When Should You Have a Baby

"The best time to have a baby is whenever you are ready." | Thyme is Honey

Life is full of lessons and adventures and there are so many things that we have to learn along the way.

When we first got married our plan was to wait at least a year before having kids. 3 months after our wedding my husband started a new job and we relocated. His company has an amazing sabbatical program, sending you anywhere in the world for a month after your 5 year anniversary. It wasn’t hard for us to decide that a family would wait until after that milestone. I think we were both relieved to have such a convenient excuse when people asked when we were having kids. “We’re going on a sabbatical in 2016 and then we’ll think about it!” was our go-to line for 5 years.

I’m a planner by nature so it won’t come as a surprise that having this planned out so strategically and so far in advance appealed to me. When we were a year out from the trip I read “What to Expect Before You’re Expecting” and Josh read “Dude, You’re going To Be A Dad!” I had a prenatal appointment and started taking prenatal vitamins. Those were the things that were supposed to happen a year before conception and I was checking things off the list.

Last summer, as we entered the final countdown to our sabbatical in Japan and Thailand we finally looked at each other one night and realized that this wasn’t what we wanted. We’d been going through the motions and preparing for a baby that we weren’t ready for. When we stepped back we realized that we were doing it because it was the plan we had put in place 5 years ago, hadn’t really reassessed it at any point along the way and because society had made us feel like this was what we were supposed to do next.

I think it was a combination of many things that led us to further delaying parenthood. I think traveling had a big impact. I’ve sat on trains in New York City and on patios in Copenhagen and been keenly aware of the fact that the mothers around me were much older than what you’d see in the Midwest. I remember being in one restaurant in NYC and realizing that if we’d had a child with us we would have been the youngest parents in the room by probably 5 years…and we were 30. I looked at these mothers holding newborn babies in their arms as they blew out the candles on their 38th birthday cake and I related to that. I related to the idea of being a mother at that stage in life, and not at the stage I was currently in. The realization was very profound.

Over time we’ve realized how much mobility means to us and the activities we enjoy, and that our lifestyle is probably best suited to a smaller family. It’s funny how when you realize that you might only want one or two kids you suddenly buy yourself more time and flexibility than if you wanted 4 or 5 or 6.

We’ve realized that parenthood comes in many forms and we aren’t yet sure which one is right for us.

We’ve realized that parenthood is a decision you can’t very easily go back on if it doesn’t suit you.

We’ve realized that we don’t need to do anything we don’t feel ready for, and so we aren’t.

Decisions about family planning are usually private and aren’t always discussed. We made this decision more than 8 months ago, so why am I talking about it now? I’m talking about it because I want you to know that it’s okay not to want children. It’s okay not to want them right now and it’s okay not to want them ever. It’s okay if you’re 30 and you aren’t married. It’s okay if you’re 32 and don’t have a significant other. It’s okay if you’re 27 and have 3 children. It’s okay if you just celebrated your 29th birthday, resigned the lease on the apartment you’ve been in for three years and if every spare dollar you save goes towards shoes. It’s okay if you’re 33, in a new relationship, and still want time to enjoy being a duo before becoming a trio. I’m talking about it because I want you to know that if you look at children and don’t feel some instinctual pull to have one of your own, you aren’t broken. I’m talking about it because if you look at children, have that instinctual pull to have one of your own but aren’t ready yet, that also, is okay. Not wanting to have children now or ever doesn’t make you selfish.

Be aware of what you want for your life and be aware of how society shapes your opinions and your plans. Have those very real and honest conversations with yourself and your partner. Make sure you aren’t going through the motions or deciding on parenthood for the wrong reasons. Taking the time to plan if and when to become a parent is the first step to being a good parent.

If you’re in your early 30s and feeling like time is catching up with you, take a deep breath. We have so much time.

If you’re in your late 30s or early 40s and feel the hands of time crawling right up around your neck, take a deep breath. You, too, have time (my mom had my sister at 44).

If time comes and it passes you by there are so many children out there who need your love, and you’ll be incredible at it.

Some will say that there’s never a perfect time to have children and that no one is ever truly ready. I think that’s true, and I know that many of our friends have already found the perfect time that worked for them and what they wanted. It just wasn’t what fit for us and we’re okay with it. The perfect time to have a baby is whenever you are ready.

