“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!”
When I was growing up, this rhyme was the first thing you heard from other kids if you “liked” someone. K-I-S-S-I-N-G was guaranteed to produce said progression of events in most kids’ brains!
Brian and I met in our first year of college. I distinctly remember my younger cousins singing this rhyme about us ad nauseum until their mom made them stop. Things certainly progressed that way for us! We got married soon after college, at age 23, and had our first baby at age 24.
Opinions about marriage, pregnancy and babies were abundantly supplied from our family and church friends. We did not have any friends our age nearby who were newlyweds. No one we knew among our peers had babies so quickly after marriage.
My parents and grandparents all married young and had babies immediately. I thought that was fairly normal and common in those days.
Brian’s parents, on the other hand, made no secret of the fact that neither he nor his brother were planned. His parents had planned to save up and get more financial stability before they had children, but God overruled.
Brian and I had come from two different perspectives on having children, and it took a lot of “discussion” (read: fights) to come to an agreement. Birth control was something that we perceived as morally questionable when we first married, so within a few months we decided to stop using it.
Hindsight is a great gift. Now, 17+ years later, we look back at our earlier decisions with the benefit of experience, and see how it all worked out. We also have done a lot of our own healing work to understand the family and spiritual dynamics that once motivated us.
If you are wondering whether or not it’s time for you and your spouse to start trying to have a baby, this set of questions can help you decide.
Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals, nor should any information in this article be considered medical advice. We are simply sharing our own experiences in the hopes that others may be helped by frank discussion.
1. “Why do we want to have a baby?”
I would encourage you to really give this some thought. It is right and good for a married couple to desire children (both from a biblical perspective and from a social-emotional perspective).
However, in many families children are viewed as simply the product of their parents’ desire to leave a name for themselves. Many people become parents as some kind of status symbol, or because of cultural expectations. Such people would be better off having a pet, frankly.
@dinkumtribe “Why do you have so many kids?” and other unkind comments… #rudepeopleoftiktok #theresalotofkidsinhere #kidsareprecious #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelblog #parentcommunity #parentingcommunity #manners101 #dontberude #keepscrollinghaters #momlifeisbest #dadlifeisthebestlife #adhdkiddos ♬ just another song – Kelechi
Many others think that it will somehow strengthen their relationship- think again! Having a baby will not, on its own, give you a boost in your intimacy or connection. Only healthy work on your relationship can do that.
2. “Are we ready to have a baby?”
I have heard so many couples say something like, “We want to have kids, but we’re just not ready yet.” Let me declare definitively that you will never be ready. Yup. You read that right.
Not one parent has ever had a baby and thought afterwards, “I was totally prepared!” unless they are a narcissist.
No amount of work with babies or children, no amount of prenatal classes and training, no amount of maturity, no amount of financial security can prepare you adequately for the sheer unpredictability of parenthood. Just drop that expectation in the garbage.
3. “I don’t have a nest egg/ savings/ enough money in the budget to support a baby.”
Okay, I realize this sounds legitimate. If neither you nor your spouse has a job or any financial independence from your parents, it might be best to figure that out first.
My question to you is this, “What amount of money/ savings/ budget will be enough?” Most people don’t have a definite answer on this. Those who do, forget something important – money is not the only resource, nor is it even the most important one.
Time and health are resources that we use to live our lives, and both continue to decrease as we age. Our bodies have a biological clock, and once it passes a certain point, there is nothing you can do to recover it.
I know so many couples who waited months or years after marriage to start having children, only to discover that the fertility is just not there.
I have spoken to parents who started having babies in their 30s and 40s, and most of them have expressed the fact that they wish they had started younger. Their physical energy is just not the same, and it makes it harder to parent consistently.
Frequently these couples also no longer have their grandparents or their parents around to enjoy the babies or to help with childcare. That’s time and health that can never be recovered.
When we had our first baby, we had just moved from a studio to a one-bedroom apartment. Brian was working in his first full-time teaching position, and I was a full-time stay at home wife. Our budget was so tight that I was afraid to throw out my cooking failures (like the time I put several entire chilies in our chili recipe—we couldn’t take more than a couple bites!).
