Pregnancy 101: How to be prepared for that life-changing decision. These are the important conversations you and your partner need to have before deciding to have children.
New relationships are about candlelit dinners and intimate chats – usually about love, life and happily ever after. But, when it comes to adding children to mix, things will change and change drastically. This pregnancy 101 article highlights the eight important discussions you and your partner should have before embarking on this life-changing decision.
And baby makes …
Do you both want children? If so, how many? My husband told me quite flippantly when we were dating that he was keen for a brood of four. But after two weeks with a newborn, he quickly adjusted that to a more manageable two. While Mother Nature tends to have her own plan, make sure you have a clear idea of the preferred size of your family at the get-go.
If you want more than one, decide whether you want to have a big gap between the two, or get all the nappies out of the way as quickly as possible. But also talk about what happens if life throws you a curveball, and baby number two turns out to be babies two, three and four. You should also think about possible complications. If routine pregnancy tests pick up an abnormality, what options would you consider? Could you cope with a child with special needs and what support network do you have in place?
Be frank about your respective needs. Does your husband need lots of attention? Are you a control freak who finds it difficult to be at someone’s beck and call? It’s important to discuss upfront what your expectations are when it comes to being a family. Children are demanding, and it’s possible that you won’t be able to give your spouse the same attention you did when it was just the two of you.
Examine the way you communicate with each other and be clear about your needs. Also, avoid having a baby to heal a relationship. Sleepless nights and the stress of a new person in your lives can add considerable strain to even the most rock-solid partnership. Take a hard look at your lifestyle. Are you ready to forego lazy Saturday brunches and impromptu getaways to change nappies and watch Thomas the Train?
Count the costs
Babies are expensive. Think nappies, wipes, paediatric visits … Do a detailed financial plan and budget. This will also help you decide how many children you can realistically afford. Factor in childcare expenses if you need extra help as well as the cost of school and extramural activities later on. Is your home large enough for an expanding family or will you have to move?
Will you both go back to the office, or will one of you stay home with the children? Consider changing to half-day or freelance if your profession allows. In terms of labour legislation, women are able to take four months of maternity leave, starting one month before their due date. You can claim UIF if your maternity leave is unpaid. Be sure to factor in the adjustment to your monthly income as part of your budgetary planning.
Childcare options will depend on your work decision. Will you have a nanny, day mother or rely on a family member to help out? At what age will you send your child to play school? You also need to start looking at primary school options. Good schools are in high demand, and it’s important to get your child onto waiting lists as soon as you can. Talk about what kind of school environment you would both prefer. Also agree now on whether you will vaccinate your children or not, bearing in mind that schools ask for the clinic card when you apply.
Bad cop, good cop
Unfortunately, someone has to be the disciplinarian. Decide together what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and how best to deal with it. While you may happily allow the children to paint themselves green just for 15 minutes of quiet, your husband may be furious about the mess. If he punishes them for something you appeared to condone, it could send mixed signals. Form a united front and act consistently. Broader parenting roles need to be established early on. Will you take turns with bath time and nappy changes, for example?
Some parents prefer to sleep with their newborn alongside the bed, especially for night feeds. Others want to get their children accustomed to sleeping alone as soon as possible. Often the problems only really start a year or two later when your toddler decides that sleeping in Mom’s bed is more fun. Not only is this disruptive, but it can be disastrous for your relationship. Discuss sleep training options for various ages. Unfortunately, children like to mix things up – so a good sleeper at eight months may turn into a sleepwalker at two years old.
Lend a hand
There will be times when you’re both going to need some TLC. Breast-feeding can be stressful, so discuss with your partner about how you will both approach this, and if he should intervene if you find it difficult. It was such a relief for me when my husband gently encouraged me to change to formula after three agonising weeks of trying to breast-feed our daughter. Talk about the reality of postnatal depression. Up to 40% of women will develop some form of depression or anxiety after giving birth, says the Postnatal Depression Society of SA. Up to 10% of new fathers can also become depressed.
Find out upfront what your medical aid will cover or how much the birth will cost. But nothing is set in stone and an unexpected complication could mean a sudden change in birthing plan. Go on an antenatal course together so that you can make informed choices about birthing options.
- Traditional hospital birth – Options include vaginal birth or Caesarean section. Some hospitals have water-birth facilities. Discuss pain relief options with your gynaecologist or obstetrician.
- Birthing centre – Perfect for couples with low-risk pregnancies wanting to give birth naturally in a more homelike environment with individualised care.
- Home birth – Suitable for low-risk natural or water births. You could also involve a midwife or doula. Midwives are trained medical professionals who can perform medical procedures; a doula will offer emotional and practical support.
READ MORE: One first-time mother shares her journey of discovery from pre-pregnancy to the joyous arrival of her baby.