“WHEN are you going to have a baby?” is an ominous question you may hear from your family and friends in your 20s or early 30s. The pressure is on, but how do you know for sure that you are ready to be a parent? The urge to have a baby can be hard to resist at this age, especially when people in your social circle have started building their families.
Although babies are cute and can bring joy to your life, becoming a parent isn't a decision that should be taken lightly. We know the typical factors, like having money and being old enough, that people generally consider before trying to have a baby, but there's much more to parenting than that. Here's a checklist to help you know if you are ready for a child. If you're not ready, use long-term contraceptives to protect against an unplanned pregnancy until you know for sure that you're ready.
1. You're doing it for the right reasons
Are you thinking about becoming a parent because you're at that age? Is it because your friends are already there and you're feeling left out? Is it because you and your partner have been together for years now and the pressure is on? If these have anything to do with your decision, maybe now is not the right time for you to become a parent. The first step is to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. It should be because it's what you truly want and it's the right time for you.
2. You and your partner are both sure that you want children
If you have a partner who you believe is 'the one', ensure that you both are on the same page about having children. This is a very important conversation to have before making any commitments. You should know how your partner feels about children—when they would want to start having children, how many they envision, and how they plan to manage being a parent.
3. You're on top of things
Children can be a 24/7 job—making sure they eat, making sure they get enough sleep, helping them with schoolwork, cleaning up after them, attending sporting events and prize-giving ceremonies, being available just to talk… and the list goes on. If you have trouble managing your own schedule and taking care of yourself, then you might not be ready to take care of someone else. Maybe try it out with a pet first and see how well you do.
4. You're emotionally-healthy
Having a child can be an emotional roller-coaster ride, but what we may not consider is that we also have to look out for our child's ups and downs too. You have to be emotionally healthy in order to raise an emotionally healthy child.
5. You're physically ready
Pregnancy can put a whole lot of strain on your body and can lead to complications if you are not careful. In Jamaica we have a serious issue with maternal and child mortality. We have too many cases of gestational complications that put mothers and their babies at risk. Some of these complications can be avoided if the parents, particularly the mothers-to-be, are physically ready before attempting to get pregnant. If you want to start trying, we recommend that you get clearance from your doctor first.
6. You're financially stable
Naturally, this may be the first thought when deciding to become a parent… “Can I afford it?” Having a baby can be costly, but we must remember when drafting up our budget that it does not end at diapers and formula. Becoming a parent means dedicating 18+ years to raising a child, and an 18+ year list can get as long as the Great Wall of China. So you may be financially stable now, but you want to ensure that you have a contingency and sustainability plan.
7. You have a village
As the popular saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. They weren't lying! Being a parent can be stressful and we all need to have a strong support system to help us through. You should never be afraid to reach out and ask for help, especially when the task becomes overwhelming. Stay close to family members, friends and other people you trust to help you through those trying times. Take counsel of the elders—they've been there, done that.
8. You're ready for the unexpected
Although you may try to be a prepared as possible, there may come times when nothing you could do would have prepared you for it. Anything can happen when having children, and you have to be prepared for the unpredictable.
Not ready? Use long-term contraceptives
If after reading this you feel you are not ready for a child, we recommend that you consider some form of long-term contraception. In Jamaica, there are two main options for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). These include the Jadelle implant and the intra-uterine device (Copper-T IUD) that last for up to five years and 10 years, respectively. This will give you enough time to think through and sort matters out before making the decision to become a parent. LARCs are best for women who want long-term protection from unplanned pregnancies and do not want to have to think about their contraceptive every day. If you decide to accept one of these methods, it is important to note that although it protects you from an unplanned pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Visit your clinic and talk to your doctor about your contraceptive options and make sure you are absolutely ready to start a family before you do.