Motherhood

How Did You Know You Were Ready to Have a Baby?

Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!), so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting a popular post from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on May 11, 2015…

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How did you know when you were ready to have a baby?” I’m very happy to share my answer, of course, and over the past few months, I asked 11 other women to weigh in, as well. Their answers were fascinating (and so different!)…

Ignorance is Bliss

For me, the initial decision-making process was clear. My whole life I knew I wanted children. I played with dolls, babysat for years and cooed after every child that passed me by. After meeting Alex, I felt even more sure about starting a family sooner than later.

Even though none of our friends had kids yet, my arms would literally ache for the weight of a baby. It was a surprisingly physical, visceral feeling. We agreed to try for a baby after we got married, and once we got home from our honeymoon, lo and behold I discovered I was pregnant.

While my decision to have a child was clear, I was still blown away by what a huge life change motherhood was, and I faced ups and downs that came with having a child. I adore parenting, but funnily enough, it’s only in hindsight did I realize what a big decision it actually was.
— Joanna


Starting Young

I always wanted to be a young mother. My mom had me when she was 34 and she died when she was 52. I realized that if she had had me younger, I would have had more years with her. I wanted to give my kids the longest time possible to have a mom. So at the ripe old age of 23 I gave birth to my daughter, and at 25 I had twin boys. My dreams of being a young mom came true. I just hope my kids still want me around when I’m a grumpy 98-year-old.
— Sharon


Accidental Baby

Our son was a total surprise. I call him my juice cleanse baby. At the time, we were using a diaphragm for protection. I did my first juice cleanse (this was many years ago now) when they were all the rage. Well, I lost 12 pounds — I didn’t realize that would affect how the diaphragm fit, but, it did! So, I didn’t have the challenges of deciding to have a child, but I did struggle with motherhood. I love my son and was so humbled to become a mother but I hadn’t been emotionally prepared for everything I was giving up (alone time, time with my husband, casual morning sex) and I didn’t realize the energy and willpower it takes to juggle a career and a child, and just the general ongoing sacrifice of myself for my family that comprises being a mother. It took me a long time to find my own way through those woods.
— Audrey


One Mormon Experience

I was 25 when my first daughter was born. It’s common in the Mormon culture to have kids really young. Financial stability isn’t always a factor, it’s often assumed everything will work out fine. My husband was still in law school; we didn’t question whether we were prepared or not.

My mom had us young; I was the oldest of five, and, growing up, family was the forefront of everything in our Mormon community. Although I love that, the way girls are raised can sometimes be unbalanced. My parents would always talk about their excitement for me to be a mom, but they’d never say to me, we’re so excited to see what you’ll do with your college degree. It wasn’t pressure, it was an assumption; it was just what you do.

I don’t want to make assumptions for my daughter, and I’m always trying to plant seeds, like saying, IF you want to be a mom someday, or IF you want to be a doctor someday. I want her to have a different mindset. I want her to feel open to every possibility and know there is joy in all of it.

When it came to having kids, I honestly didn’t think about it. It’s so silly to admit that, it makes me feel kind of foolish! My friend recently joked, “I put so much more thought into which stroller to buy than whether or not to have a kid.” I’m happy with the way everything has shaken out, but its funny to imagine what our lives would be like if we hadn’t had kids so young.
— Linsey


Deciding to Adopt

Before I even met my husband, I knew I wanted to adopt. I didn’t feel a deep desire to be pregnant, but I felt deeply that I would be a loving mom to a child “who is already here,” as I used to say to my friends. My husband is adopted, so when we started talking about having a family, he was very open to the idea. When it turned out that I had some medical issues that would have made pregnancy tricky, even dangerous, he was one hundred percent pro. When I asked him “How do you feel about being the adopted father of an adopted child?”, he got this very tender look in his eyes and said, “I’ll know how to explain it to her.”

I have many friends who’ve adopted, and each one is a beautiful story, but ours was uniquely fast. We had had one preliminary “how does this work?” conversation with an adoption attorney, but we were busy in our lives and thought we’d wait six months or a year before starting the paperwork and all the other requirements.

Then one day, out of the blue, our adoption attorney called and said, “I have a situation with a birth mom. She’s six-months pregnant and the couple that was going to take her baby found another baby. Would you like to be considered?” We looked at each other over the phone for a moment. It wasn’t our timing. We were still living in my tiny apartment. But we had no reason to say no.

A few days later our attorney called us back with a trill in her voice. “The birth mom picked you!” she shouted. I felt like my heart was bursting out of my chest. Miracle, miracle, miracle, I kept saying to myself.

For the next month, we did nothing but paperwork, or so it seemed. Finances, background checks, original birth certificates, testimonials from friends, bank records, tax returns and meetings with a social worker. I said it was like going to work for the CIA combined with buying a house. At the same time, our birth mom found out her baby would be arriving early. We were in a race against the clock to get our paperwork done before the baby was scheduled to be induced.

We made it by one day. We were in the hospital when our daughter was born. We were holding her within hours. It had been seven weeks since that phone call from our attorney. Seven weeks from no baby to being a mom.

We are so grateful to the birth mom. She made the hard decision to put her daughter up for adoption. I never forget that. And I love my little girl so much. She is a joy to us every day.
— Anne


An Intellectual Decision

I was the baby of the family and didn’t babysit, either. So I never grew up with the feeling that I had to have kids. I just figured after I got married I would one day have the urge. So I waited, and waited… no urge.

As my mid-thirties approached, my husband and I realized that our choice to have kids would be more of a intellectual decision instead of an emotional decision. We felt stable financially, were enjoying staying home on Saturday nights, and basically said, “Why not?” I was worried my lack of urge would make it hard to adapt to being a mom, but I loved my son deeply from the second I met him and have never regretted our decision. I always say I wasn’t ready to have kids, but I readied myself.
— Lanie


‘There’s No Perfect Time’

My husband and I knew we wanted to have kids. When we were nearing 30, my husband suggested we get started. I said, “But things are so good the way they are,” and he replied, “There’s no perfect time to have a baby.” That resonated with me.

There was always some career or life reason why the timing wasn’t ideal, but I realized in retrospect that that would forever be the case, even with our second or third baby. I don’t think everyone has that alarm bell inside that says, “Today is the day.”

Of course the moment our children joined us, our lives made room for them. That’s just the way it is. I think as humans we get apprehensive about change, but then we adapt to it so much that we can’t imagine what life was like before.
— Samantha


A Long-Term Vision

My partner and I asked ourselves what we wanted our lives to be like in 10, 15 or 20 years and we tried to make the decision based on that vision. We decided we wanted to be a part of a bustling, interdependent, multigenerational community of adults and kids, and we wanted to go to soccer games and graduations. So it wasn’t as much a matter of “am I ready to be horribly sleep-deprived; will I find that awesome?” as it was “the life we want to have when we are 50, ideally, has kids in it.”

I think that if we assume that when you are “ready” it means that the adjustment to a with-kids lifestyle will be fairly easy and natural and we won’t regret it, then almost no one is ever ready. It’s sensible to feel ambivalent about that disruption, and a certain pragmatic ambivalence doesn’t mean you’re not ready.

It’s also such a stark decision. It’s not like deciding to go to grad school and knowing that if you hate it you can drop out. Once you have a kid, you have him or her forever. So I think a lot of this question is about trying to predict regret. If I have kids, will I regret it sometimes? If I don’t have kids, will I regret it sometimes? And for most people, the answer to both questions is probably yes. There’s not really a self-awareness quiz that will help us never to feel wistful about the whatever path we didn’t take.
— Emily


Just One Kid

While working at Elle Magazine, I heard so many women talk about the ups and downs of parenthood. So I was able to think and think and think about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a child. But I wasn’t sure that I didn’t want a child. I was 50/50, completely ambivalent. My whole thing was I wanted to be totally sold on it before getting into it. I wanted to want it.

But, a fertility counselor I once interviewed for a story told me you don’t actually ever want to get to the point where you want a child more than anything else in the world, since usually when women get to that point it’s because they can’t have one. Another doctor I interviewed suggested that instead of thinking “yes” or “no” on kids, it might help to think, “one kid” or “more than one kid.” She pointed out that one kid would provide the joy of parenting in a less intense way than multiple kids and that many of the things I was worried about might not be a factor with one child — my career, my relationship, my finances.

That’s was first time someone mentioned one child as a compromise. So we had a child.

