Nate and I were together five years before getting pregnant with our first son. I've known plenty of people who didn't have that kind of time before starting a family and it usually worked out fine for them. Personally, though, I was glad we were able to get our ducks in a row first because parenthood hit me like a freight train! Once the baby comes, priorities shift entirely and there is no more preparing, no more vacations, no more sleep.
When friends ask me what to do before getting pregnant, I have a short – but important – list that I like to share.
“Before Getting Pregnant” Checklist
1. Discuss your belief system. It amazes me how many couples plan to have children together but never talk about details before getting pregnant. Thinks like religion, immunization, public or alternative schooling, working versus staying at home, discipline or video games. This stuff matters. Sort it out now or it'll become a BIG problem with precious little lives involved.
2. Take pre-baby pics. You'll want a reminder of who you two are, as a couple, before getting pregnant. You are each other's rock – and you may need a visual reminder of that when you have an infant screaming in your ear at 3am. Plus, post-baby pics with bag-ridden eyes and messy hair just don't have the same appeal.
3. Go on a WILD vacation. Hop on some motorcycles, slide down a zipline and trek your way through hostels in Europe before getting pregnant. You may be able to squeeze in some cabin or beach time down the line, but you won't have this kind of freedom for awhile.
4. Save money. Kids are expensive. And if you still don't have your living situation ironed out, get that in order before getting pregnant. You may be able to squeeze that baby into the basement with you at your parents' house, but it sure as heck won't be comfortable. Especially once the kid starts walking.
5. Get genetic testing. 80% of babies born with a serious genetic disease have no family history of that disease. When both parents are carriers for the same condition, each of their children faces a 25% risk for having it. We're working with JScreen to spread the word to young couples about the need to get genetic testing to help protect children from devastating diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Cystic Fibrosis. JScreen makes it easy with an at-home kit that's just $99 with private health insurance. You receive it in the mail, fill the tube with saliva, mail it back to the lab and get results in about 4 weeks. If the test indicates that you are a carrier for any of the diseases, a JScreen genetic counselor from Emory University will contact you to discuss the results.
My family has extensive history with a specific genetic disease, but screening was so new when I had Some Boy that I had no idea if it could be passed on to him or not. Since his birth I HAVE been screened and given the “all clear,” but it would have given me great peace of mind to get definitive test results ahead of time in order to prepare. Having someone to help walk you through it like JScreen does is a HUGE benefit that I've never seen provided with any other service.
What are your big concerns about having a baby? What must-dos are on your personal list before getting pregnant?