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How Do You Know You Are Ready For a Baby?

By Amalah

Buckets of babies photo by amy_b

My husband (24) and I (25, 26 next month) have known each other for 5 1/2 years now and have been married for 2 of those years in June. Since we got married we have known that we want kids more then anything and it has been constantly on our minds. But just like any couple, we struggle with knowing if we are ready.

We actually tried last year for a few months and then stopped when we started the process of looking for a home. Now we are back to thinking we’d like to start trying again and I can’t help having those same doubts. We are young still but have already experienced so much of our lives together and I feel that age is not always a factor. I know that you were young when you had Noah, did you feel like you would no longer have time for just the two of you? I worry about us not being able to just do what we want to, when we want to. We have a puppy now and she does restrict us but its nothing like having a baby.

Money is a constant worry but I feel that always will be. And timing, my sister is getting married next year and I feel like I should wait till that is over. But if we always wait for the perfect time I know it will never happen! So I’d like to know your thoughts on the age old question, “How do you know when you are ready?”.

Thank you so much,

It’s an age-old question because it’s different for everybody. Some people aren’t ready until they’ve accomplished everything on a mental to-do list: promotion, house, X amount of money in savings, the sensible car, a vacation overseas. Some people find themselves getting ready in a hurry in the face of an unexpected positive pregnancy test. Some people just “know.”
Me? I knew I was ready when I realized that NOT having a child was making me actively unhappy. My thoughts of “someday” morphed into “NOW NOW NOW” at some point, and I literally ached for a baby. My husband and I would go out for dinner and then to some ridiculous club listening to ridiculous music watching everyone around us act ridiculous and I’d think, “I wish I was at home right now, reading bedtime stories and tucking someone in.” I’d curl up with my dog and think, “I wish I was holding someone round and soft and chubby.” I’d watch Jason set the table for dinner and wonder what our baby would look like. The sight of our spare bedroom and empty back seat in our car made my chest tight, I couldn’t hear about other people’s pregnancies without tearing up…basically I had classic baby fever, and there was only one cure: get. knocked. up. immediately.

Of course, that was part of my problem — I knew we were going to struggle with getting pregnant, I knew that if it was just going to “happen” it would have happened already, and my husband and I were at a bit of an impasse when it came to seeking fertility treatment. I was all, “BAYBEEEEEEE” and he was all, “whoa, whoa, slow down.” Jason was fine with having a baby if it just “happened.” But seeking treatment and actively looking to get pregnant wigged him out quite a bit, like if we did THAT, we needed to be READY READY READY, and I guess he was in the place you guys are at. Money is okay, could still be better, maybe we should refinance the mortgage first, maybe take another vacation, maybe when I’m not working such long hours, we’d probably have to move to a better school district, on and on, his to-do list went.

This. Drove. Me. Crazy.

After a string of conversations and confrontations that I now really regret, I ultimately put my foot down and filled the dusty old prescription for Clomid that my doctor had given me months before, regardless of whether Jason felt ready. Um. Don’t ever do this, people. I know this doesn’t really apply to the question at hand, but still. Fertility treatments are vicious enough without the bonus marital tension.

In the end, the Clomid didn’t even work, and left me an anxiety-ridden hormonal shell of my former self for months, during which time I had to take a medication that was NOT compatible with baby-making. I told Jason he was right, the timing was wrong, I’d let the baby thing drop for awhile. As soon as the words left my mouth Jason looked at me and said, “What? No baby? But I was really getting excited…”

(And then I strangled him. The end!)

Anyway, that’s our story. We were a little older than you guys (27 and 29), and had been together for more than our entire 20s. We’d gone on a couple trips together, were pretty comfortable financially, and life was just all around pretty great and awesome. Except for that lack of a baby thing. Call it boredom, a basic evolutionary urge, some romantic concept of “just knowing,” whatever, but we wanted a baby. We wanted a baby right then. Not having a baby made us feel incomplete, like something was just missing. God, you know what would go awesome with this pizza? A BABY.

I don’t want to whitewash things here and place TOO high a value on “knowing” — if money is a “constant worry,” having a child will only exacerbate that. Babies are an amazing event for couples but also bring a level of sleep deprivation, stress, drudge work and often uneven division of labor that can strain the most solid of relationships. In other words, you’re right to worry, to doubt, to question. “Just knowing” is romantic but can also be kind of stupid, if it causes you to overlook basic practical questions.

