The night before I went into labor, I came down with a severe case of
jitters. My husband held me close as I sniveled my fears into his shoulder.
Would I be a good mother? Did I know how? Would I learn before doing
irreparable harm to my helpless baby?
My trepidations followed into the hospital. At least three times I called
the nurse to my room to demonstrate yet again how to diaper my baby, how to
bathe her, how to take her temperature and the myriad of other tasks that
awaited us -- alone -- just hours away.
Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception precedes otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in...
It's not that we hadn't thought ahead of time about having a baby. We'd
spent hours fantasizing about what she would be like, attending a childbirth
class, following the stages of fetal development in our books.
But in all our rose-colored enthusiasm, my husband and I simply couldn't
fathom that we were getting a real live baby out of the deal, for keeps.
Of course, no parents-to-be can completely prepare themselves for the
profound experience of becoming a first-time mom or dad.
But prenatal experts say that the more nitty-gritty that couples can discuss
about what it really means to be parents -- before they even get pregnant --
the easier the transition can be.
Here's their advice on that emotional and philosophical preparation,
including 12 questions that prospective parents should talk about first.
What to Do Before the Stick Turns Blue
"Most couples don't deal with the cold stark realities before they have
a baby," says Dr. John Queenan, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at
Georgetown University and author of "Preconceptions: Preparation for
Pregnancy" and "A New Life: Pregnancy, Birth, and Your Child's First
Year." "They don't think about the loss of freedom, the increasing
financial burden, or what they're going to do if they're both working and the
child gets sick."
But the whole approach to getting ready for a baby is changing: Doctors and
midwives now view pregnancy as a yearlong endeavor. Along with the physical and
lifestyle preparations to consider even before conception, parents-to-be would
do well to contemplate emotional readiness before jumping into a pregnancy,
too, says Dr. Larry Culpepper, chief of the department of family medicine at
Boston Medical Center and an expert in prenatal care.