I hope if you’re feeling pressure, or you’re questioning what you thought your plan was, or you’re watching the wave of newborn babies surge across your social circle and down your newsfeed and you’re feeling left behind, that you’ll find some comfort in this post and in knowing that there’s no perfect timeline that applies to all of us, and that there’s no rush.

Deciding that we wanted to delay parenthood gave us a newfound sense of freedom and adventure, and that will bring me to my next post. Stay tuned.

I recently conducted a survey to gather feedback from readers. A common request was to write more personal posts, so here’s my first attempt at it. If you have feedback, a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like me to answer you can submit it here (it’s anonymous!). 

28 thoughts on “When Should You Have a Baby

  1. Love this! I had my little girl last year at the age of 33…after 100% deciding we were NOT having kids. The more time my husband I spent traveling, the more hesitant we were to have children, until we decided it was not for us. and them BAM I was pregnant! I cried when I found out….haha. It’s been an amazing whirlwind though, and the whole process really taught me to go with the flow of life. I can’t imagine life without her, and I also think that had I not known her, I would have lived a happy life with my husband traveling the world, because it’s all about being okay and at peace with your decisions. When we were telling people kids weren’t for us, they would look at us like someone had died, and I almost think that made me (personally) more resistant to having a child.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Casey! I find it really empowering to talk to women who have kids and aren’t all “Omg, it’s so amazing, you’ll never know love until you have one!” Its good to know that even someone who has a baby recognizes that you can find peace and happiness without it.

  2. You don’t have time at 44. Infertility is real and it starts at any age, but is a scientific fact for women in their late 30s and 40s. Don’t take your fertility for granted. It will go away. Believing otherwise is buying into a lie that will leave you childless.

    • Actually, spreading this kind of nonsense and making women feel unnecessary pressure to reproduce before they’re ready is buying into centuries of lies pertaining to women’s fertility.

      Scientific research into women’s issues, particularly surrounding fertility, are very underfunded. Did you know that most of the statistics we use surrounding fertility come from studies conducted in the 1700s? A lot has changed since then, one of them being our average life span. As our lives get longer, our window of fertility expands as well, but our dialogue surrounding fertility hasn’t changed. We can’t compare data from 35 year old women who had 5 or 6 children without medical care to inform the women of today about their fertility. More recent research shows that the difference in fertility between a 30 year old and a 40 year old is actually only a couple percentage points when you are actively trying to conceive for 1 year.

      It’s time to stop putting fear into women regarding their fertility. Inducing panic doesn’t benefit women, but it does benefit certain industries and also serves to keep women out of the workforce.

      • While I appreciate your attempts at female empowerment here, Danielle, please do not give medical advice to your readers. As far as I know, you are not a medical professional or a fertility specialist. I would encourage your readers who want to delay childbearing to talk with a doctor about their individual situation and what they can expect as they age.

        • I’m not offering anyone medical advice, simply an honest account of my feelings in case they need to hear this. You see, I don’t need to tell women that they should go to a doctor to have their fertility monitored. Society does a fine job of making sure we’re WELL aware of our declining fertility.

          • I don’t know if that’s true or not – we certainly see a lot of people having babies in their 40’s, but not all of them disclose if they had to have medical assistance or use donor eggs/sperm. It’s none of my business what someone else decides about their family planning, but I have 2 well educated female friends who assumed that because they felt young at age 40, they would be able to conceive naturally. Neither one of them has. We are now all 42. I had trouble conceiving at age 28, which turned out to be a combination of factors, including severe issues with my husband’s sperm that required IVF + ICSI for us to conceive. We were lucky that my insurance covered 80% of the procedures, but this was 13 years ago and in the US, most insurance plans do not cover IVF. It would have run us $20,000 *per cycle* if we were paying out of pocket.

            It’s obviously best to wait until you are ready, but I think all women need to be aware that how you feel physically isn’t necessarily how your body/eggs/etc. will respond once your mind is ready. Egg freezing is becoming increasingly popular because it can allow women to delay that choice longer. Once you are in your 30’s it’s a good idea to get a baseline reproductive hormone assessment to make sure you have no risk factors like early/peri-menopause, low ovarian function, etc.

