In some ways, starting a family seems like the simplest thing in the world. You naturally are attracted to your partner, get pregnant as if by magic, and the rest just falls into place. But sometimes it’s more complicated than that. From fertility issues to financial concerns and beyond, there are a number of challenges involved with starting a family that you should make sure you’re ready to face.
The first part of the puzzle is making sure your body is ready to conceive and handle a pregnancy. A good place to start is by beginning to track your ovulation cycle so you know when you’re most fertile. An app can make this a lot easier. While it’s marketed as a natural way to avoid pregnancy, the Natural Cycles app also works great as a way to know when it’s the best time to try to conceive.
If you’ve been tracking your cycle and trying to conceive for a year (or six months if you’re over 35) without success, you may want to explore fertility testing to see if there is something preventing you from conceiving. But if there turns out to be an issue with either your reproductive system or your partner’s, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Modern science is on your side, so make an appointment at a fertility clinic to start exploring options that can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
From the first day you decide to expand your family, though, there are many other factors that can help you conceive. Support your reproductive system (and your whole body) by eating how you would if you were already pregnant: Choose plenty of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and protein. Everything else you do to stay healthy will also optimize your chances, so make sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid chronic stress whenever possible.
Before you start a family, it’s also good to think about whether you’re ready financially, and if not, what you’ll need to do to get there. One of the biggest unavoidable expenses related to having kids is healthcare, so start looking into how much it’s going to cost to have a baby, go in for checkups, and so on. Now is the time to check the benefits offered by your health insurance plan and potentially shop for a new one that will give you better coverage for childbirth and related care.
Other basic expenses involved in caring for an infant add up quickly too. Couples having their first baby might not be aware of all the little things they’ll need. Arm yourself with a checklist for first-time parents. Go down the list and price out each item one by one and add these costs to your projected medical costs.
Try not to get overwhelmed. Remember, lots of parents have done this before you, perhaps even with less financial stability. You’ll figure it out. If you haven’t done so already, create a household budget that includes everything—not just baby expenses but also things like your utility bills. Measure this against your household’s earnings. If your expenses are less than your income, great. If not, look for unnecessary expenses you can cut, at least temporarily. Remember, many baby expenses are one-time investments.
An often-overlooked issue when it comes to readiness to start a family is support. Do you have a support network in place to help with the emotional, logistical, and health challenges of being a new parent? Support can come in many forms: your family, friends, faith community, and even professionals.
Parenting can be exhausting, so it helps to have a system in place to alleviate some of the burden. If you know other young families just starting out, you can share duties like childcare and shopping to give each other a break sometimes. If family, friends, and church members offer to help you out, always say yes, but you might also have to be the one to reach out sometimes, which is okay too.
Once the babies start to come, life tends to shift toward caring for them, but it’s important to care for yourself too. Don’t feel guilty for taking some “me time”! Take a nap, read a magazine, or go for a walk. Build it into your schedule and prioritize it. It will ultimately help you be a more caring, present parent the rest of the time.
There are a lot of things to think about it when you’re ready to start growing your family. But if you prepare and educate yourself ahead of time, you’ll be ready for this exciting stage in your life.