Planning, Pregnancy and Perspective

When is the right time to have a baby?

Biologically speaking, it’s generally accepted that the optimal window for women to conceive is in their 20’s, with decreasing fertility rates and increasing health risk to Mum and Baby from mid-30’s onwards. These are just statistics though, and we all know plenty of younger and older parents with healthy babies.

My wife (Michelle) and I realised just how big a commitment being a parent would be…and truth be told, we were very much enjoying that lack of commitment and responsibility! We were also enjoying our careers, and worried at the impact having a child might have on this demand, particularly for Michelle who of course would have to effectively put her career on ice for a significant period.

Also, the thought of having to be prudent with our money so soon after saving heavily for our own wedding was another barrier. It’s something often raised when discussing children, “we need to be financially stable”. What does that even mean though? Everyone’s finances are different, and there are also varying degrees of government support for new families. For us it was more about being comfortable we could afford to buy what we needed and save for baby’s future whilst still having a few pounds left each month to spend on ourselves.

Like it or not, huge sacrifices need to be made, finances will be stretched, work/life balance will be tested, intimate time as a couple and personal time as an individual will become scarce – being a parent is the ultimate act of selflessness.

So when I go back to the initial question, I think the right time for Michelle and I was when we began to embrace the above factors as positives challenges and not detractors to our lives.

The penny dropped for us late 2016…around Xmas time. We were talking it through, as we had done numerous times before, but this time we both seemed more open to the idea. What had changed? Well, Michelle was in her early 30’s and that was a factor, plus we’d matured a bit, financially we were in a good place, it felt like it was the right time…we were ready for the challenge. So we agreed (much to my delight) to start trying for a baby in the New Year.

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Trying for a baby…now I’ve known friends to use fertility calendars and even spreadsheets to map out the optimal time to conceive, and while this approach makes sense for some we felt it took the intimacy out of the equation. Rather than schedule in some fun time, we just agreed to try as often as possible, a tactic which I was fully supportive of….for scientific reasons obviously! However, much to my dismay we conceived within the first few weeks of trying, which brought a quick end to our amorous approach.

I remember Michelle showing me the Clear Blue result and at the time I recall having a weird feeling of excitement and doubt. Obviously this was amazing news, but was the result correct? What was the accuracy rate of these tests? After a couple more tests it sank in…this is real!

At that point, in my eyes now Michelle was a fragile object, to be ‘handled with care’ at all times…I was scared about her going to work on a packed train, exercising, anything really. I was petrified we’d hurt the baby somehow. That was me being silly though, and Michelle carried on almost as normal, swimming, running, even boxing, and of course commuting to and from London each day.

We discussed who and when we would share the news with. I decided to tell one or two close friends initially before my family as I didn’t want to let them know until we’d had the initial scan…once it felt more certain. I have a big family and I didn’t want to have to then tell everyone if something had gone wrong. In March we had our first scan and Michelle and baby were healthy, which allowed me to relax and enjoy it all so much more.

We had a follow-up scan a few weeks later and found out we were having a little baby girl.

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Now, men are fairly useless during much of the pregnancy. Obviously we are required to perform innumerable back massages as the pregnancy enters the final, painful stages, and you have to embrace the fact that your wife wants Bangers and Mash again, for the fifth time that week. You also more than ever have to be there to provide moral support as your significant other goes through the most significant change in their body and mind since puberty…their body shape is alien to them, their emotions betray them as the chemical balance of their body does somersaults, and at times they just don’t feel like themselves. It’s not nice to see the person you love going through all of this and aside from constant love and reassurance (and Bangers and Mash!), there’s not much you can do.

I won’t go through a month-by-month run down of the pregnancy, but in summary, Michelle had an amazingly smooth first trimester, started to feel the effects during the second trimester, and was actually coping amazingly well right up until the final trimester. By this point her bump was getting larger, the weather hotter and her blood pressure higher…it was at times very uncomfortable for her and I genuinely don’t know how she coped and remained so positive.

