Before conception

SHOULD WE HAVE A BABY? But that is not our intention. Our intention is to encourage you to weigh up the pros and cons and get clearer in your mind about this important choice.

Every time you make love, there is a chance you will become pregnant and have a baby. It is quite possible for a woman to have from 10 to 20 babies in the course of an (exhausting) lifetime. The fact that so few people have this many means that lots of us exercise some choice.

No contraceptive method is 100 per cent foolproof. Nevertheless, contraceptive methods allow most of us the privilege of timing when, and if, we conceive a child. Perhaps this is our first real responsibility in motherhood — the timing of our pregnancy.

There are times in anyone’s life when to become pregnant would be a real crisis. Let’s say you were really sick, having huge fights with your partner, there was trouble with in-laws, your mother had just died or you already had three children under three and one of them had a heart condition requiring expensive care… The bank was about to repossess the house and the weather forecast was for gales! Perhaps this would be a good time not to become pregnant!

However, we often hear of people who do conceive a child in the midst of a traumatic time — the loss of a grandparent, for instance. There is a miraculous quality to this, which reminds us that there is always new life coming along to replace the old.

Sometimes parents recall that a certain child was conceived at a seemingly bad time and things turned out perfectly in the long run. That’s great. But, since we have a lot more choice in the matter than our mothers’ generation did, we may as well make good use of this.

WHAT IF YOU ARE FEELING AMBIVALENT? Is this you? Sometimes you feel you would give anything to have a baby. Then the next day you are so aware of the pleasure of being free and able to go out to dinner or a movie, and stay out late without having to worry about childcare problems. Then you see a mother with a gorgeous baby or a cute, loving toddler and you want one, too. Then you see someone struggling with a screaming, angry, bratty kid and you think, Thank God that’s not me.’

Am I ready to be a mother?

Are you thinking of having a baby, but unsure if this is the right time? Following is a (half-serious) look at the factors you have to consider. Tick the boxes you feel relate most closely to your situation, choosing at least one in each category.

Your career or education 1. This is a good time in my career/education to have a child. ( ) 2. Having a baby now would interrupt my education. ( ) 3. Having a baby now would affect my career. ( ) 4. I’m more interested in having a baby — my job/education are not that important right now. ( )

Can you and your partner afford a baby? 1. Yes, we can afford a baby without any real problems. ( ) 2. Starting a family would be a whole lot easier, financially, in a couple of years’ time. ( ) 3. I’m not sure if we can live on one income or on benefits. What do babies cost anyway? ( ) 4. It doesn’t make a lot of difference — we’re broke all the time anyway. ( )

Your age 1. I want to have a baby while I am young. ( ) 2. I am older (a whole 22!) and want to have a baby now. ( ) 3. I am young and there are things I want to do before being tied down with a baby. ( ) 4. I am older (38) and want to have a baby now. ( ) Your relationship 1. I have a really strong and stable relationship with my partner. It has stood the test of time. ( ) 2. Our relationship is pretty shaky. Maybe having children will help bring us closer. ( ) 3. Our relationship is pretty shaky. Maybe we should give it a bit more time before we decide to have children. ( ) 4. Relationship — who needs it? I’ll find a sperm donor somewhere! ( ) Roles and expectations 1. My partner and I are clear about sharing the workload. He is good with kids and wants them as much as I do. ( ) 2. My partner is unsure — he doesn’t seem very keen. He’s even jealous of the canary. ( ) 3. My partner says, sure, we can have kids, as long as I look after them and they don’t touch the stereo. ( )

Your health 1. I’ve already started eliminating toxins from my system, quit smoking, stopped drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and am using another method of contraception for six months or so to clear the Pill from my system. I’m also eating a lot of fresh vegetables, salads, fruit and grains. ( ) 2. Some of the above. ( ) 3. None of the above. ( ) 4. My partner is doing the same and also staying away from agricultural chemicals, industrial pollutants, petrochemicals and high-voltage installations. ( ) 5. My partner says there’s nothing wrong with his sperm; what am I talking about? ( ) Your fitness 1. I’ve always been fit and have started a gentle exercise program which will continue during pregnancy. ( ) 2. I’ll start tomorrow. ( ) 3. I’m looking forward to being pregnant — watching videos, being waited on and eating what I feel like. ( )

Look at the numbers you’ve ticked. If you have nine in the 1 category, you’re probably already pregnant. If you have nine 3s, it would be better to think again!