Now I struggle all the time with how to tell people what it feels like to have a child. Before I had decided to have a child, I would get very frustrated when people would say super optimistic things, like, “Once you have one you’ll love them SO much.” I would roll my eyes. But I struggle now because it IS such a wonderful thing. How can I tell people that without sounding like an brainwashed, annoying person who is overly besotted with her baby? But, it’s so awesome. Every single day I feel so happy, like 100% happy, that we had a child. That’s why I never write about it or address the topic of motherhood with a tone of “and we lived happily ever.” It just sounds so ugh. But I’m so, so, so glad we did it.
— Corrie


Deciding ‘No’

Even as a child, motherhood was never something I pictured myself doing. Pretending to be a mother was a role I found boring compared to other games, like pretending to be a spy, a dancer or a teacher. There was so much world to explore beyond the relatively small domestic realm of raising children, I thought. When I got older, I never enjoyed babysitting, either.

I noticed that I wasn’t captivated by the everyday aspects of parenting people envision when they yearn for a child, either — dressing and undressing a baby, bath time, bedtime, playing in the park. I’ve always felt that focusing on those things would involve missing out on intellectual stimulation and that I would resent the repetitiveness, endless housework and other demands that come with being a mom.

Articulating why I don’t want children has been a long, thoughtful process for me because I have been asked to justify it so many times. People sometimes take issue when you say that you don’t want children, so I always felt I had to come up with brash or witty responses to being attacked for expressing this preference, ranging from “I don’t like babies” (for the shock effect) to “There’s so much else I want to do in my life” to “I would have kids if I could have a wife and be a father.” I don’t think I would have encountered the same level of skepticism, curiosity or even hostility about my decision not to have children if I were a man.

People often think of a life without children as empty, but the only times I feel my life is empty are when I am creatively blocked or when I am not able to spend enough time with friends and family whom I love. Quiet and order are important to me. I need both to be able to think and read and write.

When many of my friends started having children, I became more aware of the fact that some day, as I got older, my option to have kids would definitively end. And being in a committed relationship has made me stop and think through my decision once more. But ultimately, my partner and I are both committed to our work, to travel and to having our lives be open to opportunity.
— Meg


A Busy Calendar

A lot of the decision was just finding a quiet stretch in our schedules. After our wedding, we waited a couple of months to take our Italian honeymoon and I knew I didn’t want to be pregnant and miss out on the wine and the cheese and the cured meats. Then, in the year that followed, a seemingly endless string of life circumstances intervened: we had five more weddings we wanted to fully celebrate; I quit my job; we moved apartments; I started my freelance career, making life more hectic and uncertain.

We felt like it made the most sense to wait until we had settled into our marriage and our careers and the mad rush of trips and weddings slowed. I ended up getting pregnant RIGHT after my best friend’s wedding — at the same time she did.
— Stephanie


Hoping Every Month

I was quite sure I did not want a child throughout my twenties. I had a strong gut feeling that I didn’t want someone to need me that much. I had always adored kids, but I wanted my freedom and having a family just wasn’t calling me!

Then something changed for me around age 32. It wasn’t a lightning bolt, it was a slow shift. I decided to take some time to get my cycles in order and see if I could work on general fertility for a while. I dove into the book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and adjusted how I ate and took care of myself.

I started to welcome the idea of a child and let it sit with me. I started talking about it more with my sweetheart. I started to feel more emotionally connected to our idea of a family of three and we felt more sure it was something we were hoping for and not just wondering about.

By the time I turned 35, we were hoping to be pregnant every single month. It was a long journey for us, which took many twists and turns, but we finally found out I was pregnant about six weeks before my 39th birthday. I am now 30 weeks along and due this summer. We are not at the end of our story by any means, and I feel lucky to be where I am every single day. I’ll always remember and respect how long everything took.

My only real piece of advice about figuring out if you are “ready” is to take your time. So many of us rush around all day long and take that same approach with the big decisions in our lives. People always say life moves quickly, but I disagree. I think life moves slowly if you are paying attention. There is so much for us to take from and learn from every single day. If you pay attention, you will know if and when you are ready and even the pondering becomes an important part of the journey. I wish everyone a good and fulfilling path toward their own families, no matter what they look like!
MAV

toby-has-tummy-time-15-days-old

Thank you so much to these women for sharing their personal stories. What about you? Are you weighing the decision right now? If you have a child, how did you know you were ready? I am so curious to hear…

P.S. How many kids do you hope to have (we’re torn!), and would you ever decide not to have kids?

(Top photo by Ruth Orkin; bottom photo of Toby as a newborn. A few names have been changed for people’s privacy.)

  1. Thank you so, so much for this post. My husband and I both don’t feel ready to have kids yet and keep thinking maybe in 2-3 years. Maybe by then haha. But I know I want to be a mom someday and that my husband will make such an amazing Dad. Meanwhile I’m surrounded by all my friends from growing up who are now on kid number 3 or 4! It’s just weird how everyone’s life stages are all over the place. Anyways, this was just really nice to read and to relate to people who didn’t have kids right off the bat and who wanted to feel “ready”.

  2. M says...

    I loved reading this post and the comments as this is something I ponder frequently. I’m still fairly young (25) and both my husband and I always took it for granted that “of course we want kids one day.” Interestingly, many of the friends/acquaintances I’ve made in the past couple years are slightly older and already have multiple children, and it’s actually made me…almost fearful of having kids. All of them love their children dearly and are great mothers, but I have gotten a serious dose of motherhood reality being around them. They all seem constantly overwhelmed and exhausted and urge me to wait to have kids. I think the idea of losing my sense of identity and freedom is paralyzing, yet like Emily, when I picture myself at age 50, kids are part of that vision. I guess we’ll see what the next couple years bring!

  3. Sally says...

    The decision to have a child seemed easy, almost a “given.” It was the decision to have a second child which was difficult for me. In hindsight, I dreaded the postpartum depression and the feeling of being so alone. The depression had gone undetected, however. We had a second child. My labor was a cause for PTSD then we moved thousands of miles from family (pre-internet). The depression returned with a roar but still went undiagnosed. I think the trajectory of our entire family was changed by postpartum depression and its aftermath.

  4. Jenny says...

    This will be an unpopular opinion, but I’m actually glad I don’t have kids. I think I knew very early on that I never wanted them, and despite being told all the usual “you’ll change your mind when you’re older” and “it’s different when it’s your own kid”, I never felt differently about it. I did have a few twinges when I first met my husband and fully expected that I would be hit with the maternal urge somewhere in my 30s, but it just never happened.

    At the same time, I was privileged enough to bear witness to my siblings’ parenthood journeys, and the exposure to everything parenting entails, warts and all, firmly convinced me that that just wasn’t the path for me. I was also lucky enough to never feel pressured by either my own family or my in-laws, and after the initial Post-wedding enquiries as to whether we were going to start a family, nobody tried to hassle us about it.

    The honest truth is that when I asked myself the question of who I’d be having a kid for, the answer was my husband, my MIL, even my siblings so that they’d get to dote on him or her — everyone but me. And given the amount of sacrifices raising a child entails, plus the sheer unending amount of work everyone agrees parenting requires, it just wasn’t a trade off I wanted to make. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but our time here is short and I can’t spend my life living for everyone else but myself.

  5. Hilde says...

    I always knew I wanted to become a mum. From the age of 12 the desire was strong within me. I wanted a family of my own. Then it took me forever to meet my husband. I was single throughout my twenties and felt miserable about it. Finally, I met the love of my life on Tinder. Four years later we have a two year old and a one year old. So much work, but so worth it. I love being absolutely necessary for Three other human beings.

  6. Julie says...

    Never wanted a kid. NEVER. ZERO interest. My childhood was not ideal. I equated childhood with misery. I didn’t like being a kid. I didn’t like kids. Did not want to mess up a kid. My grandparents raised me mostly. I was very hands-on as each declined in health and died. Sitting beside my Granny on her near-deathbed, the phrase “The golden cord is about to be cut,” kept ringing in my mind. Unconditional love was leaving my life. The moment I heard she passed, I shocked myself by blurting out “I should have had three kids!” (don’t ask me why THREE). But the ship had sailed. I consciously was not “ready” nor interested. But unconsciously I was. 8 months later I was pregnant in my early 40s with no intervention. I honestly thought it was early menopause when my period stopped. Having my son has been the most healing thing in my life. It also healed relationship with my mother, who I’d barely spoken to for 20 years. My grandma always wanted me to have a baby and to reconcile with my mom. She was a very, very good woman, very religious (Catholic) and very spiritual. I truly believe she made this happen.