One memory I love was when a few months into the pregnancy we flew to Ireland for the wedding of one of Michelle’s best friends. Irish wedding weekends are known for being a full on affair, and I was saying to Michelle beforehand, we will leave each night whenever you feel you are ready, nobody will think any less of you, etc, etc.

Anyway, Michelle was basically out-lasting me! Each evening I’d be ready to call it a night and would be saying “Chelle, you must be shattered, shall we go up?”, and she’d be on the dancefloor, looking at me like I was crazy. “No chance!”, she’d say.

That was her attitude throughout the pregnancy, and I was in awe of it.

Where I did find a use for myself was planning in terms of identifying, budgeting and buying all the bits we’d need for when the baby arrived and decorating the nursery. I will cover the planning/nesting period off in more detail on my next blog, but I very much enjoyed it and I think most men do as it gives us the false feeling of control over a situation where this is none. It makes us feel like we are fixing a problem.

The other thing I really enjoyed was coming up with a name! There’s the off-limit names; those you love, but who a recent friend or family member has just taken. Then there’s the negative association names; those names that one of you loves and ordinarily the other would too, but it reminds the other person of an ex or that annoying work colleague/kid at school. No, these names are tainted.

You want it to be unique, but not poncey, it needs to read nicely along with your surname and you absolutely must consider any potential nicknames that they may be stuck with as a result of your poor choice!

Too formal, too modern, too old-fashioned, too hippy, you’re just naming flowers now…

Countless nights in bed on google searching for ‘Top 10 girls names’ or ‘Top 10 unique girls names’ and ‘Top girls names for 2018’

Finally, you have each a couple of names that have made it past the above rigorous tests, but you can only choose one…who will blink first? I remember one potential name I really liked (and still do) was Isobel. In a desperate attempt to secure this as the name I tried an age old sales technique on Michelle, providing her with several versions of the outcome I wanted for her to choose from. Sadly she saw through this tactic and so Isobel, Isabel, Isobelle, Isabelle and Isabella all landed on the scrap pile of baby names….however it did prompt another potential name, and one we eventually both agreed on. I find the whole exercise so amusing as have you ever met anyone who doesn’t suit their name?

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Our little angel Ella was born on 6th October 2017. It will always be the greatest day of my life, and emotionally the most draining. Michelle had a C-section and I must say the surgical team at the hospital were amazing. We went in the room, Heart was playing on the radio and there must’ve been 7 people in there all doing various things. Michelle was understandably anxious, but they made us both feel very calm. Within what felt like minutes, this little cry sounded out in the theatre I saw my little girl for the first time. We’d spoken to her for months, but now we were meeting her. She got cleaned up and weighed, and before I knew it this tiny little baby was handed over to me. I gave her some milk and gave her to Michelle to hold, who at this point was obviously drowsy from the injections and the emotional ordeal. Whilst the surgeons set about stitching everything back together I was sent to a waiting room with Ella and I remember sitting down in this room, waiting for Michelle to be moved to the ward, thinking….”what now?”.

Once settled into the ward family and friends came which made the day all the more special, but in a selfish way I wanted to be left alone, just the three of us. We had no idea what we were doing and the nurses on the ward had to show us how to lay her down, dress her, feed her…I was scared of doing something wrong! Michelle and I just looked at Ella all day in amazement, wondering how we’d produced such a beautiful little human being. I was so proud of Michelle for looking after Ella all these months and I know she was relieved to have delivered her safely into the world.

Before being a parent it is impossible to imagine loving someone this much. Of course Michelle and I love each other, and we love our parents, our family and our friends, but the love you have for your child is different. It’s part of you, it’s so intense…everything else pales into insignificance. Suddenly all I want in my life is not for me…my only aim is to do everything in my power to ensure that Ella grows up happy, healthy and loved. it gave me fresh insight into how my parents brought me up, and why they ‘over-reacted’ if I didn’t come home on time, or if I’d misbehaved or let myself down in any way.

From this moment on, our lives would change completely…and I was so excited.

Anyway, that’s all for now…I hope you found this post interesting, I certainly enjoyed writing it. I appreciate all and any feedback that you may have on this post, as well as any suggestions for future posts. Please also feel free to share this blog with others.

Nick

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