When is the right time to have kids?”
It’s the $245,000 question that’ll inevitably pop into our mind at some stage, and there’s no doubt it’s a hard one to answer. What’s with the $245k you ask? That’s the figure quoted in this article by CNNMoney to house, feed, educate, clothe, and generally maintain a child from birth till the age of 18. Yikes!
When I was in my late 20’s and I’d found the person I wanted to have children with, I started asking that same question. I asked friends with kids, I asked relatives, and I read magazine articles about it (because Google was only just invented back then).
Those friends who already had kids encouraged us to get into it asap “there’s no right time, just jump in!” I recall one saying. But I had a sneaking suspicion that they just wanted more buddies who had kids to hang out with. And my well-meaning aunties who’d all had their babies in their early 20’s were blunt “Now. You should do it now. The clock is ticking…”
But there were things I wanted to do before I had kids.”
I wanted to travel the world – London, New York, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris all had my name on them. I loved my career and wasn’t ready to park it. I wanted to spend more time just as a couple with my partner. And then there was the very real factor of being able to afford to have babies.
I ended up having my first child two weeks before my 33rd birthday. Because I’d ticked off most of my travel to-do list. I’d achieved the level in my career that I’d been aiming for. We’d saved enough money to not be freaking out. And we were very, very lucky that we fell pregnant almost immediately after we had our ducks in a row.
That final element – the getting pregnant part – was one that I’d not even considered. But it’s one I wish I had. By the time we felt ready to have another child things didn’t go to plan. It took us quite a while to conceive, and the pregnancy was not without complication.
Since then I started Fox in Flats, and there’s been a lot of dialogue about fertility on this site. So much so, that I was interviewed by CLEO magazine for their Guide to Fertility along side a bunch of health professionals. To follow is an excerpt from the interview.
Have you come across many women that have had trouble with their fertility? What age were they predominantly?
In a society where we’re Instagraming close-ups of our eyeballs and discussing vajazzling over brunch, strangely, the topic of fertility is rarely discussed openly.
I think it’s often because there are so many intense emotions being experienced by those who are struggling, such as frustration, sadness and a sense of failure, combined with the fact that well-meaning friends are just not sure what to say.
But we’ve opened up the dialogue on Fox in Flats a number of times, and the response has been overwhelming – I think sometimes we find it easier to spill in an understanding and safe online environment than with friends.
Fertility issues can be faced in any age group, but anecdotally it’s mostly in their 30’s when women discover they may have issues – mainly because that’s when loads of us start thinking about having kids.
The fact is, fertility begins to decline significantly for women in their mid-thirties, but issues are not only limited to that older demographic. Women in their twenties have shared their struggles to conceive with me.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to visit a GP for a referral to a fertility specialist if you are:
- Over 35 and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 6 months
- 35 and under and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 12 months.
Do you think age is the biggest factor in fertility? Are there other important factors in your experience?
Because fertility begins to decline significantly for women in their mid-thirties age is a big factor.
But there are many other issues that can impact a couple’s ability to conceive. In fact one in six couples will experience difficulty in trying to fall pregnant. For women this can be for a variety of reasons such as hormone issues or endometriosis.
In many cases it’s assumed initially that the issue is with the woman’s body, but often it’s not the case. Men can have issues too such as deformities of their sperm, low sperm count, or low sperm mobility and these can have a huge impact.
Ideally, when you and your partner feel ready to start trying – or even if it’s something that you are both up for but maybe sometime down the track – it’s well worth visiting a GP together, and getting referrals for routine tests and check-ups such as sperm analysis and ultrasounds. Gaining an understanding of potential issues and being able to proactively address these can save a lot of heart ache and time wastage when you are ready to roll.
Do you think pregnancy is more difficult in your 30s or 40s? Are they any other factors that are equally important?
The ease or otherwise of pregnancy can differ dramatically from one pregnancy to another, and the issues you might face can change. What IS important to know though is that after 35 pregnancies can become more complicated, for instance likelihoods of genetic disorders and miscarriages increase, and labour may become more difficult.
I had a pretty easy pregnancy with my first child when I was 32, until I made the rookie mistake of wearing heels throughout it, and when I was about 8 months along found I couldn’t get out of bed because I’d hurt my back – flats ladies, we all need flats!
But during my second pregnancy, tests showed that our baby was at high risk of having Down Syndrome, and this was a very emotional time for us. Also, I was sick 24/7, the kind of sickness you feel with a REALLY bad hangover, only without the funny tales from the night before. I’d not necessarily put that down to age though.
Have you heard of any old-wives tales ways to improve your fertility? Or bona fide medical ones for that matter?
The funniest one I heard was to do a hand-stand after having sex, but unless you are an acrobat I wouldn’t recommend this!
If you’re hoping to get pregnant I’d advice both partners to prepare their bodies by eating a nutritious and balanced diet, exercising, taking appropriate vitamins and minerals (your GP can advise) and doing any necessary medical check-ups such as sperm analysis and ultrasounds. Drugs and alcohol can have a big effect on sperm, and if you do fall pregnant can harm your baby, so commonsense should prevail.
What age do you think women should start thinking about having children?
There are age related factors that need to be taken seriously, but we need to find someone we want to have babies with first, right?!
For many of us there are things we’d like to do or achieve before starting a family and I’m a huge advocate of that, because once you become a mother priorities can shift dramatically and in ways you may not anticipate.
Also, I think it’s important to ask yourself the question about whether you want to have children or not instead of just assuming that it part of a life’s journey – some women don’t and that’s ok too.
A lot of readers are intimidated by starting the ‘when do you want kids’ conversation with their boyfriends… any tips?
After you’ve figured out what you want, it’s pretty important to at least know whether your partner want to have kids too. I’ve heard too many stories about women who’ve just assumed their boyfriend wanted to have kids, only to find out years into the relationship that it was never on his radar – ever. Obviously these situations didn’t end well.
If you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, it’s natural that you’d talk about your hopes and dreams for the future, and I’d bring it up gently and in that context. I’d advise never to put the pressure on your boyfriend about this though – having children is a life changing experience, and a life-long responsibility – it’s a decision which no one should feel pressured into.
And today, if someone asked me the question directly “when is the right time to have kids?” I’d tell them this:
- It’s not about checking off places to travel before you have them. I only just made it to New York all these years later having my first son, and Paris aint going anywhere.
- Preparing financially can ease that burden, but you don’t need to have globs of cash to raise a happy child.
- Having children doesn’t mean your career ends there. But ensuring that your workplace is family friendly is really important, or start thinking ahead to how you may transfer your skills into a more flexible job like I did.
- Get healthy, do the checks as outlined above regarding fertility, and be proactive with any issues that arise. Also, get on top of your general health – it’s not something to take for granted, especially once you have kids. You’ve got to do all you can to make sure you’re around the be a Grandparent, right?!
- Ensure your partner has patience, kindness, and that you are great mates. This will help you both deal with the inevitable stress that can come with parenthood. Plus, those qualities will come in handy if it doesn’t work out with them. Because whatever happens, being able to work together to be great parents to your child is paramount, and parenting lasts forever.
Whether you’ve got kids or not – what advice would you offer those trying to decide when ‘the time is right’?