Turns out, it’s not as simple as just “knowing.”
How do you know when you’re ready to get pregnant? Can you ever really be ready, or is it, as some say, something you just have to do if you want to do it? (That makes it sound easier than it is.) What are the parts of your life that would need, or needed, to come together so you felt as ready as possible? Was there a moment when something clicked and you knew it was the right time? What does “ready” even mean? I talked to several women about this mysterious knowing, which at times proved to be not at all mysterious.
“I wanted a family more than I ever felt a desire to have a baby,” said J, whose son is 8 weeks old. “I found myself ready for a change to my routine, and I found I had time that I thought I could devote to a child.”
For K, it was a number of things aligning that cued her in that it was the right time to get pregnant. “I had moved in with the dude I knew I wanted to be the father of my kids, and because he realized he was ready too. I always wanted children, though, so it was a fairly straightforward matter of finding the right person and getting the timing right.”
Even if it seemed straightforward in terms of finding a partner, there were, of course, still considerations for K in regard to how getting pregnant and having a baby would impact her career. “I took a higher paying job, and San Francisco passed a law requiring employers to supplement mothers’ pay during maternity leave, which made the maternity leave aspect of the whole baby thing a lot easier to imagine.”
And of course, there was the omnipresent question of “could we really do this?”
“Once good friends of ours also got pregnant,” explained K. “It seemed way less terrifying somehow, and we knew we wouldn’t be going through it alone.”
The answer to the question “how did you know you were ready to get pregnant” was almost always in tandem with “how did you know you were ready to have kids?”
It might seem like these are basically the same question, but they aren’t. Getting pregnant, or starting trying to conceive, is about taking on a new body, literally. You might not have trouble getting pregnant, and it might be just a matter of ceasing your birth control method or paying closer attention to when you ovulate. But what if you run into issues, or if you know in advance that it’s going to more difficult than just scheduling a time to have sex?
As a single mom by choice, A’s decision to get pregnant was innately more complicated than those made by the couples around her. She had been thinking about getting pregnant on her own for many years, but when she found herself approaching her 40s and saw several close friends working on becoming single moms themselves, she began to think more strategically about it. And while many folks would be hard-pressed to isolate the moment when they “knew” they were ready, A pinpointed something a friend, who was also pursuing single parenthood, told her which proved particularly influential in her decision to move forward.
“She said ‘I don’t know if I’ll regret it if I don’t do it. But I’m fairly sure I won’t regret it if I do.’That ring true for me,” explained A.
It was then that she decided to speak with doctors about getting pregnant, “just to learn what my options were. I rationalized that it didn’t commit me to anything, but by the time I had that appointment I knew it was what I was going to do.”
For A, being “ready” meant that she was taking active steps to get pregnant, like visiting doctors.
“The act of doing that told me I was ready,” shares A. “That I was going to do this. It’s a bit backwards. There was also some fantasizing, mostly about being pregnant, not about having a child.”
Before starting to work on this piece, I spent a lot of time online reading articles about what one should take into consideration before having a baby. What are you willing to sacrifice? Do you have enough money? Is your partner someone you can see yourself having a baby with? There seem to be an endless amount of questions one could address, and it’s totally understandable that in thinking about them, one could experience a kind of paralysis. There are definitely things that can help one prepare for becoming a parent, but the question of “are you ready to get pregnant?” is certainly more intimate than the purchase of a Baby Bjorn. It’s a question that only the person capable of getting pregnant can, and should, answer.