Planning a pregnancy: A personal checklist for prospective parents

Planning a pregnancy: A personal checklist for prospective parents

By KORAL DASGUPTA | | 19 December, 2015
Parents have to ensure they have a support system in place for their newborn.
One of the main questions you have to ask yourself while considering having a kid is whether or not you are prepared enough. Koral Dasgupta talks to parents from different walks of life in an attempt to arrive at an adequate answer to this age-old query.

You enjoy life only when the right things happen to you at the right time. But is there a right time for you to plan a baby? When really do you feel confident that you are well prepared? What is the role of external influences, if any? And what are the triggers, other than the emotional and financial angles? I have seen couples delaying their plans because they are too caught up with the grill of a demanding career. Many I have seen around, started thinking of having babies when they experienced their friends and relatives going through that phase and those innocent smiles and tears inspired their parental instincts. And there are also couples who are pretty clear that the child should make his own way to the earth without parents interfering or orchestrating the time of their entry!

Says Pallab Bhattacharya, a media professional based in Mumbai, “Life is incomplete without parenting. Face it, deal with it. Just close your eyes and have the child.” But is it really that easy?

 There’s no denying that everyone tries to “plan” their lives such that initiatives and responsibilities get smoother to manage. It’s a different aspect though that life has its own way to dismiss those plans and take charge! But when it comes to a baby, I feel the fundamental question that people should consider is, whether they would be able to give a healthy and happy life to the child. Your level of preparedness probably origins from there. You ask yourself whether you have the eco-system where you are capable of building that ambiance around your child! Are you sorted enough in your personal space to help the baby acquire good physical and mental health as he grows up under you? Are you happy enough, to pass on the same happiness to the child?

I asked a few people around to understand their ideas about preparing for a baby. And the insights that came forward were fascinating. 

Says Canada based banking professional, Monica Narang Shankar, “It’s relative from individual to individual but one can never be completely ready for a baby! If a person is prepared to make a commitment towards raising a child with wholehearted devotion, that is only when they should take the plunge. Of course the financial factor plays a big role because babies are costly. And you might have to let go of some career aspirations. But overall I think, there’s a good amount of societal pressures that make you embrace parenthood, because they constantly remind you of that biological clock ticking away. So, most of us take a leap of faith and leave the rest to God!”

Author and entrepreneur, Shabia Ravi Walia pours much more to this. “The state of their marriage, the way their relationship has evolved, the status of their careers, the time they would or would not have for the child and for each other, the openness to accept that everything might not go as planned and being flexible enough to accept huge changes in lifestyle, would predominantly decide whether a couple is ready for a baby. Also, the honesty to ensure that a child is coming to earth because both partners want it as an extension of their love and not out of peer pressure, pressure from in-laws or to save a failing marriage, is equally important. Else, it is a disaster for sure, both for the couple and the child.”

Adds Pala Kar Biswas, an HR professional based in Kolkata, “Primarily we need to think whether we are really looking forward to have a baby or it is just a task to be completed in time! It’s always better to introspect and find out how much time we can give to the baby, given that often working parents have demanding careers, and is that much time from parents good enough for the baby!”

Another thought comes from Megha Sumant Sharma, who has taken a sabbatical to raise her baby. “Plan your own equation well so that you can enjoy parenthood in entirety. External forces might help but, most of the time suggestions pour in like discounts which are not needed. The couple must talk their hearts out and decide what they feel is best for their kid. Taking aid of experts like gynaecologist and mid wives would be the best recourse any day. One should be prepared that their lives will change drastically, for the good. Standing with each other and staying committed is all what a couple needs to strike a balance in their respective lives. Motherhood is difficult but, rewarding too.”

Anuradha Banerjee too had taken a long sabbatical when her first child was born. Recently, she planned for a second child because she felt that her son needed and he deserved that companion in family. Her concerns are obviously more profound. “I feel, apart from emotional and financial preparations you need to be physically strong enough to bear the grill of bringing a child to earth, nurturing and raising him. Physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy, too many sleepless nights, constant attention and concentration, etc. often call for unforeseen health hazards for parents. Sometimes you have to ignore your health to take care of the little one as she needs utmost care. One should also be prepared for that.”

