Before anyone decides to have children there are a lot of things they need to consider. I'm going to discuss what I think you should know (or what I wish I'd known) before you get knocked up or before you knock someone up...and things you need to do in order to prepare for the arrival of your bundle of joy once you've already successfully done the dirty and procreated.
First and foremost, kids are EXPENSIVE!!! Money doesn't grow on trees and baby furniture, clothes, diapers & formula don't just magically appear. And there really isn't a stork that just drops them off on your doorstep either. IF I was going to do it again and have another baby, I'd make sure I had zero debt...credit cards, medical bills, past due bills, etc. Then I'd save as much as possible. Ideally, I'd want to have at least 3 months salary in my savings account.
Research your health insurance. Be educated on what they cover and what they don't. Know what your deductible is and how much your max out of pocket is. You don't want to be surprised when the hospital bills start showing up. If your employer offers short term disability insurance, TAKE IT!! Make sure you plan out how you're going to pay your bills while you're out on maternity leave. Day cares will not take a baby before they are six weeks old...and you're truly not going to want to take them to day care EVER!! So try to plan and save up so you're not forced back to work right away.
Expect the unexpected. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was in 3 wrecks (only one was my fault) and my transmission went out on my truck...talk about unexpected expenses!! With my second, I was high-risk and on bed rest for 6 weeks or so and then was only able to work part time after that...and then thought I was going into labor at work 2 weeks early. Turned out it was only dehydration, but I scared my boss so badly he wouldn't let me come back til after I delivered...so my initial plan (if you really wanna call it a plan) was shot!! I wasn't able to work and make anywhere near as much money as I'd expected...therefore barely able to pay our bills and no chance of saving up any more money. So you just don't ever know what curve ball life/God is going to throw at you.
Paying for daycare is like paying a second mortgage. If you're not able to breast feed (which many woman aren't), formula and diapers are equivalent to paying an extra car payment. Then you've got all of the other little things like clothes, shoes, toys...birthdays, sports, college...and it NEVER ends. Ask your parents.
Parenthood isn't as simple as having sex, carrying a baby in your womb for 9 months and then popping it out and living happily ever after. You are responsible for this little living, breathing, beautiful being for not just the next 18 years...but for the rest of your life. Everything you do for the rest of your life is going to effect your baby. The choices you make and the example you set are so much more important than you'll realize any time soon. It took me a while to understand the profound impact that I have on my girls.
If you think a baby will fix your marriage, you're WRONG!!! It may feel like it for a little while, but in the end it very well could be the catalyst that sends it crumbling. Often relationships are rocky due to money issues, trust issues or maybe because one feels like they do everything that has to be done while the other just does what they want. Many people think that a baby will bring them closer. What really happens is the finances get worse or the spouse that does everything gets a ton more responsibility dropped on their shoulders (taking care of the baby).
So now you're hopefully living in a perfect world where you have tons of money in the bank and you're blissfully married to a person that is going to be a great teammate in the game of child rearing. What now?
Well of course you go to the doctor and they take good care of you medically. You'll go tour the hospital and hopefully take a prepared childbirth class. You'll get to go register for lots of cute and nifty things for people to buy you for your shower. You'll get to decorate a nursery and make it the perfect room for your sweet innocent baby.
But there are still a few things that people sometimes forget or don't realize they need to do. Like check out day cares. Go for tours, compare their ratios, their prices, their policies. Once you have the car seat, you can go by any fire station and they'll make sure you have the base installed properly.
Kiss good night's sleep goodbye at about 30 weeks or so. If you're lucky enough to be able to get comfortable at all, you're definitely gonna have to pee before you even get good and asleep. My mom told me it was my body getting me used to running on fumes. You'll be up every couple hours (again if you're lucky) to pee...and then once you're home from the hospital, you'll be up for feedings. I promise every second of lost sleep is worth it though!! You don't know what love really is until you look at that precious life you brought into the world...and your heart melts!!!
Happily ever after:
Now that you've had your baby, everyone and their mother is going to have advice for you. You're probably going to get an earful from the old lady in line behind you at the grocery store...just grin and bare it. Parenting is mostly a learn as you go career. Learn from your mistakes and your parent's mistakes, your sibling's mistakes and your friend's mistakes. Of course this is when I give you my advice....the 3 most important things I think a parent should base their parenting on is this:
1. Keep your baby on a schedule. If you keep their naps & feedings on a schedule it's so much easier to plan the rest of your life around it...
2. Discipline them early on. Sure it may be cute when they slap you across the face the first time, but if you laugh and play along...they're going to keep doing it. Your child isn't going to be perfect...and that's ok. Be willing to hear constructive criticism. Teach them to be responsible for their actions and learn from their mistakes.
3. Don't plan on being your child's friend. You're the parent...and they're not supposed to like you sometimes. That means you're doing a good job. It's not your job to make life easy for them...it's to teach and prepare them for real life.
All of this being said....GOOD LUCK!!! It's worth every sleepless night, every heartache and every fight...I wouldn't trade my girls and every experience I've had as a mom for the world.