            Even if you are not tied to the idea of pregnancy or genetic children, there are lots of factors with adoption as well, especially the cost and the time it takes, that can be pretty shocking.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Dani, your insight is spot on. The questions don’t stop once you have kids either–are you having more? When’s the next one? i was asked if I was having a third child one month after a horrific delivery left me in excruciating pain, with tremendous complications and a case of PTSD. Everyone deserves the right to make the best decision to them and their family free of judgment.

    • I’m going to be honest I didn’t really think about the “When are you having the next one?” question. Makes me realize that having a baby won’t make the questions stop…and also that I need to stop inquiring about people’s second baby plans. Thanks!

  4. This is a fantastic first personal post. I really appreciate that you shared this. Thank you. Even among my close friends, this isn’t something I hear discussed so I’m really thankful for your perspective. I’m in my late 20s, have been married 2 years, but have been with my husband for over 10. Even though no one important in my life has asked, I feel pressure to know what to do when it comes to this decision. I lean toward not having children, but I’m not sure if I will regret it. When I think about bringing a child into our lives, either through adoption, foster, or birth, I panic. I have medical issues that make it difficult for me to take care of myself sometimes and my husband is just starting a demanding career after being in school for 10 years. I also have never been around kids, so on the rare day that I interact with someone under the age of like 17, I feel so uncomfortable and end up thinking, “I am just not fit to be a mother”. Since I’m at the age where many friends and acquaintances are having their own children, I look at them and wonder what is wrong with me. Why don’t I feel strongly about being a mother? I try not to worry about it too much because I know that either I won’t be a mom, or I will choose to do so years from now. It helps to take the pressure off for the immediate future, but I still feel confusion and sadness. My fear is that someday I will want to be a mom, but because of my circumstances or health, I won’t be able to or I will realize that it would not be advisable.

    Thanks again for writing this. I’m looking forward to your next post and any future personal posts you’re willing to share.

    • I think there’s a tremendous amount of peace that comes over you when you and your partner realize that you would be 100% okay with adoption (or maybe prefer it) and 100% okay with not having kids at all. It really removes the feeling of parenthood having an expiration date. You can parent at 70 if you have love to give.

  5. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Neither me or my boyfriend want kids at all and people look at us like we’re crazy when we tell them that. We’re both very active and we jokingly call ourselves “selfish”, haha. But babies and kids, they just don’t fit into our lives and we don’t think they ever will. We both like kids, that’s not the problem. We just don’t think we should HAVE to have kids just because it’s expected of us. We’re both 27, so maybe, MAYBE, we’ll change our minds one day but for now it’s just not in our future plans.

  6. Love this post!! Thank you for sharing such a personal perspective on something I think is pretty normal in today’s society, but hardly ever talked about. It’s refreshing to know there are other women out there who don’t just have kids because it’s “the next thing to do” in a relationship.

  7. WONDERFUL POST! For about 10 years, I definitively did not want children and then around five years ago, I started opening up to the possibility. I’ve been bombarded most of my life with the “you’ll change your mind” or “you’d be such a great mother” or “you’ll regret it if you don’t” and I get frustrated by these comments. I started asking women with and without children how they made their choice and want to continue the query because I don’t think we’re having this conversation enough and that women don’t get to hear these questions or answers in the media. Probably about 90 or 95 percent of reasons women have or do not have a child are valid and great reasons and we don’t need to shame women for those reasons or choices. I still haven’t made a decision on this topic and I’m still asking women how they made that decision. I really appreciate your honesty and bravery with this post and hope you keep writing more personal posts!

  8. I very much appreciate this post. I am approaching 30 and went to a fairly elite college on the West Coast. I have been truly surprised by how early my peers are having children. I expected people to start in their early-to-mid 30s but that hasn’t been the case. It is hard not get wrapped up in societal expectations and also to ignore the “ticking clock.” As someone who is getting divorced and is not eager to jump into a long term relationship, it is important to remember that a pregnancy after age 35 is not as strange as it seems here in the South/Midwest.