  7. A.M. says...

    This is embarrassing, maybe, but totally true: I remember stuffing a small sweatshirt under my shirt to look at myself in the mirror. I wanted to see what I would look like with a pregnant belly. This was almost ten years ago, and I realize now how my longing for children needed a physical outlet, a way to somehow try on motherhood in order to make sense of it all. Until then, everything had been theoretical, debating “what ifs” and trying to figure out timing. But alone, in my room, and looking back at my reflection, is when I know it truly became real to me that I wanted to take that next step to motherhood.

  8. Kristian Olson says...

    I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about two months before our marriage. My diabetic educator and doctors all said to wait at least a year before getting pregnant for a lot of health reasons. Once we did want to have kids, it included a timeline to talk to doctors about how tightly controlled my blood sugar levels needed to be and get them there. So… while it was a decision based emotional and logistical needs the same as all couples, there was a lot of health monitoring that went into our decision too, and I know this is true for a lot of people with chronic illness.

  9. Anna says...

    I don’t understand people HATING children, but I don’t have a problem with people saying they dislike children. Children *are* whole people, but they’re not fully developed people and there are certain commonalities about them: they often have poor impulse control and a different understanding of social norms and boundaries. There are adults who can have these same traits! But no matter how well-behaved or pleasant an individual kid might be, it’s always incumbent on adults to monitor their own behavior, activities, and reactions more than they’d have to in an interaction with another adult. Being with children often means restricting yourself to kid-friendly activities and language. Many kids have much to offer in return for that, but I can understand not wanting to perform that role and therefore disliking the company of children. There’s room to generally dislike kids and not be a jerk about it.

    • Jenny says...

      This!! You’ve articulated what I was thinking almost down to the letter. Kids have nearly zero impulse control and often behave/say/do things rashly/childishly by virtue of being, well, a child, and some adults might find that hard to deal with. Connecting or even interacting with little kids requires a specific mindset On the adult’s part. Some come by it naturally and others have to work at it, but those who aren’t keen to make that emotional investment shouldn’t be shamed over it. To each their own, I say.

      I would add though that perhaps one reason some people don’t like kids — and this is going to open a HUGE can of worms — Is because some parents just aren’t bothered to teach their kids right from wrong and just allow them to literally run roughshod over everything and everyone, and then when/if other ppl try to gently correct their darling offspring, or just highlight the problematic behaviour to the parents, they get super defensive and huffy and offended. I’m not talking about the occasional tantrum or meltdown in supermarkets, I’m talking little hellions who willfully destroy things/torture pets/make other kids cry repeatedly. These are the parents who give others who’re just trying their best a bad name. In these situations it’s often difficult for the child-free adult to be honest about why they don’t like kids — they can’t very well say they just don’t like THOSE kids coz they’re bratty without ending the relationship — so they may just default to saying they don’t like kids in general, to spare the parents’ feelings.

      In my case my dysfunctional upbringing caused me to feel powerless around kids. My parents watched neighbourhood kids until their parents came home from work for a side income, and for some demented reason my dad got it into his head to encourage one of the little girls they were minding to physically assault me. Yes she was a toddler and I was a tween, but my dad encouraged her to pinch or slap me and then insisted that I just sit there and take it and not retaliate, or else he would get in on the action! Eventually I would just get up to leave but being as the house was small, the little brat would just follow me until I managed to shut a door in her face. And if she cried or pitched a fit my dad would yell at me to come out to endure it all over again!! His sick justification was that she was so tiny, how badly could it hurt when she hit me? The answer was maybe not much physically but psychologically it was extremely traumatic, because he insisted on taking away my choice and bodily autonomy. For a long time after that I hated all little kids. I already hated him for his abusiveness but it took me a long time for me to realize that I could and should direct the way I wanted any interaction with little kids to go. But my traumatized inner tween drove me to avoid all kids for a long time after that experience.

      All of that to say, maybe cut the people saying they dislike kids some slack. You don’t know what their experience with kids might have been like.

  10. Love this post! I’m pregnant with my first child and it took a long time for me to get in the right headspace to decide to have one. I turned 30 last year and that was a turning point for me. I had established my career, been married to my husband for 5 years and we just purchased a home a few years prior. In the fall we decided the time was right. I just felt so good about my decision even when those two little pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test.

  11. Liz says...

    Just found out that I am expecting twins – so a very timely post indeed! I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified :)

    • Robin says...

      Congratulations! How exciting. Imagine the fun you have in store!

  12. Grace says...

    Just had to mention I was also raised by Mormons and while it’s true that stereotypically women get married and have babies young, my parents NEVER expect/expected me to get married or have children. My parents definitely never made assumptions for me! Thanks mom and dad! :)

  13. Christine says...

    I’ve always loved kids so much and was SO excited to have them. I married my husband at age 25 but knew that I wanted to wait until I was 30 to start a family. I wanted to travel, finish graduate school, establish myself a little bit career wise, explore my passions, and have time to be young and dumb, if I wanted to. I had my first baby days before my 30th birthday and am so happy that we waited. In a world where tomorrow is never certain, and you’re only young once, I wanted to life a full life before starting a life with kids.

  14. Kristin says...

    I have to give some voice to the infertility perspective. When we first started trying In March 2018, I knew I wanted a baby and I figured I’d have nine months to get “ready.” Now, after two years of trying for a spontaneous pregnancy, innumerable diagnostic tests, two uterine surgeries, two failed IUIs, and a round of IVF over Christmas—still with no baby or pregnancy—I can say I am more than ready. Sending so much love to my fellow infertility sisters out there. We are unique in that we go through a years-long process of becoming parents before a baby is even born.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you! And solidarity from another woman on an infertility journey. In this five + year saga, I’ve gone from being more than ready to questioning if all this IVF madness and surgeries is really worth it. Do I *really* want a child? Or maybe I trick myself into thinking that being childless is ok, so I don’t get disappointed once again. I’m 35, and have realized just how much society assumes that being a woman is = to being a mother.

    • rose says...

      Hope and pray for success for you! I went through similar (failed IVF) before I finally got
      pregnant w a successful IVF. It might be placebo effect, but a friend who also had a successful ivf told me to just bed rest for 48 hours. I did it and now have an 18 month old. Look at CCRM clinic in Colorado. Even if you can’t afford them research the protocol (it can be found online and in blogs). I didn’t drink alcohol and followed a lower carb and high good fat diet before the second round. I apologize for
      unsolicited advice but I know how sad, stressful a failed ivf can be.

  15. Alicia says...

    Anne!! We have decided to adopt as well and will be attending a “family fair” this week in fact. No children are present in case you were curious…
    And my husband is adopted too! So strange! I hope our ending is the same as yours. I’m praying the child that is meant for us is out there. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous doing this life changing thing but I’m real excited about it too…
    We’ve tried for years and nothing has happened but we also knew we wanted to adopt as well. Funny how that worked out I guess. I’ve mourned not being able to “give” life physically but I’m hoping we’re able to give “live” in other ways.

  16. Carrie says...

    This is a great post, but the photo! I’ve seen it before on here, what do we know about her and the babe? 😀

  17. Jane I. says...

    Ahh I love this post! I remember reading it back when it was first posted. The ‘Long-Term Vision” one has always stuck with me. I just had my first baby 2 months ago (!) and I just adore him. I love dreaming about the man he will be someday and knowing that every crucial moment I spend kissing his tiny baby toes and playing with him will help him to grow into a great, kind and productive person. I can’t wait to be there and see how awesome he is.

  18. Becca says...

    Love revisiting this topic. And I’m finally at this stage in my life! Very exciting times.

    I’m a related note, does anyone have any recommendations on pregnancy guides? I find the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” tome too judgmental and anxiety-inducing.

    I’ve picked up “Nurture” by Erica Chidi Cohen, but need something else comprehensive to supplement.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Lauren says...

      Personally I like vintage guides, from 30 to 100 years ago – hear me out 😆. The advice is mostly the same (not everyone praised formula in the 1950s, or general anesthesia in the 1940s, etc.), except that older manuals tend to have a way way more relaxed and cheerful tone! of course modern books are best for the science, but it’s nice to have less of the overwrought stuff–“now breathe, and prepare yourself spiritually for this most sacred passage”– and more, “Let Father give Junior his bath, while you put your feet up on the chesterfeld”. 😆

    • Emily says...

      Expecting Better by Emily Oster challenges pregnancy myths with evidence based research. Highly recommend!

