If you can't answer these questions, slow down.
The words "I'm pregnant" slipping out of your mouth to your mate is usually responded to with one of these reactions: joyful tears, toasts and hugs, or an ashen face, biting of nails and questions of, What are we going to do?
This is huge news, especially if unplanned. While you may have been preparing mentally for a baby for a long time, your partner may need a little time to come to terms with his impending daddyhood.
Whether the pregnancy you find yourself in is planned or not, there are some important questions to consider in preparing yourself for baby. Of course, even better is to consider these questions before you become pregnant.
1. Why do I want to have a child? Would a cat or dog suffice?
If you're simply feeling lonely, sometimes a friendly pet can give you all the companionship you need. The best part about a small, furry animal as opposed to a small, barely-hairy baby is that a pet can be left alone. By itself. Without you.
2. Is this the person I really want to have a child with?
Think long and hard on this one. This other person, this possible-future-Daddy guy, will be in your life for the rest of it. Even if you're doing something totally modern and unconventional when it comes to your relationship, or even if you end up hating each other, you will more than likely need to interact. A lot.
3. Will this man make a good father?
Notice how your partner interacts with other people's children. Don't assume that he'll be different with his own children. What you see may be what you get. One time I was with my ex at an ice-skating rink. There were all these adorable little kids wrapped up in multi-colored scarves, mittens and legwarmers. How could anyone not see how adorable they were?
Resting on a hot chocolate break, a mom with a little baby girl was sitting on the bench across from us. Sure enough, my boyfriend didn't even notice the baby. It pissed me off. How could another human being see such a cutie and not be overwhelmed with the urge to make one with the mate of their choice?
4. Why do I want to have a child now?
Timing is everything. And if you're planning this pregnancy in advance, it's wise to consider why it is that you want a child right now. Do you have all the external pieces of the puzzle in place? Assuming you're in a long-term committed relationship, does your partner feel this is the right time to have a baby, too?
While there's never a perfect time, make sure there are no negative reasons why you want to have a baby right now. Like, to save a relationship or to fill a hole you feel within yourself. Or maybe you want to have a baby because you feel like it will make somebody in your family happy. Not that it's necessarily wrong to want to please family, but you should be aware and conscious of the choices you're making.
5. Is this the right place to raise a baby?
Here's one of those external pieces to consider. If your living situation isn't ideal, make a plan now for what you're going to do to change the environment.
When my husband and I got pregnant, we were living in a tiny New York City studio — less than ideal for raising a baby. We started looking for a bigger place, which meant leaving Manhattan. We knew if we had to, we could start off in the studio as a family, but it wouldn't work for long.
6. Have you done everything you wanted to as a single person or as a couple first?
I don't want you to think you'll never have just "you" or "us" time, but it will be a lot less than you can even possibly imagine. If you have some major goals that you would like to accomplish that will take up lots of your time and energy, you might just want to consider doing those first.
7. What type of birth do you want to have?
Honestly, with my first baby I didn't really even know there were options to consider. You get pregnant, you go to your OB/GYN, you go back every so often, and then you go to the hospital and have a baby. Simple. Done.
But, no. There are a myriad selection of birthing techniques, settings, facilitators and philosophies. Take the time early on to explore your options: midwife, doula, natural, homebirth, water birth, in a cab on the way to the hospital, and so on.
8. Are you in the best health possible?
You may want to consider getting off of medications like antidepressants before you get pregnant. Speaking of antidepressants, are you in the best mental health possible? If you haven't already, you might want to consider therapy just to have someone to talk with over these kinds of questions.
9. Do you have the support that you're going to need when the baby comes?
Do you have family and friends who will be there for you when you need help? If not, what steps can you take now to develop relationships with people that may be able to assist you and guide you? Look into Meetup groups for new or expectant moms in your neighborhood (or think of starting one!).
10. Have you done all you can to prepare financially?
Obviously, this can be very difficult, but you do want to make sure you're ready for the added expense of a child. Now is the time to do what you can to grab extra hours at work to create as big of a money cushion as you can.
There are so many issues that will come up that you just can't foresee, but you can at least think on these things in advance.
No one can emphasize enough how much your life is going to change or how big the role of mother will be. Even if I could put it into words, you wouldn't believe me anyway. Just remember: Even if all of your friends are pushing along the newest Bugaboo, it doesn't mean you have to jump on board too; listen to your own intuition to know when you're ready.