So it’s a blend of addressing the practical (do we have health insurance, can we pay for childcare, do we have a support network if we need help) and also that feeling of knowing that whatever struggles you do face, you’re both ready for them AND believe in your heart that they’re worth it, that a baby will still be a plus and not a minus.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Nicole

    May 14, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Heh. For me it was a movie: Idiocracy. Watch it. Procreate. Please.
    Sometime in late 2007 I went to Darren and said, “So my birth control prescription expires in February or March of next year. I was thinking of not getting it refilled and just seeing what happens.”
    “Oh, okay,” was his response.
    The point is, we both knew we’d be happy with either case.
    I’m due on Saturday.

  • fidget

    May 14, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I met my husband and wanted to have his babies- that had never happened before. We would have married immediately but I felt it prudent to wait a little bit, lest my family cart me off and try to deprogram me. By the time we got married we were ready, we wanted kids, it was an ache.

  • beth

    May 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I feared I’d have trouble getting pregnant so I started trying as soon as we got married. Like that night. I had a baby 9 months + 1 day later. (I was also 10 days late, go figure)
    It would have been nice to have a little more time with just my husband but I’d never change a thing. Our little Bruno is just wonderful.
    (Up to getting married I had a 3 year case of baby fever. Achy chest and all.)

  • kari Weber

    May 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    With my first son, it was a lot like Amalah’s experience. I was READY READY READY, having baby dreams, baby want, baby pains… but my husband was all, “AHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGG!” I basically ended up off birth control for several months and we didn’t really try, but did have some unprotected moments. And then, we really tried, and it happened pretty quickly. But my husband was still pretty freaked out. With our second, after he turned three, we spent the summer watching him play on vacation by himself, and it started the conversation that we should try for another because they would grow up together, and it was time… and it was actually my husband this time that said, “maybe it is time for us to try for another child.” and I was like, “AHHHHHHH!” but in a good way! I went off birth control, and was pregnant before my next period. I am apparently a fast procreator. But, there have still been moments of, “are we ready?” and “remember when we used to be able to…” In the end it came down to the same thing you said in your original post, “if you keep waiting for the perfect time, the perfect time will never come.” You can always have more money, or more job security, or more of something… I also don’t think you are too young. I was 27 when my son was born, and my husband turned 28 a few months later. Good luck.

  • bessie.viola

    May 14, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    We have both always wanted kids. We were starting to really feel the urge in 2007. Then my best friend had her baby in February 2007. He was ADORABLE NOMNOMNOM and as we were driving home from our first visit with him, we looked at each other and just said “Let’s do it.”
    I must have been crazy because my friend was 2 days postpartum and I was certainly not seeing the glamorous part of being a mom…
    So. We bought a house in April 2007, I went off the pill in the same month, we tried for the first time in June 2007 and had our daughter in February 2008.
    It’s funny how things work out… I never waffled over having a first, but I have abject fear over adding another. Guess it hits us all differently!

  • Ang

    May 14, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    While it will never be the “perfect time” to have children, there is something to be said about waiting until you are sure you’re ready. Your life will never be the same after children. My husband and I have been married for nearly 7 years, and our families are starting to worry if something might be wrong and we can’t have children. The truth is we only just started trying a couple of months ago. We wanted to be sure that we could give our child(ren) everything that we didn’t have growing up, including but not limited to stability. I’m glad we waited, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had baby fever for the past 2 years!!

  • Tracy

    May 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I have so many friends trying to have babies in their late 30’s and lamenting the fact they didn’t do it in their 20’s. It is so emotionally trying for them and hard on their relationships. Although I know fertility issues can hit anyone at any age, I’d say start trying while you are still young! Past generations raised big families on little money. If you are thinking of the vacations, think far ahead to your retirement years when you are still young but your kids are out of the house!

  • Jamie

    May 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    My husband and I knew we wanted kids. Sometime. So it wasn’t so much of an ache as, no reason not to do it now. House? check. Jobs? check. Go! If you wait around for all the planets to align they might not. It probably makes a big difference that we have been together for 9 years though.
    My parents adopted me (at birth) when they were 39. It really changes the dynamic of your family to have older parents, and I really wanted my kids to have as much time with their grandparents as possible and (selfishly) I wanted to be young enough to run around like crazy. So that biased my decision (I’m 25, he’s 26, due in September).
    Also? Totally embarrassing, but I appear to be a baby-making machine. Like, one try=PREGNANT type machine. My friends kept telling me it would take a while after I went off my birth control, but I never even had a period. That was… unexpected.