    • Ashley says...

      I liked “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster – she’s an economist so presents data about pregnancy and childbirth and encourages you to evaluate the data and use that to make the decisions that are right for you and your family.

    • SN says...

      I’ve been reading the Mayo Clinic guide and I’ve found it to be grounded in good medical facts so far!

    • Hannah says...

      Not pregnancy, but very practical for newborn to child is Penelope Leach’s “Your Baby and Child.” The chapters on newborns were something I should’ve read while pregnant because she has so many great practical tips.

    • Heather says...

      I agree with the recommendations for Emily Oster’s Expecting Better – she provides the data and explains her personal decision-making process, but emphasizes that reasonable people may come to different conclusions.

      In a similar vein of people who provide information without judgment, I really like Penny Simkin’s writing. My husband read “The Birth Partner” when I was pregnant with my first child, and I found it comforting to read sections of it after the fact when I was emotionally processing my emergency c-section. Her Pain Medication Preference Scale was also such a helpful tool as I was planning for each of my births, as my preferences changed each time! She lays out a range of options with, again, little to no judgment. https://birthtools.org/birthtools/files/BirthToolFiles/FILENAME/000000000006/MOC-CnC-PainMgmtPreferenceScale-Simpkin.pdf

      For the newborn days, I recommend The Nursing Mother’s Companion. Kathleen Huggins keeps the information quick and easy to digest, and divides her recommendations (which go beyond nursing to general parental survival) by newborn stage. I found the tone very supportive.

    • Becca says...

      Gosh, these are such wonderful recommendations. Thank you all so much!

  19. Silver says...

    I never ever wanted a child. I applauded myself on being one of the few who never needed an abortion – I was never going to make the baby mistake. When my husband and I married we had a ‘no children’ rule at the wedding because we wanted to send a firm message to our clucky clucky relatives that children were not on the cards for us… then I turned 37 and knock me over with a feather if my world wasn’t turned upside down. We’d made friends the year before with a wonderful couple who had three kids – and their life was the best! This family was a haven of love, the kids drew and painted on the walls of the house, they made music and read novels and discussed ideas. They loved one another and this planted the seed inside of us. They were unlike every other family I’d met. Then I just didn’t fall pregnant and in the end required surgery to enable it. It was a difficult birth and my son has suffered some very critical health concerns but I move mountains for him. We don’t want more than one – and that includes our son – we travel and explore and we’re a tight unit. I’m glad I had a child, he’s the delight of my life but ever since I went into labour I’ve known a strong and murderous fear – his heart beat stopped when I was birthing him, and again I stepped aside when he was 5 and went into cardiac arrest, stepping aside from a child wanting to hold you, but you need to let doctors save him is the hardest thing ever… fear lives with me now, right next to that awesome love. Parenting is not for the faint hearted.

  20. DR says...

    Aw. I liked all the different perspectives.

    I’m in my mid 30’s and flip flopped bw having kids, but I’d be content with one. I’m single atm but if someone comes into my life while I can still have kids, I’d be content with having 1 biologial kid; If I can’t, I would consider adoption if he is ok with it. There is slight chance on 2 kids, but I’d like to adopt the second child if we decide on 2 (I’m not getting any younger either, lol).

    It’s a big decision. For awhile I felt the social pressure to be married with multiple kids by my early 30’s (most of friends did that bw 25-32) but just doing me atm and we’ll see. But keeping my mind open for 1 kid.

  21. Katie says...

    I love this post. My husband and I took our sweet-ass-time to have our first baby. We had Penny (now 19 months old) after we had been married for 5 years. People would ask us when we were going to have kids. At my bridal shower (!!), his grandmother told me we shouldn’t wait forever because we had already been together for so long. And my Grams would say thing like, “By the time I was your age, I had 4 kids!” Chill, you two.

    But ya know what? Now that I know about this magic that is being a parent, I probably wouldn’t have put it off to travel to Italy, or go to weddings, or to have four lazy Sundays every month. Now that I’m in-the-know, I want ten more of these magical little maniacs. But my 35 year old body ain’t got time for that, y’all! (Okay fine, not TEN more kids, but definitely more!)

    And I agree that you’re never fully ready. No time is the ‘right time.’ Neither of us ever had the must-have-baby-now urge, but I am so glad it worked out the way it did and we have our awesome little Penny.

  22. l says...

    lovely stories!

    P.S. there’s a “were were” typo in the last story.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!

  23. Alex L. says...

    Would love a story on deciding to be a single mom, no male. It is something constantly racking my mind. Would love a success story or real story surrounding that topic!

  24. Steph says...

    I had my son two months after turning 31. I always knew I wanted kids, as did my partner, so when we decided to go for it, it basically took a series of conversations over a few weeks that always ended with the question, “Why not now?” We didn’t have a good reason to put it off, so we went for it.
    In terms of peer pressure, none of our friends were having babies yet and friends joked that we were the pioneers, or embarking on a grand experiment. Seeing is believing, but we didn’t have any examples around us. If we had, I definitely think I could have gone for it a year or two earlier. That first year, I was lonely a lot of the time, feeling like my friends and I would never be able to connect over this new stage of motherhood. In that sense, it’s been a relief and a pleasure to support my friends through early parenthood now that more of them have taken that leap.

  25. Rebecca V. says...

    I would love for Cup of Jo to go back to all these women and get an update! It would be so interesting to see if their positions have changed or stayed the same.

    • Katie says...

      YES! Great idea!

  26. Sarah says...

    I have to admit I am disappointed in the privilege this post promotes. No thoughts provided by someone who became a mother by an absence of choice. As a pregnant 17 year old who was raised in a very conservative, religious home, adoption or keeping the baby was really the only options. Fast forward 26 years, I am blown away by the fact that I was in no position to raise a child yet was still encouraged to do it. I hadn’t formed as a full person yet and had zero skills, abilities or resources. Ultimately, I feel my son paid the price for my “winging it”. In the end, he is successful by societal standards but I can’t help but think what his life would be like if he had a parent(s) who was prepared and fully capable emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc.

    • Christie says...

      Sounds like my life, except it was my mom 40 years ago, the single 18 year old. When she refused to give me up for adoption or marry my father, her parents said: you are on your own! Luckily, she wasn’t really. They did provide her support after I was born, including a place to live during a couple of periods in my life when we were between homes. But otherwise, she did it all by herself. She made a lot of mistakes. But here I am, a successful lawyer, with several beautiful children of my own, and a steady marriage. It was her very anti-authoritarian, pro-justice perspective that has kept me fired up for my life and made me who I am. The hardships — the poverty, the latch-key childhood while my mom worked retail nights, the many, many moves — they all helped me become a resilient person. I used to think that I succeeded despite my mother. And she has definitely suffered her share of guilt for what she didn’t and couldn’t offer me. But the fact is, she did an awesome job. I did not succeed despite my mother. I succeeded because of her — because of her love and striving. Whether your son recognizes it or not, I’m sure eventually he will come to the same conclusion.

  27. Candace says...

    This post, and it’s musings on motherhood and the challenges surrounding the huge shifts in identify and lifestyle that having a child can bring, are much appreciated this morning. Nice to see that other women similarly need a proverbial minute to regain their footing after becoming mothers. For a time, Instagram-ready photos of mother’s beaming over their new children and expressing joy and love were super triggering for me as I took selfies of myself sobbing in exhaustion and frustration and fear during the early weeks of postpartum misery with a child who wasn’t gaining weight quickly enough, boobs that weren’t producing enough milk, and an unexpected and life-altering medical diagnosis for our son. Slowly coming out of that fog of fear and helplessness and realizing that I wish I had been able to find more joy at that time, but I’m not sure how I could have found it. The early days are tough :-/ My boisterous, happy, never-still 21-month old is much more easy to find joy with. So, thanks for the post, from this engineer, over-analyzes-every-decision woman who knew she wanted to be a Mom, but still had a really hard time with the decision when the time came to actually start trying. It’s a big one to wrestle with, that’s for darn sure and this post shows that in spades.

    • Brittany says...

      candace! with you 100%!!

  28. Elise says...

    I remember reading this when it was first published and poring over the comments. We had our first (and only by choice) child last summer after years of deliberation! I think what finally led to deciding to try for a baby was the thought that I/we would regret it if we didn’t. The decision to have only one actually made everything easier – it felt like a good balance. I am so glad we made those decisions – our son is the delight of my life. It all went better than I thought it would and I couldn’t be happier.