We didn’t have room in the budget for a baby and all its accompanying expenses. However we knew that we wanted kids. We did not want to wait until we had a perfect financial situation.
We also wanted our children to know their great-grandparents (all of my grandparents were still living at the time, and Brian still had one grandparent).
Having a baby is expensive. What most new parents don’t realize, though, is that there are so many resources available to parents! You also discover that parenthood brings you into community in ways you can’t foresee.
We did not have to buy a stroller, or a pack and play, or a jumper, or a nursing pillow because people passed their gently used ones on to us. People who hardly knew us heard that we were having a baby and decided to buy gifts for our baby. There are people who love to buy baby stuff!
Parents with older children gave us boxes of hand-me-downs, which reduced our clothing needs. Even now with six children, I often have people passing clothing down to my younger children.
There are so many programs available to help pay for food, most of which you are already paying into by paying taxes. The hospital sent us home with diaper bags, supplies, handmade blankets (donated by volunteers for any baby being born in the hospital)…
Trust me when I say that you will be surprised by how much help you get and how much help is available if you look for it.
4. “I’m afraid I will be a bad parent/ I’m afraid I will repeat my family’s unhealthy patterns.”
The very fact that you think about this means you are already on the right path. Denial is the biggest issue that causes people to reproduce unhealthy family dynamics. Having children will highlight these existing issues, so why not work on them now?
Parenting will motivate you to change in ways that you would never have considered before. When I saw myself responding without empathy to my children’s pain, I recognized that I had a problem that needed to be handled now.
I didn’t want the pattern to repeat with my precious children. I knew I needed help to learn a better way of doing things – and I was motivated to get that help!
5. “I have to accomplish X, Y, Z goals before I can start a family.”
That depends. If you are working on a degree/ certification program, and you can complete it in two years, do that. However, if you have to wait for more than five years to get to the point of being able to start your family, I would reconsider.
Five years is a long time on the biological clock. In five years, you could have a preschooler and be enjoying them! There will be time after you have kids to accomplish other goals you may have. Travel will still be there when you are older. You can start a degree later.
My youngest will soon be in kindergarten. If I decided to go back now to get a Master’s degree, I could still complete it and have 20 years before I hit retirement age to build a career. That’s more than enough time, given the fact that few people in today’s society stay in a single career for their entire adult lives.
Raising children has taught me more about persisting and working hard through life’s challenges than any other life experience previously! I have gained so many marketable skills, plus I have the added benefit of enjoying years with my kids (and maybe even grandkids one day).
We had our first baby at 23, and our most recent baby at 35. The difference in our energy levels between our first and last born children has astonished us. We are so thankful that we started so young!
We have enjoyed watching our children get to know their grandparents and great-grandparents. They have happy memories of playing badminton with my mom, campfires with my dad, painting with my grandpa, and baking with my grandma. Those are experiences my children may have missed had we started having children later in life.
Our beliefs and how they have changed
We used to be convinced that God did not want us to use birth control; that we should leave conception completely up to Him. We now recognize that Christians have great freedom before the Lord to choose in accordance with their own conscience.
However, our society is so anti-child and anti-family that it is all too easy for us as Christians to absorb those attitudes without even thinking about them.
Health is another thing to consider. We are now past the recommended ideal age for having more children. We are currently undecided on whether or not we have more, because health concerns have started to become a serious consideration.
Pregnancy takes a serious toll on a woman’s body. However it also confers long-term health benefits that we are just beginning to understand. It’s well worth it to research this further on your own, as we don’t have the space to discuss everything deeply here.
From our perspective, we have never regretted starting our family early in our marriage. Nor have we regretted having more than the standard number of children. Each child is a gift, and it brings us so much joy to live life with our precious children every day.
What’s your perspective on birth control and when to have children? Respectful and informed discussion is welcome in the comments. 🙂
© Copyright 2021 Jennifer D. Warren