  • professormama

    May 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I was 26 when I had my son, his Dad (now my husband) was 27. We were both in grad school, not married, living 2 hours apart, and had been together for about 9 months when I got pregnant. Needless to say neither of us was “ready” in the way that is conventionally defined. But we had a perfect baby boy a month before finishing school, and got married a year later. Our son is 4 now and we are due with a little girl in 7 weeks.
    We do not come from money and believe me we had our share of financial difficulty and stress, and we have a ton of student loan debt to pay. But we have never regretted having our son.
    The reality is there is no “right” time, if you have a stable home and the ability to care for a child you’re as ready as you’ll ever be- if you want one. Remember it takes 9 months to cook a baby, and as I’ve learned from the experience of friends who waited, it can take years to get pregnant for some people.

  • Sara

    May 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I would say the right time is when you are SURE your relationship with your spouse is solid and healthy and that your disagreements are productive because having a child will be a massive transition. We met at 19, married at 23, tried for almost two years (my DH ended up having surgery) and have a two year old and one on the way. We are in lurrvveee! I mean two peas in a pod love. And there’s no doubt about it, having kids is challenging. You have to be almost entirely selfless, and not take it out on your spouse. Money is great, a support network is great but in the end…it’s really about making it work as a family. I thought I’d have a great support network, but caring for a toddler is hard work for grandparents (let’s not even mention a toddler and an infant). What’s your lifestyle like? We’re homebodies, so it’s not much different from before we had kids. Like I said, motherhood involves selflessness and monotony…but it’s also totally AWESOME!!! And even more awesome to do it with someone you love and can count on to be a great dad 🙂

  • Lacey

    May 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Wow, this article is great. My whole blog is basically all about “getting ready” and knowing when is the right time to have kids. My husband and I are trying in two months (and four days, but who’s counting), and baby fever hit me harrrrrrrd about six months into our marriage.

  • ckwkc

    May 14, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    What if you are just “meh” about the whole having your own baby thing? I love babies, he loves babies, we’re just pretty happy playing with nieces and nephews and not sure we want to have our own babies. I’m 30 and never had a spark of baby fever. Is it inevitably coming? Should we try before it’s too late and I go crazy with the babyhunger? Should we hold off until we really, actively want one? Will we regret it if we don’t? I want to know!!!

  • Alissa

    May 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    For me, I didn’t want kids. At all. And then I watched the movie “Knocked Up.” And sobbed uncontrollably at the end. You know – where they show the cast’s baby pictures. I sobbed all night long. My husband thought I had lost my mind. I decided I wanted a baby.
    Convincing him took a couple months. Trying took about a month. And we now have a kick-butt three month old kid who is awesome and we love him and sure we don’t have enough money and what am I going to BEEEE when I grow up and can I really stay at home and not go crazy? But it’s awesome. Really.

  • Melissa

    May 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    1. Don’t wait for other people’s events to determine your baby-making schedule. My sister BEGGED me not to be pregnant for her wedding; she got pregnant 9 months before her wedding date (they moved up the wedding).
    2. Make sure you are READY. For every story of it taking people a long time, there’s another of it not. I was on the pill for 12 years and got pregnant on the first try. DH and I were ready, but sheesh — I really thought it would take a few months.
    3. It’s SUCH a personal decision. On the one hand, there’s always going to be a reason to wait. On the other, it is a hugehugehuge commitment. On the other, my parents didn’t have much money, but I never knew it. On the other, it’s more expensive today to raise a kid. On the other ….

  • Alex

    May 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    For me, it was a total surprise- and I was young (21!). It turned out to be the most awesome surprise ever, and I am now pregnant with our second. It was harder to plan when the right time was than to just have a surprise. I would say the only advice I have is to figure out what’s right for you and your partner- don’t plan around your sister’s wedding. People will be joyful for her no matter whether you are pregnant or not.

  • xyz

    May 14, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I have the same questions that ckwkc has. Please answer!