  29. Caitlin says...

    I was never that person who just knew they wanted kids. In fact, for the last few years, I was against it for various reasons. I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant and beyond grateful for this amazing experience. Baby was very much planned and is very loved already. I think the combination of age + we decided it was a life experience we really wanted made me change my mind. As for how many, well, we’d be happy with 1 healthy baby. Maybe I’ll come back and reanswer a year from now.

  30. Alina says...

    I love you are recycling older articles. This was one of my favorites because it was something I struggled with. I was the one in the 50/50 pile. And the woman who said to think about life in the next 10, 20 years really resonated with me. So fast forward to now, my husband and I have a 2 year old boy who is great. I still sometimes struggle a bit with the loss of independence, but I have never regretted having him.

  31. Karen says...

    I don’t comment often but I’ve left 3 responses to comments on this one post! Must be a biggie for me. So, here goes my comment—
    I know that very few commenters even hinted at this, but at least one stated outright that they dislike children. And I have to respond to this because it feels urgent:
    Children are humans. A 6 year old human is an much a human as a 36 year old, or a 96 year old. Can you imagine someone voicing their strong dislike of old people?
    It irks me because it sounds like the men on the internet who dislike women. Or homophobic people who dislike gays.
    There is no room, I feel, to discount an entire category of human beings in our world.

    And for those who stated that we may do well to rethink bringing children into a world hurtling towards collapse and destruction, I offer this (which I had left as a comment in a thread)—

    It might be willfully optimistic of me— but I had a phenomenal history teacher in high school. And one day he said something that stuck with me—
    “the good old days never existed.”
    What he meant of course is that at any given point in history, you can make a comparison to this very moment in the present— and the present will always be better in so many ways. It is easy to get disheartened— and I do often!— but then I think about the leaps we have made in accepting other cultures, religions, backgrounds— the huge advancements made in human rights, WOMEN’S rights, equality… even in global peace, as difficult as it may be to believe. And in the face of adversity and cynicism, the environmental movement continues to grow and new solutions are being developed constantly.
    I am not a blind optimist by any means— and I struggle to keep seeing the light around us.
    But I trust that so many of the children born today will help bring about the solutions we will desperately need in the future. They will be our scientists, doctors, activists, teachers.
    I keep this as my mantra, even when it doesn’t feel at all obvious— the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

    • Courtney says...

      This comment is beautiful.

    • Erin says...

      Well done. Needed saying. 👏🏻

    • Colleen says...

      Human beings discount not only entire categories of plants and animals, but entire species, ecosystems, oceans, forests, etc. To me, that goes far beyond irksome. I think it is perfectly reasonable to not want to contribute to the further destruction of the planet by choosing not to create more human beings. There are many children that have already been born into the world waiting to be adopted that can bring about solutions and change we need.

    • Heather D says...

      I love this.

    • SN says...

      This!

    • Karen says...

      To Colleen, yes of course agree with your points. But what I mean is… these children, yes those needing adoptive parents… all these children are worthy of love and respect. They are not lesser beings because they are children.
      And they are worthy of our hope and continued work — because we must believe that they are worthy of a future. That we are not giving up on all of humanity, and not giving up on the planet.

    • Kirsten says...

      Yes! I’ve always found it uncomfortable when people say they carte blanche “don’t like kids”, and you’ve articulated it exactly. They are people, full human beings. Sure, there are specific kids I’ve met that I don’t like, but to say that categorically denies children full personhood.

  32. Heather D says...

    I hoped for pregnancy from just a few months after we were married in 2006. Month after month of disappointment led me to a fertility specialist a few years later at age 27. Pregnancy was never possible, so my husband and I decided to adopt. We knew private adoption was expensive and there were thousands of children waiting in foster care, so we went that route! Foster care is definitely not for the weak. It will make your heart soar and break your spirit in the same week. But it’s worth it! Our precious adopted son will be 5 this month and we couldn’ t be happier.

  33. CG says...

    We had our first at age 27, a few years younger than all of our friends. We had been married for three years. We were very busy with school and work in those three years (I was in grad school when our son was born) so we didn’t get much of that fun and intense “couple time” that many people do before they have kids. But when I think about that tradeoff, I would willingly trade any day of my life before kids for another day with them. And you never know how long you have. That is not something I fully understood before I actually had kids.

    • Tess says...

      Thanks for this, CG! I am 28 and contemplating this question in my own life, and am- as you said- a few years younger than any of my friends will be when they become parents. The hardest part for me is actually worrying about the social isolation of going through this major life transition when all of my friends are still dating or in early years of marriage, and can’t relate. How did that go for you?

    • Lindsay says...

      We adopted our daughter, who was almost 2 years old, within a month of moving to a new city and starting surgical residency. I too worried about making new friends and connections in a type of training with very few children. My co-residents have been amazing with my now 7 year old daughter. When Frozen came out for rental, she invited my entire trauma team over to watch it- and every one of them (age 25-45) showed up at our house in pajamas. She comes with us to all the resident program events, they get her Christmas gifts, and they come hang out on our couch to spend time with her. She used to tell everyone she wanted to be a surgeon like Annie and Valerie (two of my close friends in the program) when she grew up (forgot about her mama! :)

  34. Annie says...

    I’ve been with my husband for 10 years, and we wanted to be established in our careers and financially stable before starting our family. Finally, we felt the “space” for a baby…it was time! We tried to plan it so I’d have a summer mat leave, and we were lucky enough to get pregnant right away. 12 weeks in to the pregnancy, I miscarried. I had tried not to get too attached, but after waiting so long we were so excited and couldn’t help but paint a detailed vision for the future, with these specific timelines. I know that we’ll have our family, but until then the “space” remains.

    • Jill says...

      I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriage, Annie. Sending hugs and positive thoughts your way.

    • Annie says...

      Thanks so much for this Jill xo

  35. Colleen says...

    To Audrey with the Accidental Baby – SAME (except for the losing 12 pounds part)! Thank you for being so eloquent, I’m 13 years into this journey and love my daughter with reckless abandon but those early years and enormous adjustments just about broke me. I’m so comforted by reading your words even now.

    • Nadege says...

      Jayne- a wonderful book gets to heart of much of what you express, Motherhood, by Sheila Heti (a fellow Canadian at that). It’s the best thing I read all year. Heti raises radical essential questions about womanhood, freedom, and how-and for whom- to live.

  36. R says...

    I’ve never really had the urge! I think it hit me briefly in my late 20s, when for a few months I liked the idea of introducing a child to the world, then it quickly evaporated. I didn’t grow up playing with dolls, or loving to babysit, and as an adult I’ve never dreamt of being a parent, or anything else traditional, like getting married. Kids stress me out, and imaging pregnancy is frankly terrifying.

    I know that sounds horrible to people who want/love kids, but that’s just how it is for some people! I do worry, though, about what life will be like later on. Right now I’m in my early 30s and have lots of childless friends and we’re always busy going on adventures and working on fun projects. But what’ll happen when they have kids, when my sibling has a kid, etc. Will I be left with no one?

    I’m constantly hoping that my baby urge will kick in and solve this problem, because it does feel like a problem. We never talk much about what life can look like for those who don’t become parents. The standard is that you grow up, get married, have kids, and then do that forever. Life’s about creating family. You’re always a parent, and that’s what you do. But what if kids aren’t part of the picture?

    • Sarah says...

      R – I’m pretty certain I won’t be a mother, never had the urge either! It shouldn’t sound horrible to others – everyone is entitled to make their own choices :) You won’t be left alone if you decide not to have kids – embrace your close friends and family’s children as the super fun aunt! My best friend’s kids ADORE me and I love them like they’re my own. It’s a good place to be! And the standard you reference at the end of your comment is born from generations of women who only had one choice in life: get married and have children. Now we have so many other options! Your life and your purpose doesn’t have to be tied to having children.

    • Jean says...

      Oh wow, I could have written this. You aren’t alone. Two comforting things I’ve noticed in my own life recently…
      1. My childless friends (I’m lucky to have many) have a strong bond as we are getting into our later thirties. I think we are realizing how important these relationships are in lieu of children. Life is about creating family, you are right. We celebrate each other.
      2. Some families are awesome at including child free adult friends. It’s fun, and you can have fun with the kids and leave them with their parents at the end of the night.

