Asking yourself 'Am I ready for a baby?' is perhaps one of the scariest and most grounding questions you'll ever face, and there are many things to consider if you're planning a family.
The truth is you might never truly be ready, but there comes a time in our lives when we feel more emotionally, financially and physically able to bring a little one into the world.
Am I really ready for a baby?
There's no textbook-perfect time to start a family and even with the best laid plans, sometimes life has other ideas instore for us.
But if you are considering having a baby, here are seven things to ask yourself when deciding if the time is right.
1. Do I actually want children?
Yes, this might seem ludicrous in the context but you'd be surprised by how many women think it's their duty to have kids, or that their time is running out. You'd be hard-pressed to find any parent who doesn't say parenthood is the best thing that ever happened to them, but that doesn't mean it's for everyone. It takes a lot of sacrifice and selflessness and your life will change forever - but in the best possible way.
2. Am I financially prepared?
Children are expensive, and they will continue to be expensive long into adulthood! Babies need a lot of things which come with hefty price tags, not to mention formula, clothes, medical fees etc. Then as they grow you have childcare, school fees, extra-curricular activities, university fees. The list goes on and on. So it's important that you consider these financial obligations and if you can manage them.
3. Am I ready to give up my freedom?
Many people have bucket list plans to travel, aspirations to climb the career ladder, or lots of general living without a baby still to do. You need to weigh up what you can and are prepared to do with a baby by your side, and make sure you won't be feeling like you've missed out on things.
4. Have I considered the impact on my career or education?
Being a parent shouldn't be limiting and parenthood should never be considered the end of you and your hopes and dreams. But it is important to realise that your little one will come first, and that may mean trade-offs where your education or career are concerned. Do you have a job that provides work/life balance, maternity leave, paternity leave, healthcare, or paid time off? Have you and your partner hoped to be stay-at-home or work-from-home parents, or have you looked into affordable childcare close to your home?
5. Do I have support around me?
We all know the saying 'It takes a village', and that support network is a key consideration when you're thinking of having a baby or are already pregnant. Looking after a little one can be overwhelming at times so it's important to have a helpful and supportive circle around you. Time and emotional support from friends and family will be crucial throughout your pregnancy and your child's life, especially in those early days. If you don't have family and friends close by, how will you manage?
6. Is my partner on the same page as me?
If you have a partner, does he or she feel the same way about having kids. Children put extra strain on a relationship so it's important that you and your partner have discussed the impending changes and how you will cope as individuals, and as a couple, and support each other. If you're doing it alone, have you thought about what it will be like to be a single parent and the added responsibility that comes with that role?
7. How will I cope if I can't get pregnant?
This is an important discussion to have with yourself, your partner, and even with family or close friends. Trying unsuccessfully to conceive can put a lot of strain on you and your relationship and lead to a lot of heartache. Would you be willing to try IVF and could you afford it? Have you thought about surrogacy, adoption or fostering?