Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Have a Baby?

For dinner this weekend, Mr W and I ordered up some expertise in family planning.

He and I are taking baby steps towards having a baby and wanted to pick the brain of some parents we know well. So over some steak and shrimp fajitas with Mr W's longtime family friends, Kim and Mark, we were filled full of advice on becoming and being parents.

Kim and Mark have been friends of Mr. W's since he was a child. Kim was his second grade teacher. Then Mr. W's mom became Kim's babysitter. Kim and Mark have had eight children (I told you there was some expertise involved....). Yes, I said eight. They are the antithesis of Jon and Kate, before you even think that.  

I am not the girl who has always known she wanted to be a mom. 
Can you feel the awkwardness?

In elementary school as the other girls would freely throw out double digits to place in the "Number of Children" section of the game MASH, I always betted low, starting confidently at zero. One, two or three (AHH!) little spawn would be fine, but I didn't stack my fate.

I don't play MASH anymore, but these days, I have been thinking more about having a child. 

The Dubs and I got married in our 30s, which I believe is a wonderful time to committ for a lifetime to another person. 

You've had many years to become an adult before you become a husband or a wife. Time, it seems, is on the side of your marriage. Time, however, is not on the side of your eggs...or so the experts (who are not Kim and Mark, who had their No. 8 when Kim was 40!) say.  That leaves little room, if you have the slightest inkling for a family, to table the topic of tots.

I often ask mothers (especially lately) how they knew they were ready to have a baby.  I've only ever been given canned-ish answers: I've always known, You're never really ready; You just know; It was the next step; I wasn't...and I was on the pill!; I'm still not ready, and my child is 5.

I am not yet a mom, so clearly I don't have the answer to that question, but all those times I was asking, I was hoping for some kind of sign...something that would spark the certainty in me that would pave the way to parenting. For those of us who haven't always just known, deciding to become a mother is scary and complicated and mysterious....especially, and I speak for the thirty-somethings here, when you've lived for so long with the vanity of freedom that not having children or even a spouse gives you. The "option to design your own life" I think is what John and Carrie B. Preston call it.

I have felt true guilt because there have been times when I wanted to want a baby more than I simply wanted a baby. It's a desire {insert blame to society and The Man here} most women feel they should have. 

I do know now that I want to be a mom.  I think.  Let's just say I wouldn't start at zero anymore if solicated to play MASH.

A few weeks ago at a graduation party for one of Kim and Mark's daughters, Kim pulled me aside. She'd seen me twice that weekend, and neither time - at parties - had she seen me sipping wine. She thought I was surely prego, and hinted around as much. I assured her I wasn't, but confided that Mr W and I were indeed having baby talks.

I admitted that for Mothers' Day our dog Chloe had given me What To Expect Before You're Expecting as a gift, and that reading it caused me so much anxiety I had to search out a bottle of Xanex I hadn't seen since the week my wedding. I told her we'd started to assess, with baby in mind, our finances, that we'd started discussing when to move to a new house. I confessed that I'm so worried about timing and infertility and.....

Kim stopped me mid-sentence in my canned-ish baby prep speech.

She told me what I've heard so many times already: You can never save enough, you can never plan enough...and just as I was about to count out her counsel, she said this: You know it's time when you're ready to share your relationship [with Mr. W] with another person.

It wasn't that those words made me instantly certain I am ready; I'm still not certain.  Still, I thought Kim's reason was as pure as any I'd ever heard. It resonated. Along with the prayers I've been sending up on this topic, the countless converastions I've had with friends, and the heart-to-hearts Mr. W and I have on the matter, Kim's simple logic really spoke to me.

For five more minutes, surround by other party guests, I soaked up all she had to say about becoming a mom. I had to stop myself from asking her right there if she'd like to be in the room when/if I ever do give birth. Instead, I just asked her if she and Mark would come have dinner and baby talk with Mr W and me. And so they did. And it was so much more helpful than that crazy book.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from you - How did you know you were/are ready to have a baby?


Ashley Bray said...

Like most I don't think there is ever a perfect time or the light bulb that goes off telling you you are ready. God has His plans for you and it happens when you least expect and sometimes want it.
I thought I was ready with my first but it was the idea I was ready for and not reality. Don't get me wrong, I love being mommy but it scared the heck out of me when it actually happened. But I would not change it for the world.

Kate said...

i'm right there with you...always hoping for 0-1 child while playing MASH on the blacktop...and i'm not sure if i'll ever really be ready.

i think on the days i do want to have a baby, it's for the 'wrong' reasons (i.e. so i can give it a cool name, so my parents can be grandparents, etc.) but i love your friend's advice.

there's just too much doggone pressure out there coming from all directions. you gotta do what's right for you. xoxoxo

Meggie said...