  • Brooke

    May 15, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I conceived my son on birth control. We weren’t “ready” but made ourselves be.. and he is and was amazing and wonderful and now is the happiest 3 1/2 year old ever. I was 23 when I had him. Yes, we had to sacrifice some things because our lives changed. We don’t have nearly as much freedom as our friends without kids. But we always tell them that when they decide to have their kids in their 30s, ours will be nearly old enough to stay home by themselves. And by then we will be able to afford to go out on the town!
    We just had our 2nd last November (I’m 26 now). She was planned… mostly because we decided when our son was born that we were going to have one more, and have him/her before my son’s 3rd birthday because we wanted them to be three years apart at most… we made it by a month.
    It’s a different situation for everyone. Honestly. The decision is based on different things for every couple… I’m glad that we had our son while we were young because it takes all of our energy to keep up with him. I can’t imagine chasing a preschooler with his energy around in my 30s.

  • Linda

    May 15, 2009 at 9:42 am

    We conceived late (I’m 29) because neither of us were sure we wanted a baby before then. To keep relatives off our backs, we came up with the argument of “Husband has to get promoted to X rank first,” and then it was a made up time restraint (“No babies before 5 years in!”), but somehow, we ended up with me pregnant exactly within those parameters. 100% fluke. It freaked me out *bad* the day I realized we had unintentionally followed our own sneaky little plan to put off the baby-makin’ as long as possible.
    This is not to say that it’s a good time now; I’m in the middle of grad school and there are a lot of eyebrows raised at my proclamation that I will graduate as close to on-time as possible. But we are ready and we’re happy.
    Like Jamie above, I got knocked up on the first try (my family is known for being fertile Myrtles), but now we have a friend who has similar sentiments to Nicole and is pushing for us to have at least ten kids—so that makes it more interesting!

  • Jenn

    May 15, 2009 at 11:26 am

    The baby urge thing amazes me. I’m 32 and have never had the slightest hint of baby fever. I know there’s alwawys the chance that things could change, but I’ve been married for almost 8 years and if somebody were to tell me that I could never have a child, I really think I would be OK with that.

  • Anna

    May 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I was one who also never got the baby fever. I have never particularly liked other people’s kids. My husband and I were married for 7 years, we were happy, our lives were good. I think that our attitude has been that no matter what life brings us, we will be happy. No baby? Happy! Baby? Happy! We went off birth control and what do you know, a few months later, I was pregnant. Our son is now 3 and we have been trying for #2 since last fall. I have had 2 miscarriages since then, and while I am a bit sad about that, I can’t say I am devastated. My life is good! I have a lovely child, a good job, a supportive husband. I still don’t really have baby fever. If a baby should enter my life, that would be great. If it doesn’t happen, that will be fine, too.

  • Nicole

    May 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    The whole being “meh” about kids? Yeah, that was me. I’d have been happy with or without like I said above. We threw caution to the wind, and um, well, that month? We became poster children to the phrase, “It only takes once.”
    It happened faster than what we expected, for sure, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. And if nothing had happened, I’d probably be in Europe right now on some expensive vacation. Win-win 🙂

  • LauraP

    May 16, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I might as well completely copy and paste what Nicole wrote in the very first post. Idiocracy really changed my outlook on having children.
    I am 23 and my daughter is 4 months old. My husband is 33. We chose not to refill my birth control when it ran out. All of our family just thinks the pregnancy was an accident.
    We both decided that if we waited until we were financially stable we would never have kids. My husband has 2 sons with an EX that he never gets to see. He was a full-time stay at home dad for the first 9 months of his first son’s life. I knew that he was a great dad, so I did not have that fear. I was never around children or babies. It was not until I dealt with a teeny tiny baby that I realized I felt totally naturally holding and caring for one.

  • michelle

    June 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Some people just ‘know’ from the get-go, but I didn’t think I’d even get married. Now I’m almost 30 and thinking that if I am going to do it, I’m going to really do it and have like 2 or 3, so i’d better get started. The hub is thinking not. Wants to wait 5 more years (this nmuber seems to change as he gets older). Plus, his friends never should’ve had them and he is seeing it thinking it’s going to be us down the line. We’ve been together for 10 years. Married for 3. New house for 2. Good jobs, 2 dogs, not sure there is anything holding us up other than the UNKNOWN. Maybe we’re not ready. To give your life up for 20+ years is a little scary, I guess. To be continued…