Having a baby is a really big decision. Even more so than deciding to move in together or get a pet with your partner, committing to raising a child with someone is a major emotional and financial responsibility. While you’ll never be 100 percent prepared for what lies ahead — LBR, kids are just FULL of surprises — there are some things you can talk about before making the choice to go for it that’ll make the transition less bumpy. (But we still can’t promise you won’t be sleep-deprived if you choose to have a little one.)
1. Do you both definitely want kids? Sometimes, one partner may consider compromising for the other when it comes to the decision to have children, but this can potentially lead to problems down the road. Whether or not that compromise is happening, Raychel Muenke, PhD and executive vice president of the fertility app Kindara, says, “It’s really important for a couple to decide together whether they want to have children.”
It might seem like common sense, but she points out that in a society so geared toward coupling and having kids, it’s a good idea to talk about the idea of children early and often in your relationship. “Having a child is a joy and delight, but it’s also a large financial decision that takes copious amounts of time (as a mother of four I know!),” she says. Being open with your S.O. about whether it’s the right choice for both of you is essential.
2. When’s the best time for both of you to have a kid? It can be difficult to find a time in your lives that works well for both you and your partner, but it’s important that you consider both of your obligations and goals ahead of time. Andrea E. Reh, MD, an OB and reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility, says that, “As a full-time doctor and mom of three, I know personally that when it comes to contemplating pregnancy, there’s never a convenient time for your career or your finances, nor a time that you ever truly feel psychologically prepared for parenthood.”
That being said, it’s ideal to try to find a time window you can agree on. If that time is not now but you know you want to have kids in the future, Dr. Reh recommends looking into options like egg-freezing or embryo-banking — especially if that future is looking like it will be after the age of 35 for women. “By freezing eggs or embryos, a woman can preserve her fertility potential and stop the biological clock at that point in time, thus creating options for long-term family planning,” she explains.
3. What will you do if infertility becomes an issue? Fertility is something many couples don’t talk about until it becomes a problem, but because of the emotional and financial implications, it’s best to have at least a rough plan for how you would deal with it. “Most couples will conceive in the first six to 12 months of unprotected intercourse,” says Reh. She notes that women under 35 with regular menstrual cycles are at lower risk for infertility, and should wait for about a year before having an evaluation with a fertility specialist. “For women over 35 or with a history of certain gynecologic conditions such as endometriosis, we advise seeking an evaluation sooner, as early as six months after starting to try to conceive,” Reh says.
Additionally, for women without regular menstrual cycles, she recommends immediate screening to be sure that ovulation is occurring. “And let’s not forget the guys!” she adds. “Men should have a semen analysis as part of any first-time basic fertility evaluation, as male infertility accounts for up to half of all known causes of infertility.” Additionally, if biological conception isn’t possible, it can be helpful to know ahead of time if you’re both open to adoption or not.
4. Will sperm or egg donors be used? For couples who have fertility struggles and same-sex couples, discussing sperm and/or egg donors is crucial. ”Because of the inherent need for reproductive assistance, same-sex couples will also need to approach childbearing together with a reproductive specialist,” says Reh. Lesbian couples will need to decide on a sperm donor, which can be an anonymous or known person. Similarly, gay men will need to find an egg donor, as well as a gestational carrier, or a woman to carry the baby through pregnancy. “These arrangements are financially, legally and logistically complex and can take several months to coordinate,” Reh explains. For these reasons, these couples also need to be prepared to work with a reproductive specialist.
5. What will the birth be like? These days, there are a lot of ways to give birth (options, yes!). Whether you choose a midwife, doula or traditional medical doctor, it’s important to discuss your expectations and how you feel most comfortable and safe. ”Communication is key,” says Muenke. “I believe that the parents should talk through their ideas and plans for their child’s birth. At the same time, it’s essential to remain flexible.” Sometimes, last-minute changes have to be made to protect the baby and mother’s health, so it’s smart to have already discussed a backup plan. And still, there are times when the backup plan doesn’t work out, so it’s crucial to know that things may not go as planned.
6. How will responsibilities be shared? Discussing who will do what will help prepare you and your partner for divvying up responsibilities and also give you a relatively realistic idea of how much work actually goes into raising a child. ”Will both partners do the diapering? Feeding? Sitting up with the child when they are sick?” asks Muenke. “Setting expectations doesn’t make the sleepless nights easier, but it can help with the quality of the romantic relationship!”
7. How will you deal with a difference of opinion on parenting when it comes up? There are A LOT of approaches to parenting. “What to feed the baby (breast or bottle), diapering (cloth or disposable), sleeping (co-sleep, crib, sleep schedule), all the way up to where to go to college many years down the road could cause disagreements. “It’s inevitable that you’ll have some differences of opinion, so having a plan about how to deal with those may make it simpler to reach decisions.” Set expectations on how to deal with conflict, because talking through opposing ideas in a respectful way can lead to great outcomes,” she suggests.
8. How will you keep your relationship strong? While having a baby is a really exciting time, it can understandably put strain on any romantic relationship. Talking beforehand about how you’ll make sure you spend time together as a couple will make it more likely that you’ll actually get to do it. The first several months and even years with a child will probably be super hectic, so knowing that you’ll always have date nights or weekend getaways together will make it easier to keep your relationship thriving.
What other convos are important to have before trying to have a baby? Tell us what you think @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)