Finding The ‘Perfect Time’ To Have Kids May Elude You When It Takes Years To Conceive

pregnancy planningIf you’re in your thirties, waiting for all of the stars to align – that promotion you have your eyes on, finding the perfect house, one last trip to Europe – before you get knocked up, I have news for you. There’s no “perfect time” to get pregnant. Trying to knock off a list of personal accomplishments, financial goals and vacation destinations before you attempt to conceive may do more harm than good.

Life is funny. For me, the twenties was liberation, fun, finding myself and what exactly it was that I was interested in. I didn’t lay too much groundwork for future security in those years. I spent them working my ass of all year so I could frolic around Europe in the summer. I found photography and started showing my work. I made friends. I hung out. I had fun. They went by fast. But not as fast as my thirties.

At thirty-two, I got pregnant. We weren’t planning on it, but we figured, “What the hell?“ We were in love. We were adults. We wanted kids. Then I miscarried. For the first time, I realized that having children may not be as easy as I always thought it would. After you’ve spent your entire adult life trying not to get pregnant, you tend to assume when you are ready, it will just happen. Unfortunately, for a lot of women it just doesn’t work that way.

We spent the next five years trying to conceive. The first miscarriage was followed by an ectopic pregnancy and another miscarriage. We weren’t planning on starting to try that early, because by pretty much every measure we weren’t “ready.” But all of a sudden I was really glad that we did. I had no idea it would take us five years to get a pregnancy to stick.

If you were to look at the life we were leading at the time, you would probably say, “These people are not financially ready to have kids. My husband is an actor and a musician. Occasionally he would get a big ticket job that would set us up for a few months, but we usually relied on an endless series of small gigs that took a lot of hustling to get.  Before our first child, I was working as a bartender at a very popular bar in Brooklyn. The money was pretty amazing but there is no maternity leave involved in the service industry. No 401k. No planning for the future. Once the baby came, I could no longer work the necessary 12 hour shifts to bring home the bacon. Our income plummeted.

We had to seriously adjust our lifestyle to accommodate having a child. Since we didn’t have the income to afford daycare, we shared total care-giving responsibility. This usually meant me watching our son all day while my husband worked, passing the baby off when he got home and heading out the door to work myself. It wasn’t ideal, but we did it. And guess what? We have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted toddler now. All while living in the second most expensive city in the country.

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You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • copycait

    I think you raise a good point.

    My husband and I started trying really early because we KNEW we had infertility factors. We started trying when I was 27, and it took us 4 years to go through trying naturally, then getting tested, then getting fertility treatments, etc.

    We started trying so early because someone told me that she loved her newborn daughter so much that if she even THOUGHT that she might not be able to have more kids, she would be trying already.

    That stuck with me, and so we tried way before we thought we were financially ready. By the time we had kids, we were in a better spot. To be perfectly honest, if we could have waited to have our twins 2 years from now, it would be even better, financially speaking.

    But sometimes biology won’t wait for a woman’s career or a couple’s desire to party in Paris. So, I would agree with your advice and the advice of my friend: anyone who really wants kids but could REASONABLY encounter difficulty might consider trying NOW, even if they’re not in the “perfect” place in terms of career or financial security.

  • LindsayCross

    Maria, I think you bring up such a great point. My daughter wasn’t planned. I had her extremely early, before I even considered that I would be ready. But I never had any idea that just three years later, when I was 24 and ready to start trying again, I would never be able to get pregnant again. I cannot imagine life without my daughter. I’m just so incredibly thankful for that “surprise” pregnancy when I was still young and felt completely unprepared.

  • Lori B.

    I have to say that I particularly appreciate this article as a complement to a previous article in which you advise people who are on the fence about having children to remain childless. While I did not necessarily disagree that if someone is not fully committed to the idea of being a parent, then he or she should not become parent, I disagreed with implication that if someone is not ready to have children, then they should not have children. You did not say that directly, but the comments veered in that direction. I have always thought that no one is ever truly ready for parenthood. If you want children and can take care of their basic needs, then go for it, even if it scares you. I think this article sums up what I was thinking quite well. There is no perfect time to have children. I find that many of my friends and I are very “type A” and need to plan things out perfectly, including major life events. You can’t do that with everything, and having children is one of those things that you cannot jot down in your “dayplanner.”

    • Guerrilla Mom

      Thanks. I think in both articles, the main point is choice – and desire. I think the desire is what makes people good parents, no matter what their situation.

  • Blueathena623

    Sorry if I’m going off on a tangent, but f the people who pulled the “you shouldn’t have kids if you can’t afford them” card on you. I’m so tired of seeing that argument. Babies don’t magically drop out of the sky so it can difficult to predict what your financial situation will be when le bebe does finally arrive.

  • anon111

    Maria, thank you for this article. I wrote the Anonymous Mom article on being judged for essentially choosing to be a single mom and getting the help of extended family, while I work full-time.

    My son wasn’t planned as such, but my ex and I were okay with having a child. At the time we had virtually nothing. I was still in school and he worked in the trades. I got even worse after my son was born…no income whatsoever.

    The good thing is, I finished my degree and now make close to six figures. No maternity break, so my career has been able to move forward quite steadily.

    I had my child before I was financially ready and at a relatively young age, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • anon111

      “It” got even worse I should say lol

    • Guerrilla Mom

      I think that if you are willing to make certain sacrifices, it will work. You definitely need a support system though. I’m very lucky to have a incredibly supportive family, even if they are out-of-state.

  • Andrea

    Unless you are incredibly lucky, there might never be a perfect time.

    When you are young (20s), you probably have the best physical chance of getting pregnant, but odds are you are probably not married, probably not at a great place career-wise or financially, and most likely not really ready emotionally.

    So you wait till your 30s to get your ducks in a row, only to find out that it won’t be happening easily. I think this whole thing sucks balls.

    I ended up having my children really young (early 20s). I was married and both my husband and I had OK jobs, but we weren’t exactly raking it in. We didn’t own a home, my career was just starting and our marriage was young too. So it wasn’t exactly the perfect time. We made it work, but it was FAR from easy. If someone asks me if I thought I should have waited, my instant answer would be YES!! IF I could get a guarantee that pregnancy would come without hassles. Which of course, is never really the case.

  • Xine

    I doubt anybody ever feels ready. I didn’t feel ready for my first, second or even third pregnancy. It’s such a huge responsibility it always feels scary. But your ducks will never all be in a row. Your job might disappear, your home burn down, a close relative die, life sends you curve balls all the time. If you want to have children at some point in the future you really do just need to get on with it though. My maternal grandmother went through the menopause in her early thirties. My third pregnancy at 34 ended in miscarriage. My cousin didn’t begin trying to have children until her mid-thirties – she’s now 46 and childless.

  • Makabit

    I’m having my first child in a few days, at the age of thirty-nine. I didn’t wait this long because I wanted ‘one last trip to Europe’, or a ‘perfect house’, I was waiting for both of us to have jobs at the same time, and enough money in the bank so we could buy groceries while I was on maternity leave.

    Enough with the self-congratulatory ‘explanations’ to women in their thirties that they may not have all the time in the world, and you have to expect to ‘change your lifestyle’. We know. Believe me, we know.

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