      Whenever I get wistful, I usually get a chance to realize that I don’t honestly like hanging out with little people, and that no, I don’t really want to care for children. They’re amazing, don’t get me wrong, but as an introverted only child, I’m solitary. And most of the elder people I know are not helped much by their children (sad, but seems to be the case). So, I think, I’m going to be fine if God doesn’t bring a child into my life, and I hope you will be too.

    • E says...

      I completely resonate with this comment – thank you for putting this so eloquently!

    • Jayne says...

      R – Yes, yes, yes to all of this. I am 31 and the strongest “urge” for babies I have ever felt was in my early 20’s, when there was absolutely zero chance I was in any position to actually have a baby. The urge quickly dissipated and has never returned, despite the surge that has begun of friends and family having babies.

      While my partner and I are currently more than content with our child-free life, the issue you flagged that does cause me worry is what it will look like in five, ten, and fifteen years as those around me settle into parental life. I hear all of the “be a fabulous auntie” advocates, and I have fully embraced that role already. But to be frank, the massive life change for the parents is the bright florescent elephant in the room I cannot ignore.

      My two best friends had babies last summer, and both (one in particular) were VERY intent about “not letting the baby change her as a person” and “being the same woman, with a new person in the family too.” This might sound incredibly naive to those with kids, but it was so important to her as she knew she wanted to start a family, but had deep fears and anxiety about losing herself in the process. So far, it has been a challenge (to say the least) for her. In eight months we have only been able to leave the house with babe-in-tow twice. Yes, he will grow and things will get easier (and other things will get harder) but then there will be the push for a second! And then third!

      I know none of this sounds surprising. If anything it is a very common and obvious story: “of course having children will change your like drastically.” The reason I bring it up is because no one talks about the “losing oneself” that is inevitable when women (yes, more so than men) have a child. To me, that is a massive sacrifice that I just don’t think I will ever be willing to make. Yes, I will not have my own offspring around a Thanksgiving table when I’m 50 — but that is not a good enough reason to lose out on myself, time with my partner, and the adventures we could have for the next 20 years (and beyond).

      I also feel so incredibly privileged to have this choice — countless women throughout history, and still today, simply do not have the option to live for themselves. It is a precious thing, and the reason why I think the decision to have children is such a weighty one (in addition to all of the ethical considerations that have been discussed).

      Unfortunately, even in my progressive, well-educated Canadian culture bubble, I’m very hesitant to express my feelings about this. I would never impose them on someone else, but it remains taboo to express to my peers that I value my own life, experiences, and freedom of choice over the assumed path of child rearing.

      As always, so grateful to this community at Cup of Jo!

    • Jules says...

      R, I’ve had these exact same thoughts. I too worried that I’d be left behind when my friends and siblings started having kids, and for a while I did feel adrift when their kids started arriving. It didn’t help that I never felt maternal so I didn’t want kids of my own. I don’t hate or dislike kids; I just have a limit as to how much “kid” time I can expend my energies on. Eventually though I realized that choosing to remain childless doesn’t mean you’ll be friendless forever — you’ll just build your own family out of friends, co-workers, neighbours, whoever.

      I think a large part of society’s discomfiture with childless by choice women is that their decision not to become mothers makes them too much of a radical, a revolutionary who won’t be bound by the structures of heteronormative societal norms. It’s like they no longer know what to expect from us, we who will not play by the unwritten rules of what a woman should, or in society’s mind, must be, and they must therefore be eternally wary of us.

      I also agree with the other commenter, Sarah, above: Life isn’t just limited to becoming a parent or not. Those conventions were born of a time when women weren’t really allowed to have a career of their own, when they couldn’t have bank accounts of their own without a man co-signing it, or a credit card or loans or anything resembling financial independence. But now you can do or be whatever you want to be. If you want to do it with kids in tow, great! If you’d rather not be tied down to kids, also great! You may or may not eventually change your mind of your own volition about wanting kids, and that’s okay too. I too worry about what my life will be like in my twilight years being that I chose not to have any children as well. It’s just my husband and me. I just remind myself that there are no guarantees either way, and regrets are part and parcel of the journey no matter what choice you make; kids or no kids. But I’m at peace with my decision, because I know deep within that I’m not cut out to be a mother, and I refuse to subject any offspring of mine to a less than enthused parent the way I was.

    • Anon says...

      This is for Jayne’s comment above: I completely, totally and 100% agree with you. Parenting invariably and inevitably demands more from the mother, requiring more sacrifices from her than from the father. Somehow she’s always the one who has to give of herself — her time, her energy, her identity, her mental health, her physical health, her career — to nurture the children, and her husband as well. If the kids fall sick, she’s the one who’s expected to clock out of work to collect them from school, not the dad. If the kids get into scrapes in school, they’ll call the mother in for a meeting, not the dad. If there’s no affordable or reliable childcare, the mother is the default choice to be the stay-at-home parent. Yes there are more and more stay-at-home dads, but it’s still uncommon enough that it attracts attention and fawningly admiring comments when ppl encounter dads taking care of his children on his own, when a similar scenario with a mom wouldn’t warrant a second look. It gets my goat that fathers are always described as “helping” with the childcare for his own children, that the lion’s share of the burden of childcare always falls to the mother, as if the father wasn’t equally as responsible as the mother for bringing them into the world. The patriarchy is alive and well, and so insidious that like you. an anonymous Internet comments section is pretty much the only place I honestly feel I can freely give voice to these feelings/thoughts without fear of censure.

      Motherhood is so all-consuming that many women, despite their best efforts, still find themselves subsumed by the never-ending tasks required for the upkeep of children, the household, and the marriage. It’s probably why empty nest syndrome hits hard: once the children are grown and gone, suddenly there’s nothing external to occupy all their time and energies. Any woman who doesn’t want to sign up for this merry-go-round, who wants instead to live for herself, is somehow seen as deviating from the norm. Like you said, living for yourself is a precious enough privilege that I for one don’t want to give that up in exchange for the overhyped rewards of child rearing. As a modern woman, I want to be responsible for no one but myself and not spend a lifetime taking care of kids. Tbh, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

  37. Lizzie says...

    This post was so perfectly timed for me! I resonate soooooo much with Lanie and the intellectual decision to have kids. I am turning 30 this year and I love my life so much and it has been hard to make a choice to change things so drastically. But, I actually just got my IUD out a couple of weeks ago and my husband and I decided that while we don’t totally *feel* ready, we know we would be great parents to a child and we are open to the possibility. I’m sort of freaking out about it, but I guess it just seems right right now.

  38. Amy E Clearwater says...

    Just a reminder to those considering parenthood and maybe being on the older side, there are LOTS of kids in foster care who are yearning for parents to adopt them! They’re also often a little older, which is great because you get to know them and they get to decide whether you’re the right parent for them. You’ll have sleepless nights for sure, but not like you will with a newborn. There are TONS of ways to be a parent without actually bringing a new human into this crazy world. Foster kids even come with some state support, if you’re not in a really confident financial position.

    • Alea says...

      Agree!!

  39. Meghan says...

    I love this post! I’m pregnant now so love revisiting your older pregnancy-related posts. I ended up falling down the rabbit-hole of exploring your “Balancing” series and noticed that the interview with Deb Perelman is way shorter than all the others and only shows the first two questions/answers (https://cupofjo.com/2011/07/my-balance-deb-perelman-of-smitten-kitchen/) – is this right or did something get cut off?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you! Will fix!

    • Meghan says...

      Thank you, Joanna! I appreciate it!

  40. Kate says...

    I’ve found this such an interesting discussion! I have a few friends and work colleagues in the US and I’ve found you guys are waiting much longer to have kids than the rest of the world. My friends average age (we live all over the world, SA, UK, Canada, Aus, NZ, Russia etc) for having our first kid is 30. My mom worked as a gynae’s nursing sister and is a midwife and she told me from young, if you want kids, you can’t wait too long. There are certain physiological realities, and a lot of infertility heartache is caused by women just waiting too long. Her advice is the latest you should start is 33. That gives you 5 – 7 good fertile years for anything to go wrong. Obviously, I am sympathetic to factors like not being the right relationship, or finances, or whatever. But if you are in a stable relationship and are vacillating, do not wait too long. Seriously.

    • Alisha says...

      While I agree with this information from a biological point of view, I can’t help but notice that all the countries you mentioned have vastly better support for families (maternity/paternity leave, healthcare, subsidized childcare, etc.), surely making the decision to have children much less fraught than 30 year olds in the US. In my city (Portland, OR), full time childcare for babies under 1 is approx. $1800-2000/month! With rent for a 2 bedroom hovering around $2500/month and so many 30 year olds with massive student loan debt, you’ve got a recipe for a scary financial outlook.