True that. So many mothers complain of thyroid issues, obesity issues, depression and others post baby birth! Health and wellbeing of the father is equally necessary to make the entire period as smooth as it can be.

Author and Professor Lekshmi Dinachandran Remesh talks about the people who would surround the baby and the culture he would imbibe from them. “Couples should be able to control the role that their extended families should, or at times shouldn’t, play in the life of their child. It is necessary to set a culture collectively, which the baby would pick up as he grows in close guardianship of his mentors. Ensuring safety is also paramount. You really might not be able to think about child proofing once the baby is born.”

There’s no denying that everyone tries to “plan” their lives such that initiatives and responsibilities get smoother to manage. It’s a different aspect though that life has its own way to dismiss those plans and take charge! But when it comes to a baby, I feel the fundamental question that people should consider is, whether they would be able to give a healthy and happy life to the child.

That in fact is a fantastic point. Baby preparations can fairly include doing up the house as per the needs of the baby, making it adventurous and creative for the couple as they get to spend some quality time foreseeing a joint future. Also, preparing the people around, embracing some good habits and letting go of some bad ones, sometimes forcibly, is a great way to inspire positive vibes when a baby is expected or being planned.

Reflects Sheelu Sinha, a Delhi based banker, “Since most of the would-be moms are working these days, they need to be prepared for a temporary halt to their flying careers. Else, it leads to unnecessary depression and blame game starts between the couple. Parenthood demands some sacrifices and most of them are bound with the would-be mother.”

Well pointed out by Sheelu, for many parents, career or other things they are passionate about, becomes a very crucial deciding factor. What comes across as a natural inference is, their obvious dependence on a trustworthy support system, which allow them to remain positive and welcoming towards the baby without necessarily giving up on activities that bring them joy.

Journalist, Swetha Amit puts it as, “When we were planning to start a family, we ensured that we have a good support system so that we didn’t have to give up the things we really enjoy. That includes our respective professions and marathon running. As maids did not work for us, we had to rely on both sets of grandparents. Also we had to be physically prepared as we heard about the sleepless nights that most parents were subjected to in the initial years. We also had to be mentally prepared to give up night outs. Besides being prepared for these changes life goes on normally except that you have a new living addition to your lives!”

While Swetha spoke about the support she receives from her parents and parents-in-law, another journalist, Medha Shri Dahiya extends her hands towards the baby’s father asking him to help out and share parental responsibilities. “It is important that both parents are on the same page when it comes to handling the baby. Be it diaper changes or sorting the milk bottles or taking turns in waking up during nights, all fathers should be involved into the schedule. Planning that comes with planning a baby.” This seems to be a really innovative and fun idea. If there’s a planned division of labour between the parents, then managing the baby becomes fun and one of the parents don’t feel the pressure.

Medha has more to say. “There are a few things on which you should have a clear picture. Would you need a nanny; and if yes, have you found one yet?” Of course a baby can’t be handed over to anyone and everyone and the big mistake that often parents do is to search for a nanny after the baby is born! Desperately in need of expert hands who can comfort the child, and new parents often being naïve, they end up hiring someone in haste who doesn’t match up to their sensibilities.  “Nanny has left” is one of the nightmares most urban working mothers would have faced. Adds Medha, “It would also be nice to understand how much the grandparents would be available to spend time with the baby. One can never feel absolutely prepared about having a baby. So it makes sense to decide whether you want babies at all, and how many. Then just take the leap. You will be fine along the way.”

HR professional Sagorika Sanyal echoes those last few words. “Close your eyes, relax and have the baby. Everything else will fall in place automatically if you are calm and committed towards all future challenges posed.”

Given my own insights and the discussions I had with these parents, I can comfortably jot down the following points that should be taken into consideration while planning a baby. A “yes” to most of these should prompt you to go for a baby. Otherwise wait and work upon these issues, till they turn “yes”.

Are you personally in a happy phase?

Do you share a nice bond with your spouse?

Are you physically fit?

Are you mentally stable?

Do you have a support system around you who would be there to take care of the baby in your absence?

Are you open to undergo a change in your present lifestyle if required?

Is it fine with you if at all you need to take a break from your career?

At your home and in your surroundings, do you have the kind of ambiance and culture where you would ideally want your baby to grow up?

Do you really want a baby?

Happy planning. Happy parenting!

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