I agree with the comment above about the pressure. I would like to experience that feeling of producing a child, however; I am not entirely sure that it's not because I feel like I am supposed to feel that way. Great advice by your friend though. I am not quite 30 yet and have met a wonderful man. We are taking baby steps into serious relationship stages. It is a scarey thing when getting ready to take a step as huge as children. I will keep reading to see where this goes. Good Luck! And I love your blog!

Anne S said...

You know this is my favorite subject!! You and Mr. W will be fantastic parents (oh, the birthday parties!!) but I support you and Mr. W 100% on whatever you decide. After all, planning a family is not something to enter into lightly, but I think that you'll find that the more talks you have, the closer it will bring you two together. And who knows? You may find that the decision on timing may not even be yours :-)

Bottom line: I can't WAIT until it's your time. But in the meantime, I think you'll surprise yourself at how quickly you'll find that you've been "ready" all along.

Marla said...

Most of my friends, sister, SIL had kids first...when I was around them I enjoyed them, and thought holding a baby was oh so sweet...then suddenly it changed to "I must have one of these now!" We now have two children (4 & 6)and I am waiting for the same feeling to let me know it is time for number 3 (so far, nada...and I am good with that!).

Carey said...

Well I can't say that we have a ton in common...I've been one of those girls that has always wanted to be a mom. (which is kinda funny b/c my mom never really wanted kids..not that she's not a fabulous mother now ha!) Anyway, hubs and I had been married for almost 2 years when we got pregnant. We were exstatic! We had talked about having babies since day one of our marriage and by two years we both talked and prayed and felt like it was time to take that next step.
I don't know the plans God has for you, but I can tell you this! My little girl has brought more joy than I could have ever imagined. Having a child, has strengthened my marriage & increased my love & respect for my man immensely! There is nothing like watching your husband love on your child!

Talking, reading, all that's important, but I would say getting on your knees and really listening to what the Lord says is most important!
Wishing you much wisdom & peace!

Kelly said...

It's interesting when you ask a question like this to see the different answers others give. I was a career girl and didn't want to think about having kids until I was pregnant. Haha talk about making the decision. It is one of those things you have to step back from and stop analizing the pros and cons and realize that you are ready for whatever comes. Release the need for control over timing it exactly right or planning it exactly right 'cause it will never be exactly right but it will be just right...I promise you that.

formerself said...

So here is a sappy, and very true moment.
Nick and I had been married a couple months and were chatting while folding laundry. I was wearing a shortie nightgown and, while being silly, I rolled up a towel and put it in my nightie to make a baby bump.
When I caught a glance in the mirror, instead of giggling, we had a bit of a revelation: we're married, we have a reasonable amount of money, announcing I am pregnant would not ruin Christmas... could we be ready?
The answer came when I began stalking him like a lioness on Animal Planet.

So for me it wasn't about being ready... it was more about understanding that we had room in our lives and a loving place to welcome whatever was next.

I can't wait to read about how this evolves for you... and at least you can be certain that getting knocked-up won't spoil your Tennessee Christmas.

idiojanic said...

(this can either be just for you, or you can post if you want - may have rambled too much!)O wow - so excited for you both to be in the stage of exploring the possibility of what it might be like/feel like, to welcome a third to your family. Because you are a family already - and the babe does expand your heart in ways you never knew were possible. We also waited to get married - we were both blessed with loving our lives as singletons, and then to join up together and discover more love, adventure and joy together was great. I knew my husband loved children (also his non-profit vocation) and I was worried about my ability to get pregnant. SO I wanted to know early on in our relationship - what if I couldn't? Would he still love me/us in the same way, without a biological child or no children at all? And his answer was definitively yes, so that was our first discussion. Then, we 'waited' and enjoyed 5 years of marriage before our son arrived last November. And we did enjoy them, and I really was at peace either way. We were advised (great idea) to START at a fertility doctor specialist, rather than fritter time with general practitioner/OBGYN so we ensured that all the mechanics were ok and 'ready if we were', after a couple of adjustments. Huge relief, and glad for it. So then we had fun practicing, and riding the roller coaster of anticipation, disappointment, and anticipation. But honestly, trying to keep our hands open to whatever was the verdict. That's our story - and even if we had not been blessed with this little one, our experiences pre-babe really prepared us to be 'one' in the face of great uncertainty. And I agree - stay away from the books. I felt the same way about the marriage manuals - you and your family and friends know you better and can encourage you more than any generalizing, broadstroke, worst-case scenario painting books. Your story is distinctly, wonderfully, y'alls!


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