Only you can know if you're emotionally ready to have a baby. Checking in with yourself is a smart way to start your journey to motherhood.
Prepare for the Unknown
Pregnancy is different for everyone. You can't know exactly how it will be for you. And that's OK.
"Just because you don't know what's coming doesn't mean you aren't ready for it," says Kristi Angevine, MD, an OB/GYN in Chattanooga, TN. "You just have to know that it's going to be entirely new."
When you prepare to be a parent, it means being open to whatever may come, Angevine says. "You can ask for people's stories, gather advice, and scour books and websites, but you won't know what it's like until you're there."
Start by accepting that you can't know everything. It may help you relax and enjoy pregnancy more.
Think about why you want to be a parent. How might having a baby change your day-to-day life?
"Your time will not be your own. If you're not ready to give that up, you might want to wait," says Jan Rydfors, MD, co-founder of the Pregnancy Companion app.
You might need to start new habits to stay healthy for your child. If you usually have a few drinks or smoke cigarettes to manage feelings of sadness or stress, now's the time to stop. Smoking, drinking, and drugs are harmful for a growing baby.
For many moms, a focus on the baby's health comes naturally with pregnancy and parenthood. "Most of us are somewhat self-centered when we are young," Rydfors says. "As we grow up, this trait fades."
"When you have a baby, there will be a dramatic shift in what's important in your life, and you won't think about your own needs as much as you used to."
Use a Support System
Even if you feel emotionally ready now, pregnancy can sometimes throw your feelings out of whack.
One way to keep your cool is to surround yourself with people who can help you through hard times. Make a list of the folks you consider your support team. Talk to friends and family about what you might need when you're pregnant or when the baby comes.
Ideally, Angevine says, having good help on hand will let you focus on rest, eating well, and spending time with your new baby. The first step in getting support, however, is to ask.
"For a new mom, having the wisdom to reach out for and accept help is a big step toward both emotional and physical health," Angevine says.
Talk to Your Partner
You need to be honest with each other about how you both feel about becoming parents. If you're having problems in your relationship, it's probably not a good time to bring a baby into the mix.
Angevine says partners who plan to raise a baby together should ask each other questions to figure out if they're on the same page.
"A couple can prepare for parenthood by discussing how they currently support one another and how they deal with conflict and miscommunication," she says.
Ask your partner:
- What excites you and what scares you about being a parent?
- Is our job status reliable?
- Can we afford a child?
- Who will be our support system?
- What will we do for child care?
- How will we divide the work?
Parenting isn't easy, but if you can communicate your needs clearly, you'll do well, Angevine says.
Adding a Second Baby
If you already have a child, how do you know if the time is right for baby No. 2? The questions you'll need to ask yourself are a little different this time around.
"Most couples are exhausted after the first baby is born, and it can take some time before they're ready for another one," Rydfors says.
But for some parents, the urge to add to the family comes when their first is still young. Either way, she says, it's good to have a checklist to see if you can handle another.
- Is your first child sleeping through the night?
- Are you and your baby ready to stop nursing?
- Is your body ready to be pregnant again?
- Is your partner prepared for another child?
- Can you afford more than one?
Above all, expect your life to change with a second child, just as it did with a first.