    One point that I do think is important to clarify is that most women shouldn’t expect to have children naturally at 44. The fact that your mom had your sister naturally at 44 is excellent news for you and your fertility but she is a true aberration and at that age the miscarriage rate is over 50%. I just want to make this clear because I think many women have unrealistic expectations when they seen celebrities having babies into their mid-40s to early 50s and don’t realize that they may not be using their own eggs and have likely used assistive reproductive technology.

    • Absolutely! I think its worth your time to have a conversation with your doctor! Fertility is different for everyone and my doctor totally put my mind at ease. I also think it’s important to think long and hard about parenthood and if you know that birthing your own children is the only way you want to become a parent, you should probably prioritize it. For us, we are okay with becoming parents however it happens, or not at all, and that relieves a lot of the stress.

  9. I followed a link from Franish to this post and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been married for two years and with my husband for ten, so we constantly get this question. And it drives me nuts. Why is it okay to ask such an intimate question? One time, my husband’s aunt asked us for the eight millionth time and I said that a baby doesn’t fit into my lifestyle right now. Her response was that my fertility window is closing… I’m 26! I even had friends who had a baby and then asked us when we were having one because they’d like to raise our children up together. Um, sorry, your parenting time line has nothing to do with ours. Or when another teacher at work announced she was pregnant and then everyone asked me when I’d be making that announcement. I don’t know when, and I’m okay with that. Not anytime soon. Also, the occupancy of my uterus is none of your business. That’s between me, my husband, God, and my doctor, thank you very much.

  10. This post is a breath of fresh air and yes, a topic that is hard to discuss with even the closest of friends, though I know some version of this question scrolls through all of their heads. We know we want a child (or two) at some point, but when and in what form they come into our lives, we’re not yet sure. At 32 living in a big coastal city I don’t feel too old or too rushed, which is an amazing thing, but doesn’t stop the desire to just want to know the plan already! Continuing to just enjoy the process!

    • Totally! I’m 31 and sometimes I just remind myself that having a baby at 34 or 35 is still plenty early and is STILL 3-4 years away for me. You can do a lot in your life in 3 years and I try to just stay focused on the present and not give in to the societal pressure.

  11. This article is priceless. This year marks mine and my husband’s 10th anniversary, and although we both thought we’d have kids by now, we have zero regrets for waiting. Thank you for speaking out for those of us who aren’t rushing to become mothers. At times I’ve really felt guilt and uncertainty about our decision, but this post just supports my feelings even more. THANK YOU.

  12. Thanks for such an honest and thoughtful post. My husband and I decided we were ready to have our first baby about 2 years ago. She’ll turn 2 this summer, hubs and I both turn 31 and we are constantly asked when we’re having our next child. Thing is, I don’t want another child right now. Perhaps ever. I am feeling really good about only having one. Period. And I’ve delayed my career plans and path for awhile – first for hubs job (Madison/Midwest is not my Dream location) and now to be home part-time with our daughter. But I’m feeling very ready to move forward with that area of my life.. and I’m not sure another child fits with my plans.
    BTW we head out on sabbatical in May and we’re taking our daughter with us!! Sure it will be a different kind of month-long vacation than if we went without her but we can’t imagine not having her with us!

    • I’m sure the trip will be amazing! I think it’s exciting to think about introducing a little person to all of your favorite places in the world. Enjoy!

  13. Thank you for sharing this post. I’m 32 and my husband decided to start trying last September and the pressure since then to conceive, and a recent miscarriage has left me in a bit of a dark place. It consumes me now, and it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not necessarily running out of time if it doesn’t happen in the next 6 months or even a year. The thing for me that’s been the hardest is that I waited to find the right person, I waited for my career, I waited until we could afford to build our dream house.. and I thought if I did everything according to this plan that a baby would fall into my lap as soon as we were ready. The universe is now showing me about how it laughs at our plans sometimes.

  14. This was fabulous! I had my kid at 36, married at 35. And only find my career calling after I became a mom. I 100% agree with everything you said. I’m so glad you realized that living your life means living it your way. Continue to do you, Boo! And on your next travel adventure, have a cocktail on a moonlit patio for me, please. 😊

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