4 Questions: Are You Ready for a Baby?

Claudia Stack

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Even during these uncertain times, our biological clocks keep ticking, so many people still are asking themselves whether it’s the right time for them to become pregnant/adopt a baby. Here are a few thoughts, although this article is not intended to replace the advice of your partner, doctor, therapist, or family!

As the mother of two sons, and as a special needs teacher, I have experienced and witnessed many parenting situations. Often, it’s quite humbling. Sometimes, I get some insight. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but over the years I have formulated a few questions that may be helpful to people asking themselves whether they are ready for parenthood.

In our competitive society, it’s natural to ask yourself how prepared you are financially for parenthood. As there are many good articles on this topic, such as this one on nerdwallet that lists 15 steps of financial preparation for a baby, this topic is not something I cover here.

My focus is, how do you know if you are emotionally ready to become a parent? Here are some questions to ponder:

1. Have you ever taken care of anyone? As in, physical care: Feeding, toileting, bathing and dressing. Of course, experience caring for babies/children is most relevant, but caring for a sick or elderly person counts too. If you have never cared physically for anyone, you can certainly learn in a hurry (many parents do), but it may be helpful to try it before becoming a parent.

I worked as a nanny before college, so I felt somewhat prepared. However, the fact that as a parent I was responsible for the decisions about my baby was still overwhelming at first. Was I taking care of my baby’s navel correctly? Was he getting enough sun for his mild jaundice? Nursing enough? And so on.

2. Are you prepared to do the same thing over and over, without losing patience? Of parenthood’s top themes, love comes first, but I think repetition is a close second. When you are a parent of a young child, know that whatever you do, you should prepare to do it again. And again. Spit up? Baby will likely do it again as soon as you clean her up. Messy diaper? There’s another one coming. In fact, studies have shown that clean diapers are the world’s best laxative. Sticky high chair tray? Full trash can? Bottles that need sterilizing? Laundry? Prepare to handle all of this and more with mind-numbing frequency.

The only thing I can say about this is, try to see these repetitive tasks as a kind of Zen practice that frees your higher mind by occupying your conscious mind with familiar routines. Otherwise, you might feel frustrated that you are running to stand still. In fact, you are. Just try to appreciate that these tasks are really for the purpose of caring for your baby, not satisfying our western cultural obsession with “making progress.”

3. Are you ready to be in the present moment with your baby? As adults, we have a strong attachment to the concept of time. We worry about being late, or how much time we spend on a certain activity. For a baby, none of that matters. A baby knows that the only time that matters is now, and the only thing that matters is how s/he feels. Are you ready to give all your focus to the present moment? Just to be with your baby, even if s/he wants to nurse or snuggle for the 20th time the same evening?

Personally, I fell down a lot in this area after I returned to work. At the time I had my first son, I worked at a job that paid scarcely more than the cost of daycare. However, my family’s health insurance was through my job, so I could not quit. I found it so challenging to go from being task-oriented at work, to rushing to pick my baby up, to trying to relax and just bond with him when there was so much to do (dinner, bath, bottles for the next day, laundry, etc). Once I realized I would never get that time with him back, though, I put cuddling at the top of my priority list.

4. Are you prepared to be on guard for the rest of your life? This will ease somewhat over time, but as a parent there will always be a part of your mind occupied with your child’s well-being. When your child is younger you have different concerns, of course. Is that a bite mark from daycare? Why is s/he suddenly so restless, maybe it’s a growth spurt? Is s/he eating enough vegetables? And on and on.

Your list of concerns will change as they grow, but it won’t get shorter for a long time. Even though my sons are now aged 17 and 20, the last thing I do every night is check on them. If I don’t, I won’t sleep well. It might be a one-word text message, but still, I have to know they are all right.

Having said all this, it might seem that I think parenting is burdensome, even scary, at times. In my experience, it is. It’s also the best, most important thing I have ever done.

When I was younger, I used to wonder why people had children. Now I know it boils down to one simple reason: So you can love them, and they can love you.

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I am an educator and filmmaker. My documentary films on historic African American schools have screened at film festivals, colleges, libraries, and other venues. In Fall, 2017 I completed SHARECROP and SHARECROP: DELTA COTTON, documentaries that showcase oral history of the South’s “forgotten farmers.” These films have screened at festivals in major cities including London, Atlanta, Detroit.

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