Every woman has a picture in her head of what her life should look like when she falls pregnant.
A house in the suburbs, an established career and solid relationship are often on this list of expectations, but it very rarely works out that everything is as prepared for the arrival of your new family member as you would’ve wished. This means that you have to make some big, important decisions in a time that you might feel like the most emotional and irrational being on the planet.
In most cases, pregnancy doesn’t happen exactly when we intend it to. Mostly you doctor will recommend that you start trying to conceive earlier than you actually wish to have the baby, so you have more time to be successful. Alternatively it could be completely unplanned, like a honeymoon baby, or at the other side of the spectrum, happen when IVF and fertility treatments have left your bank account looking very sad. Either way, this has implications that are far from the picture perfect idea you had for your life, and may cause lots of stress for both you and your partner.
A common problem couples face, is that they don’t have their white-picket-fence house in the suburbs yet. It might be very early on and you might still be living in a tiny city apartment or in an area you wouldn’t want to raise a family in. Being able to afford a house is difficult enough with two incomes, but with the added pressure of maternity leave, day-care bills, higher medical aid rates and everything else the little one may need, it may seem almost impossible. This makes it very important to have discussions with your partner about where you are willing to compromise. Will you rather face more traffic every day and live in a more affordable house in a good area, or will you stay closer to work but have a smaller place in a reasonable area? Agreeing on a compromise is the most important and most difficult decision.
With increasing pressure on the modern day woman to be successful both at work and at home, it may never feel like the right time to start a family. However, once you do, you may find pregnancy to be a peaceful time of acceptance, in terms of realising that you can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. Starting a family doesn’t have to put a lid on your ambitions in the workplace, but it should make you realise that slowing down just a little bit and focusing on your personal life should be a priority, and you will have plenty of time in the future to reach your work goals. What you need to decide is what your definition of slowing down will be, from working less hours to spend more time with your baby to maybe taking a break from work altogether for a couple of years (if you can afford it). It’s a big decision, and important to also take into consideration what your partner has to say about it, as he will be looking at it from a more practical point of view.
To marry or not?
This is a very personal (and prickly) problem many couples face. It is increasingly common for pregnancies to occur out of wedlock, and many factors that may influence the decision. Pregnancy may make a woman feel quite vulnerable when the proper support from a partner isn’t given, and many couples do tie the knot because they feel it’s the right thing to do for the child, and sometimes the families may also be somewhat conservative and pressure then into it. Ultimately it’s a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong, but you may want to think twice if the only reason you want to get married is the baby, as a messy divorce can be a lot more traumatising to a child than a civil co-parenting agreement.
Ultimately pregnancy is something you get into together with your partner, so always remember that the problems you face, you face together. Planning for your baby isn’t always easy, but if you include your partner it can be a good opportunity for your relationship to grow, preparing you for the biggest challenge (and reward) you’ve ever faced: raising a brand new little person. -Joanie Odendaal