including OBGYN’s and pediatricians, often refer their patients to me because they know that helping people who are contemplating, already expecting, or who have a new baby is one of my primary and most favorite areas of specialization. Helping couples navigate all of this is one of my true passions in life, personally and professionally.
Any of the following sound familiar?
Over the years I have heard many stories from couples related to either starting a family, or adding more children to their existing family. Sometimes getting pregnant is easy. Sometimes couples experience fertility issues and the understandable stresses that naturally arise in this situation.
In other situations, one or both of the partners have questions as to whether or not they want another child; quite often their questions are related to the timing of having a child, current financial situation, health considerations, and issues related to work and life balance. It’s good to talk about all of this.
Of course, as the father of three children, I have a personal bias towards having children and the benefits and joys of family life. But that’s me. I realize not everyone necessarily feels the same way. Some want children, while some people do not. Yet others may be uncertain one way or the other. All this is totally fine. What’s important in this moment, is to have these conversations in order to help each of you discover your own truth.
So, right now, begin these conversations if you haven’t already. Ask yourself, what’s true for you? Ask your partner what’s true for them? The answers may be the same, different, or may change over time. But it’s good to ask the question so you can at least get a snapshot in time of where each of you is in this particular moment.
To help you start this conversation, here are some questions I recommend couples begin to explore, whether contemplating having your first child, or your second, third, or fifth! Here we go.
What is my honest evaluation of the current state of my relationship?
Knowing the answer to this can help you decide if this is the right relationship to support a child in the world. Are we on the verge of a breakup or are we in a solid relationship with a firm foundation? Have we just met and thinking about having a baby just on an impulse? Are we a high-conflict couple that fights almost all the time, and thinking that all we need is a baby and the fights will disappear?
Am I confident that both myself and my partner even want to be parents?
The answer may not be the same, and if it isn’t, you really need to take pause. This could be a red flag. You really need to engage in a series of conversations with yourself and with your partner about each of your own hopes, wishes, and desires, including whether or not you want to even have children at all.
For many couples, this is not going to be an issue. They know they want to have a baby. And for some, it will be an issue as not everyone wants to have children. Obviously, better to know now than have a child and one or both of you resent having children, but never said so before getting pregnant.
This is a crucial conversation because you’re not only contemplating whether or not you want a child, but there is potentially a third as yet unborn human being, who will need to know that both parents wanted her or him.
Is our relationship solid enough for us to add a child?
It’s important to be honest about this in terms of whether your relationship can endure the natural joys of a new baby, but also the normal demands and responsibilities of parenthood.
Are we prepared, as best anyone could be, for the real-world impact of being parents? Can we endure the normal stresses of parenthood including lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, incessant crying, work schedule intrusions, endless diaper changes, and potential impact on our sex life?
Do we understand that there are likely to be long-term changes in our relationship, some of which may be permanent? Are we solid enough to understand and cope with these normal and inevitable changes in our lives?
Do my partner and I agree that this is the right time to start a family?
You need to know if this an optimal time based upon the current and anticipated stressors in your lives. Understand that there really is NO absolute perfect time to bring a child into the world. The real issue is this, is this the most optimal time given the reality of our lives?
Do I have any unfinished business from my own childhood that could impact my ability to be a good parent?
Of course, most everyone does to one degree or another. So it would make sense for you to see what your own childhood experiences were that could influence you in the role of a parent, for better or worse. This is a normal and necessary gut check for any conscientious parent-to-be.
I just found out that I’m pregnant.
This situation can happen to just about anybody. No birth control method, other than abstinence, is one-hundred percent reliable. Now what? You may be someone who decides you will keep your baby. Maybe you’re in a situation where you might want to terminate the pregnancy. Or you may simply not know what is the best thing to do. If this is the situation, I strongly urge both of you to seek out counseling as this is a decision you will both have to live with no matter what you ultimately decide to do.
What are my concerns about pregnancy, labor, and delivery?
Do you have any specific fears and anxieties – which are quite normal – related to any of these? If so, seek out support to help you gain more information about all of this.
The more informed you are, the more confident you can be about your decision to have your first baby.
Do I have a good support system to help me through pregnancy and after the baby is born?
I can’t emphasize enough just how important it is to have a good support system to help you not just during your pregnancy, but after your baby is born. Initially you will need some help including help with meals, laundry walking the dog, having people to talk to, encouragement from others to embrace your own self-care as much as you are devoted to your baby, and people who can come in and give you some relief from all of this so that you can get some rest or go back to your yoga class.
Given all of this, I highly recommend that you start building your support system as soon as you decide to have a baby. And here’s another good thing to consider: support from your family can be of immense help but don’t just limit your definition of “family” to blood relatives alone. True family is anyone who loves you and wants to be there for you and your baby.
What should I look for when choosing an OBGYN and a Pediatrician?
And speaking of support system, choosing your OB and pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you can make. These are very personal decisions. I suggest that prospective mothers and their partners be open-minded about the many ways to determine who is going to be a good fit for you when interviewing your OB and any pediatrician for your baby. Take your time about these choices and do some research.
Talk to family, friends, and colleagues who have had babies and ask for their recommendations. I know that both my wife and I benefitted from having people to talk to as we grew our family with our own children. Most importantly, when you interview any healthcare professional, it’s important that you feel a personal rapport with them: that you aren’t just a nameless face. You want them to be invested in you and your baby-to-be. You deserve that and so does your baby!
I hope that this article has been helpful. Understandably, just reading through some of these questions can be stressful. If you find yourself not knowing or unsure of the answers to more than a couple of the questions, and would like some guidance, please feel free to call my office. I would be happy to offer you a quick 15-minute call to see if it would be a good idea for us to meet.
Having helped hundreds of couples navigate parenthood, I always enjoy helping individuals and couples work through this important phase of life, even if it can be difficult at times. I know how truly important all of this is. It would be my pleasure to support you at such an important time in your life!