    • Silver says...

      what’s the average age for American women? – I just googled and it seems American women are on average 26 but Australian women are 30, but I couldn’t find a recent statistic for America, I only found a 2016 figure. This just seems to conflict with some of the comments here so I wanted to check.

  41. Lisa says...

    For me, it was when I got insanely jealous anyone announced they were pregnant. My husband and I had been through a lot, had just gotten married and wanted to chill a bit. I was then having a discussion with a colleague / friend and she mentioned that the maternity leave at our employer was awesome. We then started trying, but nothing happened. 2.5 years later after various types of fertility treatment, a broken leg and finally IVF, we had my son. It was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. Given the issues we’d had conceiving my son, we were really lax with contraceptive and I fell pregnant with our daughter around our son’s first birthday. We’ve now recovered enough from baby and toddler stuff to try for a third, which is hard. I’m in my late 30s, in a stressful job and if we don’t succeed naturally I really don’t know if I can put myself through fertility treatment again, for financial, physical and emotional reasons. But that third baby … I want them so much. I just know it’s not a given

    • Rachel says...

      Beware: my husband and I just tried for our third and came out with twins!!! What a blessing, but now looking at 4 kids under 5… I don’t think I’m ever leaving the house again.

    • Erin says...

      Well done. Needed saying. 👏🏻

    • Erin says...

      Comment went under wrong section(!)

  42. Kay says...

    I was 31 when I married and desperate to have a child, I think it was partly me feeling the urge and partly religious expectations to be honest. My first was a honeymoon baby. I had my second when she was 19 months, and my third when my oldest was 3 1/2 years old. It was busy, I had terrible pregnancies and they were not good sleepers either so i was still getting up to a child at night when the next one came around but I am glad I did it that way. After a while I wanted number 4 but after three miscarriages it was not to be. I have always felt that I missed out by not having that extra baby. Also, and I know this doesn’t make sense to some people but three is just an untidy number! With an even number there is always someone to play with and no one gets left out. My son, the youngest, always wanted to have someone to share his room with like the girls did.

  43. C says...

    I will say that having a baby, raising a human, is an intense (And often, but not only, wonderful) responsibility. I see so many who simply feel that they “want a baby“ without truly giving deep thought to all it means to be a parent, which is to love unconditionally, forever. I am sure there are many who, on a whim or because of religion etc etc decide to bring another beautiful and innocent life into this world, and do a great job of it. And there are others who give it a lot of thought and make a shitty mess of it. I would say that while it’s deeply personal it’s equally, if not more, important to understand the gravity of a little life depending on you, and needing you to be available, thoughtful, caring, respectful and an all round (mostly) decent, loving human. For. All. Time.
    It’s not anything that can be described well before the actual event, but I do wish there were a way to convey the life-altering Moment when a parent realizes the true depth of what it means to be someone’s parent. That moment happens over and over and over… I wonder how many of us would have a child if this were possible?

    • Lisa says...

      This comment is sooooo right on. Thank you!! I love my two boys to death but I don’t think anyone can “get” this until they’re in it. I also think because we see kids all around us, (and babies and pregnant women), we think “oh everyone does this”. But to do it WELL….that’s a whole different ballgame!!!

  44. I’m seventeen weeks pregnant with my first child, and we decided the time was right after a family fight. We have been married for seven years, and it always felt hard to make the conscious decision to take away our sleep and autonomy for a few years. This fall my husbands conservative Texan family expressed distrust of our ability to be trustworthy caretakers of our nieces and nephews because of philosophical differences between us. As my husband tenderly communicated how hurt he was, I had an overwhelming feeling of pride in this husband of mine who will sensitively raise our children with me. It was almost like in that moment I saw him in a new light, and told him then and there that I was so excited for him to be the father of our future kids and that I trust him completely. It was such a romantic moment in the midst of a family fight! While we were de-briefing afterwards he told me that he was ready to start a family too. Little did we know : I was already a few weeks pregnant with our son when we had that conversation! It was so remarkable to be able to make the decision to have a kid, and then to not have to wait to fulfill our desire.

  45. Mandy says...

    So relevant to me at this moment. Have been married for almost 3 years and while we’re on the same page that having children is not for us, for a variety of reasons – the environment, our lifestyle and really just no desire to become parents – family (mine) have been expressing how we ought to fulfil my mother’s dreams of being a grandparent, and to do it quick since we’re both 36 years old. It’s been a source of frustration for me that the default position we’re expected to assume is that we must want children and build a family. But to me, my husband and I are enough, and we could in future welcome pets into our family, who knows. Frankly, even the thought of looking after pets feels like too big a responsibility for me. At this point all I want in my life is to minimise stress and burdens, financial obligations and the like.

    I sometimes feel maybe I’m selfish and even worry that I might be missing out on something, or that my aversion to having children is a response to my own traumatic childhood, but life is too short and I can only do me.

    • Mara says...

      I’m so sorry to hear that your family is pressuring you, how awful that must feel. Many of my happily-childfree friends are in the same boat, constantly being reminded about providing grandchildren. Utterly absurd because A) Said grandparents won’t be around forever to help raise these children that you wouldn’t necessarily be thrilled to have, and B) It seems easy to whine about being a grandparent when you can have your fun, then swiftly hand the kids back when they become too much. Good job for standing your ground — you are doing what’s right for you, not caving to live someone else’s life. I have one friend who had a baby to quell endless family pressure, and I can’t begin to describe the depths of her despair. Unlike what people told her, she didn’t take to motherhood (three years in and counting) and desperately misses her old life.

  46. Kate says...

    When we lost our baby. We realised we had really made ourselves be ready in the short three months we knew he or she was growing in my belly.
    I got pregnant very quickly and unexpectedly, but when we were told our baby had stopped growing, we realised we had already made room for them in our lives. Now there’s a baby-shaped hole in our hearts.

  47. AL says...

    Thank you for this post Jo!
    I really appreciated “Hoping Every Month” and wish I had read it 1.5 years ago. My hubby and I felt it was time to start trying because we felt ready to share our life with our future littles. I was SO nervous going off birth control and was bubbling with anxiousness and excitement that I was going to be pregnant so soon! Boy did I not know the ups and downs I was about to face every month of hoping and then disappointment. I reached a bit of a dark place of despair! But I have finally reached a point of calm, and am much more forgiving of my body and of life’s timing. Like in “Hoping Every Month” life IS slow and 1.5 years is only one wee season of my life- but one that has taught me patience and forgiveness. I know our time will come. 🧡sending my love to all those on this journey.

  48. tali says...

    honestly, no big urge to have kids but was feeling bored with the routine of my professional life and i wanted to shake things up (why did getting pregnant at 29 feel like such a crazzzzyy thing to do in los angeles)…plus 4 months of paid leave sounded like a vacay to me (spoiler alert, it’s not). i really spent no time on this decision (lucky to have a husband that super wanted kids, convo went something like this: me: “hey wanna pull the goalie?” him: “sure!”) turns out i love being a mama! phew! now i have 3 effing cute kids (and will probably never tell them this story)

  49. Charlie says...

    Is anyone out there scared that they won’t meet the right person + have kids “in time”? I turned 30 this year, and at the same time broke up with my long time partner, moved into a one-bedroom apartment, and just began dating. It’s slow going and every time I return home after a date – even a good date – I find myself thinking “Man it’s going to take so long to even get to know another human, let alone know if they are a good partner for me.” I feel I’m ready for a family, but my life events haven’t caught up. I’m worried it just won’t pan out, or that I’ll end up having kids when I’m 40 and get less time with them.

    • Kat says...

      I went through a similar thing at a similar age. I made the decision that if I wasn’t in a stable, happy, long term relationship within a couple of years I would have a donor baby. I know that not everyone wants to do that or is able to, but not having a man in my life didn’t seem like a good enough reason to not have children! It wasn’t really a back-up plan as I was genuinely planning to do it – and I think that made me more relaxed about dating as it was completely unrelated to whether I could have kids or not. I now have a wonderful partner and we are planning our family but I will always remember my ‘other life’ that I’m sure would have been just as happy as this one.

    • Elle says...

