READER’S QUESTION: "My husband and I have been married for four years. I work full-time from home, and he works part-time and is in graduate school full-time. His part-time job requires him to travel three days a week. We make good money, and his school is paid for. I find myself wanting to become a mother, but I worry about a) my husband traveling so much for work and potentially missing half of my pregnancy and early life of our child (because he's gone pretty much half the week every week) and b) my having to continue to work (albeit from home) until he is done with school (about a year and a half from now).
I feel that I have the time and capacity in my life to handle a baby because I'm home all by myself all the time...but I worry that he doesn't have the time/energy to handle a baby with his busy work and school schedule. We have thought about having him find a new job, but his current company is very supportive of him getting his master's degree and working part-time and pays well and is relevant to his career goals. My job would be very flexible and supportive of me having a family. I'm 27 and he's 29, and we don't live near family nor do we have a strong support system where we are. Do we have a baby anyway, because it will really only rely on me for the first period of its life anyway? Do we wait until my husband is done with school, and I don't have to work full-time anymore?"
EVIE’S ADVICE: The real question is when do you start trying to get pregnant? Do you start trying now, wait nine months, or even wait 18 months until your husband is done with grad school? Even if you started trying to get pregnant right now, there’s no guarantee you’ll get pregnant the first month that you try, and even if you do get pregnant right away, you still have nine months of pregnancy, so at the most, you’re only looking at about nine months of being the primary caregiver and working full-time.
The most important part of your discernment here is to make as informed a decision as you can. Pregnancy alone is full of so many changes, and deciding whether you’re okay with navigating that new life stage alone is going to depend largely on your personality. Are you extremely independent and enjoy facing a challenge alone head-on, or do you enjoy having the company and support of your husband every step of the way? There are going to be a lot of different milestones and important appointments during your pregnancy, and it’s essential to know how you’ll handle those on your own if necessary. Will you enjoy shopping for baby items and decorating the nursery by yourself, or will you feel lonely and resentful of your husband being elsewhere? Will you feel like you can’t fully experience all of the pregnancy joys or get the bonding experience as your husband rubs your swollen feet or feels the first kick by your side? A lot changes after you become parents as well, so many couples use the nine months of their pregnancy as a period to prepare for that shift, whether that’s through enjoying as many dates as possible or having deep conversations that won’t happen as easily when you’re caring for a newborn. As far as your pregnancy symptoms go, some women barely notice that they’re pregnant and can enjoy their life without much change during those nine months, while others are nearly bedridden or have to endure all-day sickness, or even experience prenatal depression. Of course, we don’t say these things to scare you, but they’re important to be prepared for and be aware of in case they come up.
The first few months of parenthood are a special time in your marriage as you fall in love with each other as parents and create a stronger bond as teammates.
The first three months of life, all most babies really want to do is sleep, eat and be held, and that’s fairly easy to do while working from home. However, keep in mind that the newborn stage is often extremely tiring because you’re waking up every few hours each night. Additionally, most new moms have some level of anxiety because they are, understandably, figuring everything out for the very first time. It’s nice to have a sounding board during this time to bounce ideas off of or get assurance that you’re doing things correctly. This can be done via FaceTime with your husband or mom, or in-person with your pediatrician. Be prepared that it may feel lonely if you’re going through this huge life change largely by yourself and that you may even grow resentful of your husband when he’s away traveling and can’t physically help out or wake up with the baby. If you do get postpartum depression on top of that, it can become very difficult and potentially dangerous without your husband (or some type of support system) present and helping.
One of the most important conversations to have with your husband is if he is okay with being gone half the week during those early months of your first child’s life. You may be totally capable of taking care of the baby all by yourself, but he will be missing out on bonding time and learning how to also take care of a baby to help you. It’s also a special time in your marriage as you fall in love with each other as parents and create a stronger bond as teammates. Keep in mind that you’ll never be able to get those months back, so if this is something that’s important to you both, it may be worth it to wait.
If you decide to wait a while before trying to conceive, there are proactive things you can do in the meantime to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. It takes up to four months to improve your egg quality and three months to improve sperm quality. You and your husband can start making nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle changes now to optimize your chances for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Some Ob-Gyns are also starting to be open to doing preconception bloodwork, so that’s something to ask your doctor about as well.
Lastly, we would recommend spending the next 18 months really investing in building up your friend circle and support system and making plans for who can visit you or stay with you and help you right after birth. Maybe you both have female family members who would be able to visit for a few days or a week at a time if you need help in those first few postpartum weeks. You’ll definitely want to have someone with you for at least a week after birth in case you’re bedridden. You really do not know how your birth is going to go and how much time your body will need to heal sufficiently. Not having family or anyone nearby will undoubtedly be tough, but out-of-state friends and family can always send meal deliveries or visit to help out. There are a lot of logistics and so many different elements to consider in this extremely complex situation, but if you’re both dedicated to making it work, it’s definitely doable!
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