Finding out about an unexpected pregnancy is a challenging and life-altering experience. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or finding out about your pregnancy alone, you may have an array of questions.
One of the most challenging questions you can ask yourself is: Am I ready to be a parent? It’s certainly not an easy question to answer, especially if you’ve just learned that you’re carrying. However, it’s important to ponder whether you feel that you’re ready to raise a child. Parenting is a commitment, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are many resources dedicated to helping expecting parents and unplanned pregnancies.
If you’re struggling with whether or not you’re ready to become a parent, consider the following questions:
Is Your Relationship Stable?
Reflecting on your relationship is a perfectly normal thing to do when finding out that you’re pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy may impact the relationship at the start, but how you go about it together is the most important thing. We understand that not every relationship is perfect. You may want to ask yourself whether the pregnancy will improve the relationship and if you can rely on your partner moving forward.
The arrival of a baby can cause a lot of stress in the first few months—there’s just so much to do! Strong communication skills are integral for new parents. Will the two of you be able to help each other and make decisions together while experiencing sleep deprivation and stress? Raising a baby while in a relationship should be a team effort.
Do You Have Enough Support?
Whether you’re expecting to parent a child on your own or together with a partner, it’s best to ask yourself whether you have enough external support. There are many forms of parenting arrangements.
Sometimes it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting alone can be a challenging experience, but it’s not abnormal. As of 2021, about 1.83 million single-parent families were living in Canada. The most important thing to consider is what your support system will look like.
Many single mothers may rely on their family members or close friends for help and support after the birth of their child. Think about who will most likely be there to lend a helping hand, and consider their limitations. Make a plan that is realistic for them and for you. Remember that while they may be there to help, it will be up to you to be the parent.
If you plan to parent on your own, but do not have the support system to give you relief when it’s needed, Atwell staff can refer you to Safe Families, a not-for-profit organization that links families with safe respite childcare and a supportive community.
When both parents of the baby live together, the caregiving roles, responsibilities, and experiences can be shared in the household. You will both be taking on more chores and responsibilities than ever before. Consider the number of tasks you will have, such as feedings, midnight wake-ups, diaper changing, bathing, and other household jobs. Try talking to your partner about sharing parenting responsibilities, as it will significantly lessen the workload and help determine if you’re both ready for parenting responsibilities.
Even when parenting with a partner, it can be very helpful to have outside help, especially in the beginning. New parents often find it helpful when family or friends deliver meals, help with household chores, run errands, or hold the baby while the mother takes a shower or a nap. Discuss the options with your partner, and make a plan together with your family or friends that will get you through those early days.
Many parents find themselves in the situation in which the mother and father of the baby are not living together, but both want to be actively involved in parenting. When the parents can maintain good communication with each other, they can develop a co-parenting plan that shares the responsibilities and time of child caregiving.
If you are in this situation, it is important that you and your co-parent put the well-being of your child ahead of any pain you may be feeling following a break-up or separation. Before the baby is born, develop a realistic plan that clearly defines the tasks each parent will be responsible for, and the times during which each parent will have the child with them. Then maintain consistent, open communication with each other about how the schedule is working, and make mutually-agreed upon changes as needed.
If the interactions between both parents involve a great deal of conflict, you may want to consider parallel parenting.
How Is Your Financial Situation?
It may not come as a surprise, but babies are expensive. There are various costs involved with raising children, such as food, diapers, clothing, and so on. Those expenses will only increase as they get older. Of course, child and family benefits are available, but they might not always be enough. It doesn’t hurt to look at your finances to see if you’re in a comfortable space to raise a baby. Coming to terms with your budget and planning for the future can help prepare you and/or your partner for what’s to come.
If you believe your finances may be an issue, you can always look into the vast resources that help first-time parents. Our Pregnancy & Beyond program at Atwell Centre is a reliable resource for expecting mothers to receive gifts of clothing, diapers, wipes, and support. The staff and volunteers at Atwell can also refer you to other helpful resources in the area. We regularly refer parents to Essential Aid for free diapers, formula, and baby food, as well as The Baby Depot for baby necessities. There are many food banks, Good Food Box locations, and free meal programs throughout Hamilton and Halton. When clients need assistance with applying for subsidized housing and other financial assistance programs, The Housing Help Centre is there to help. Atwell Centre staff are happy to walk you through the many services that can help you make ends meet.