      Yes! I was in a 4 year relationship, and at the end I felt like I didn’t really know that person anymore. I felt overwhelmed by the thought that the next relationship (after all the time spent dating…) I would need to be 5+ years before a commitment to really know them. My mother (who I trust with everything) told me that’s not true- that in some ways you’ll just know when the right person comes along, and then furthermore you’ll decide that’s your person. She was right! My now-spouse came along at the weirdest, most inopportune time in my life when I was probably least ready for it. But we both knew, and we were engaged a few months later, married, and now we have little ones. :) Just wanted to stop by and say I’ve had those same worries, and for me the usual logic/math did not apply to my life.

      Also, if your heart is really calling for children now, there are so many great single parent by choice podcasts and resources- might be worth a try to see if it speaks to you!

      Big hugs!

    • Lara says...

      Thank you for this comment and the responses, which are very inspiring and meaningful to me! I am in a similar position, 32 and ready, but would like a partner. Would love to hear more from anyone who decided to have a baby on their own (through whatever path), and when it felt like “time” to move forward with that option. I’m also dealing with a potential/likely fertility issue that is pressuring things, and would so appreciate others’ wisdom. (CoJ team – perhaps a post? :D I loved Alyssa Shelasky’s posts.)

    • Tess says...

      Charlie- It’s not too late! Try not to put so much pressure on yourself.
      My parents met at age 35, got married at 38, had me and my brother at 40 and 42. I’m now about to hit 30 myself and my parents are bad ass, mountain climbing, world- traveling vibrant people with a beautiful retirement ahead of them. Having kids when you’re 40 (or later!) is not only possible it is in so many ways wonderful. My parents had already been through so much professionally and personally that I think in some ways they were better parents in their (stable, confident) 40s than they would have been in their (uncertain, self-searching) 20s and 30s.

    • Jill says...

      This is me unfortunately. I’ll be 41 next month and I’m single. I decided to get my fertility tested last summer and was shocked with the abysmal results. I thought I had more time. But now I’m facing the reality that I’ll probably never have children and it’s devastating. Financially, I cannot afford to do it alone. The fees alone to attempt IVF, adoption etc are far beyond my means not to mention I’d never be able to support a child alone! It’s so sad that I never met my person to have a family with and I can’t begin to understand why that happened and why people who don’t even want children are able to. As you can see my emotions about this are incredibly raw – it is life changing – and not in a good way :(

    • Peony says...

      The hardest decision I ever made was at age 33. I broke up with a long term partner because he was forever ambivalent about me/us. I would have had a child alone if I hadn’t met my now-husband a year and a half later. Honestly, if I were in your situation and could get the money together, I would freeze some eggs. It’s not a sure thing but a bit of insurance policy going forward. You might meet someone and/or decide to foster/adopt , the future is unknown. I don’t think there is any rush but if the stress of it Interferes a lot, it’s an option. FYI – I had a child at 39 and it has been the greatest thing ever. We are in the teen years now and it is lovely. I really wish I had frozen eggs to be able to have a second, but we are a very happy trio and I’m not in anguish about being in a family of three. P.S. for those of you pregnant or in early motherhood, I’ve heard about a British app called “The Night Feed” that sounds great. From what I’ve gleaned, the idea is to create community and content for those in the early stages (i.e. those feeding a baby in the middle of the night).

  50. A.S says...

    “A fertility counselor once told me you don’t actually ever want to get to the point where you want a child more than anything else in the world, since usually when women get to that point it’s because they can’t have one….”
    Yes, this is exactly what I thought might happen, but I naively waited anyway. I had a son at a very very young age, met the man of my dreams about 12 years later, and we decided to enjoy our freedom in our 30’s. Then 40 hit, and we decided to try. After three years and multiple rounds of fertility treatments we have closed the door. And it is sad.
    Perhaps there will be a grand baby some day (not anytime soon of course!).

    • blandine says...

      I have two kids and i still swear by this idea of waiting until you want nothing more than having a child. Of course, I am immensely priviledged in the sense that the minute my husband and I had agreed we want to try, my body obliged and I had two full-term normal pregnancies. I feel for all the couples for which the road to pregnancy and parenthood is difficult.

  51. sally says...

    I’m 40 and I have never had the urge even slightly to actually have a child. It’s very unappealing to me. I did not like babysitting and resented having to do it; I remember my cousin saying at around 9 she couldn’t wait to have kids and I already knew I steadfastly did not want any. I truly do not understand people craving kids but at the same time I accept that it’s a thing, just not a thing for me. When I am around friends’ kids I am tolerant but not particularly interested. For years now I have had my friendships evaporate due to having kids which is understandable but nonetheless disappointing. Not trying to be a downer, but trying to give the other side more of a voice than just the one in this story. I like being honest about this subject because it’s just unheard of to be a woman who is really not a fan of kids. I’m so grateful to live in a time where I have that option, even if it is still frowned upon.

    Does anyone think about the environmental impact of having kids? We are literally careening daily toward the end of the planet yet people are acting like nothing has changed in terms of their right to have as many kids as they want. If you’re on the fence it might be the time to just not do it at all. I feel sad for kids born these days and the future they will endure.

    • Anon says...

      Sally, I could have written your comment. Growing up, babies and children left me cold, I never babysat and couldn’t understand ppl cooing and making a fuss over babies. Zero maternal instincts. It was so pronounced that random kids would actually zero in on me wondering why I wasn’t paying them any attention, which only made me more uncomfortable!

      Then I moved in with my brother’s family and his boys, and I felt like I had to make more of an effort with them since I was surrounded by them day in and day out. Eventually I bonded with the youngest and it was lovely and all, but the experience of living with kids only reinforced my feelings that I didn’t want any of my own. Seeing firsthand the amount of time, energy, attention and resources kids required, and the superhuman efforts needed from the mums to see to the kids needs, run the household, climb the corporate ladder and still be available for their husbands/parents/siblings, made me just think “nuh uh, good for them, not for me”!

      At the time I was in and out of relationships, and at the tail end of each I knew it was time to break up when I felt nausea at the thought of having kids with any of my exes. Eventually I met my lovely husband and I knew in my bones he would be a loving father on top of being a great partner, but I still couldn’t bring myself to want a child. I have a bit of a phobia about being pregnant and the whole (insanely painful and seemingly traumatizing) childbirth process, and the thought of being completely responsible for a tiny, utterly dependent human being makes me break out in hives. I thought I might change my mind or feel the maternal urge somewhere along the line to overcome all that, but it’s never happened. Now I’m 42 and the ship has sailed, and sometimes I feel sad that my husband will never get to be more than a fun uncle, but I can’t have a child just to make him happy when I know it will be something I’d regret later, or worse, end up resenting him and the child for.

      So, we remain happily childless and more than happy to be the fun aunt and uncle. Honestly, I enjoy other ppl’s kids, but more than that I enjoy being able to hand them back to their parents at the end of the day, lol.

    • Karen says...

      It might be willfully optimistic of me— but I had this phenomenal history teacher in high school. And one day he said something that stuck with me— “the good old days never existed.”
      What he meant of course that at any given point in history, you can make a comparison to this very moment in the present— and the present will always be better in so many ways. It is easy to get disheartened— and I do often!— but then I think about the leaps we have made in accepting other cultures, religions, backgrounds— the huge advancements made in human rights, equality… even in global peace, as difficult as it may be to believe. And in the face of adversity and cynicism, the environmental movement continues to grow and new solutions are being developed constantly.
      I am not a blind optimist by any means— and I struggle to keep seeing the light around us.
      But I trust that so many of the children born today will help bring about the solutions we will desperately need in the future. They will be our scientists, doctors, activists, teachers.
      I keep this as my mantra, even when it doesn’t feel at all obvious— the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

    • Amy says...

      Thank you for this perspective, Sally. My husband and I are happily childless by choice, and I too have never had the slightest urge to have a child. It irks me that fellow happily childless folk seem to feel the need to tack on “…but [we/I] love children.” There’s that expectation. I love my nieces, but I very much dislike having to coexist with others’ children, and I can’t bring myself to confidently say, “I am childless by choice and don’t like children, so don’t even think of trying your patronizing, pro-children talking points on me.”

    • Lorange says...

      I’m 38 and don’t want kids. I briefly wanted them in my early twenties, but I think I was kind of flailing around about what do with my life. I had a much younger sister, changed her diapers and rocked her to sleep sometimes. I did some babysitting. That was enough childcare for me. Every now and then I imagine that I might have been amenable to the idea of having kids if I’d had a partner who really, really wanted them and was an equal partner in doing housework, but lately that’s been feeling false too. I just don’t want to do all that work. I know I could do it if I had to, but I don’t want to. And that’s okay.