Deciding that you want to be a parent is exciting, but knowing when you’re ready to build your family can be tricky. This article provides tips to prepare for parenthood.
Becoming a queer or trans parent will likely involve some help. You may be considering adoption or surrogacy. Or maybe you or your partner want to conceive. Whichever path you choose, becoming a parent will take planning, saving, and mental preparation.
Let’s delve into the different facets of preparation that are involved.
There are several emotional aspects of preparing for parenthood.
Waiting and Setbacks
Going through the adoption process and trying to conceive can be emotionally challenging. There’s a lot of excitement and likely also some setbacks. You may have to wait longer than you want to in order to save what you need. Or go through the adoption process. Or to experience successful conception (either at home or in a fertility clinic).
If you are planning to conceive, once you have saved enough to start trying, the process will likely take over your monthly schedule. Even though the conception attempt may only take a few minutes of one day – between ordering or obtaining sperm, waiting for it to arrive, tracking ovulation or taking medication to stimulate ovulation, building up to attempting conception, and then waiting for two weeks to see if that attempt was successful – your month pretty much gets taken over by the whole process.
I wrote about this in detail in this article about what to expect when using a sperm bank long distance.
There are many ways to parent – and many different options, philosophies, techniques, courses, and advice available online. Take time to think about how you want to parent. If you are partnered, talk with your partner about how you each want to parent, and how you plan to do it together. Discussing ideas and figuring out how to work together will be a new challenge (and opportunity) for your relationship.
If you want to parent differently from how you were parented, you will likely still have an emotional reaction in accordance with how you were parented. Stop and read that one more time. Learning how to maintain emotional control is key. Lots of parenting resources exist that cover this in great detail.
Taking care of a baby or child takes a lot of mental energy. You want to get in as much self-care as possible, but the reality is that kid will be your number one priority. Things that you take for granted now like showering, eating, sleeping, or even decompressing will not be as easy.
The best thing you can do to prepare for this is to get really good at self-care now, before you have a kid. Think about and practice all the methods of self-care that feel good to you. Brainstorm which ones may be easier or more difficult to pull off once you have a kid in the house.
For instance, going to the gym may be your favorite thing — that particular one might also be challenging if you have a baby or young child at home and don’t have a lot of options for childcare. You may still be able to go regularly if you work together with your partner or family or friends to hang out with your little one while you’re working out. Or you may find it’s easier to work out from home, do yoga once the kid is asleep, or meditate during naptime. You’ll likely have to find a balance of getting quality alone time when you’re 100% alone, and finding ways to treat yourself while your kid is still close by.
Making a plan for how you will maintain your self-care can be really powerful. And it’s golden modeling for your child, to see how you take care of yourself while also taking care of them.
Pre-Kid Bucket List
You can travel with a kid or take them out many places. But let’s be honest, it’s a different experience. If you don’t have kids yet, consider what you may want to do before you have the kid in tow, or otherwise have to find childcare.
Maybe there’s a vacation you really want to take, or a concert you want to go to, or a fancy restaurant dinner.
Yes – babysitters exist. Yes – it’s possible to take your kid along. But take advantage of the kid-free time now so that by the time you have a kid your cup is full, and you’re ready to focus most of your attention on them.
Now let’s dig into physical preparation.
For birth parents and gestational carriers
Many options exist for prenatal preparation and care. So many, in fact, that it may feel overwhelming. They include vitamins, supplements, and varying diet and exercise recommendations. Some of these are quite anecdotal, but if you’re interested in carrying a pregnancy, you will likely want to research what’s out there.
Birth parents and carriers will also have considerable healing to experience after giving birth.
The topics of prenatal and postnatal care are so vast, I won’t even try to cover them in this article. There are plenty of options to read about online, talk to friends and family, doctors and midwives, and most of all listen to yourself and do what feels right for you.
For any parent
New parents of babies often have upper back and neck pain from constantly looking down at their child. Or the parent’s alignment gets out of whack from often favoring one side when they hold or carry their kid.
Doing yoga or stretching or exercise can help you destress (and improve your self-care skills) while you are waiting. No matter how old your new kid will be, getting your body ready to hold them, pick them up, run with them, or play with them on the floor is all good preparation.
Space & House Preparation
For the baby or kid
If you like decorating, one of the most fun particulars of preparing to be a parent is readying the child’s room or space where they will sleep (or at least where you will put their stuff).
And there will be stuff. So much stuff.
Although a great dopamine hit for many, I don’t recommend doing a lot of physical space preparation until you are very certain your child is imminently on the way. If you do this step early and then experience setbacks and more waiting, passing by the baby’s room can end up being an emotional trigger.
That being said, taking the time to figure out how you will physically make room for your child is important to consider before they arrive.
Babyproofing or Kidproofing
Preparing the rest of your space for having a baby or child is an important safety step. And this step is not just for babies. In fact, really young babies won’t move around enough (initially) for you to have to worry about door locks or stairs or glass tabletops right away. But at least do the mental preparation of how this will go in your house.
Are there rooms that you’ll want to keep the kid or baby out of? Do you have pets, and will there be a need to separate them or at least have that possibility? Do you have special possessions that you want to keep out of the kid’s reach?
Financial preparation is more concrete, and a requirement for most queer people. You likely have to save in order to become a parent. The good news is that you can work on emotional and physical preparation at the same time.
The amount of money you will need to save depends on how you choose to build your family. And, if you are conceiving a child, it will also be determined by how many attempts are needed to achieve a successful pregnancy.
If you or your partner has ovarian anatomy and wants to conceive and carry a pregnancy, you will want to save up enough to be able to try to conceive several times. On average, people go through 5 (or more) conception attempts before having a successful pregnancy. And of course everyone’s story is different.
If you choose to save up only enough to try once and that attempt is not successful, it is quite emotionally intense to have to start saving again from zero in order to try another round. I am saying this from personal experience.
It’s hard to wait. But you will likely be doing yourself a favor if you save enough for 5 (or more) conception attempts, before actually starting those attempts. If you do conceive on the first (or second, or third) try, great! Now you’ve got money for the baby fund!
No matter how much time you have to prepare, it’s possible that you will doubt that you are ready. Sure – it’s also possible that you’re bursting with parental confidence. But many parents, especially new parents, doubt their readiness.
Here’s what you need to know. You are the perfect parent for your child. Do what you can to get ready. Know that self-doubt is part of self-awareness. And it’s one of the destabilizing and bewildering parts of parenthood. Billions of people have figured this out before. You will too.