Life goals, holidays, weddings and your career. Is there ever a ‘right’ time to have a baby?
I still remember the day I did a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant with my son Rafferty. I actually did five in a row and the results were all resoundingly ‘positive’. I was happy – I mean, this was the plan. I was married, we’d bought a house, we’d travelled, we’d partied into the wee hours of the morning, and after three years married we decided to start ‘trying’. I was thrilled, but also terrified. It wasn’t just the worry about whether I was ready to look after this little creature and put someone other than myself first. I also couldn’t help wondering ‘had I accomplished everything I wanted’?
To be honest I’d been putting off getting pregnant for years. My husband wanted children as soon as we were married but I had other plans. As a woman I knew it would be my body, my social life, and my career that would be affected most. And I wasn’t prepared to give up everything so quickly. On top of that I knew, despite reports of the modern day man taking a more hands on approach, it would still be me who would take maternity leave and predominately feed and look after that baby for that first year of its life.
At the time I got pregnant I was a deputy editor and beauty editor at a magazine and was busy climbing the old corporate ladder. Personally, I had pretty much ticked all the boxes of what I wanted to accomplish. But professionally I was unsure. It bothered me that having a baby and having a year out could possibly hold me back in my career. I worried how my work would react, how I’d be treated, and if I’d ever reach the career goals I’d set. So I’d kept putting it off until I ran out of legitimate reasons not to.
But it wasn’t just work holding me back. I’m embarrassed to say there was always a wedding coming up that I didn’t want to be pregnant for, or a hens party or a holiday I wanted to go on. On top of that, there was the financial side to consider. Sure at the time I would be entitled to 18 weeks paid parental leave from the government, but after that it’s one salary for the whole family for as long as you choose to have off work with your baby. And it’s not easy. I have friends who saved for years pre-baby, squirrelling away funds here and there, so they wouldn’t feel the pinch when they eventually had a baby (a very smart move in retrospect!)
I was 31 when I got pregnant with Rafferty, and now at 33 I’m currently pregnant with our second baby (and I know how lucky we’ve been to conceive easily.) It’s funny though, the criteria before we decided to have another baby was completely different the second time around. This time I wasn’t thinking about myself so much (a shock, I know!) but my son. I wondered how he’d react, what was the best age-gap to introduce a new brother or sister to him, and when I could move him into a bed so I could steal his cot for the new baby!
Naturally, it did cross my mind as to how I would handle work as a freelance writer with two babies but I feel so much more confident this time knowing that having a baby didn’t mean the end of my life. In some ways, it is a life sentence, but perhaps the best one you can get. And in terms of timing, the old cliché rings true. There is no right time, and honestly I think the smartest idea is making sure you and your partner are on the same page because having a baby is tough. Nothing I have done to date has ever been such hard slog, but nothing has been as rewarding.
Knowing what I know now, knowing about all the sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the monotony. Knowing the snuggles and the hilarity and the way Rafferty would light up our lives in a way we could never have imagined… I don’t know why we waited so long. In the end it was never about what I was giving up, but what I would be gaining. There is no party in the world, no promotion, no trip that has given me the same dizzying exhilarating emotional highs (and lows) of having Rafferty in my life. Life as I know it has changed, and I’m so happy it has.
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