Does Your Job Have a Maternity Policy?
It’s best to know how much time off and money you will receive during your maternity leave. There are several questions to consider when planning. If you’re working while pregnant, will you qualify for EI maternity and parental benefits? How long will you take off from work? How much will you receive from the government per month? Does your job offer additional parental leave benefits? Will your partner take parental leave as well? What will that look like for them? You may want to consider planning it strategically. This way, you have help while at home with the child.
If you are parenting on your own, the baby’s father should still pay child support to help you with the cost of caring for the child. If you aren’t sure how to make this happen, an Atwell staff member can refer you to one of the many free legal advice programs in the area, such as the Family Law Information Centre and Legal Aid Ontario.
Are You Ready To Give Up Your Personal Time?
Parenthood means giving up your free time to raise your child. That means you’ll need to set aside your hobbies, socializing, and personal time, especially within the first few months of the baby being born.
Babies need a schedule, and they’ll also need your undivided attention. Your sick child may need you to stay home instead of going out with a friend to a social event. You’ll have to ask yourself whether you can put someone else’s needs before your own. If you’re in a relationship, the same goes for your partner.
As we’ve said before, raising a baby is a team effort. Both parties will have to dedicate time and patience to their child, even if it means sacrificing sleep and time with friends or family.
Do You Know How To Parent?
It’s a big question and a common one that every first-time mother or father will ask themselves at some point. While there are plenty of resources out there, from books to videos, there’s nothing that can truly prepare you for parenthood. However, the best you can do is try to take advantage of those resources. Brush up on proper parenting information ahead of time. During the 9 months of pregnancy, learn as much as possible to discover whether or not you think you can be a healthy role model for your child. It’s a lot to take in, but working on parenting techniques early can help you determine if you’re ready to raise a baby.
In the Pregnancy & Beyond program at Atwell, we are here to walk with you through the preparation process, providing pregnancy and infancy education at our centre or referring you to one of the many parenting resources in the area. Public health has the in-home program Healthy Babies Healthy Children, and Hamilton Health Sciences offers parenting education groups that support parents of different children’s ages and needs. Many churches and religious organizations have mom-to-mom groups and playgroups for toddlers. The EarlyON Centres, located in neighbourhoods throughout the city, offer a place for babies and children to play while their parents connect with each other or with child development specialists. The Hamilton and Oakville public libraries have numerous programs for parents with babies, as well. Hamilton is rich in resources for young mothers, including St. Martin’s Manor, Grace Haven, LEAP, and Living Rock. While parenting has a steep learning curve, you don’t have to do it alone.
Do You Want Children?
Perhaps the most fundamental question to answer is whether you actually want children at all; parenthood isn’t for everyone. Some people are at a life stage in which they do not have the finances nor are they emotionally ready to have kids.
It’s true that you might be a wonderful and loving parent, but you may need to consider that you and your baby might be best off on different paths. It’s not an easy decision, but there are various resources you can turn to.
Our registered nurses at Atwell Centre strive to ensure every expecting parent is heard and provided with support. If you aren’t ready to become a parent, we can discuss your alternatives to help you make an informed decision.
What Are the Alternatives?
You may consider adoption as an alternative to raising a baby. Adoption is a way to ensure your child receives a chance to experience life in the care of a family that has the resources and capacity to provide the best home for a child right now.
There are many reasons to consider adoption as an alternative. Our registered nurses can walk you through the pre- and post-adoption journey. Atwell is not an adoption agency, but we work with many organizations across Hamilton and can refer you to them.
If you do not think you can care for a baby right now, but think you would be able to parent by about 6 months after the baby’s birth, you could place your child in temporary care with Children’s Aid Society (CAS), a family member, or a close friend. This option is for parents who have some specific things they need to work on, get through, or put in place before they can parent well, but with time, will be able to do so. You can make a voluntary, 6 month temporary care agreement with CAS; they will place the child in foster care for 6 months while you improve your situation for parenting. An alternative is to grant temporary custody to a trusted family member or friend for 6 months until you are ready to parent. In both cases, you should obtain legal advice before signing any agreements.
If you would like to learn more about your pregnancy and parenting information, contact your local Hamilton women’s clinic. Atwell has always remained a safe and non-judgmental environment that provides women and men with support as they consider their options. We ensure that every individual that walks into our clinic will be treated with respect and dignity as they explore their pregnancy options.