The decision to become a parent for the first time is easily one of the biggest of any woman’s life. It’s a life changer, as well as a life bringer, but what are the practical implications of becoming a parent for the first time? What do you really need to look out for and how do you best prepare for nature’s greatest gift?
In the Beginning
Well, first things first, mum-to-be – you’re going to get sick, you’re going to get moody and you’re going to get a whole lot bigger!
Morning sickness is the name given to nausea that commonly occurs during the first few months of pregnancy. It’s perfectly natural and will affect some women more than others. You may be lucky and barely notice the effects or you might struggle day and night with cramps and sickness. Sorry, but there’s just no way of knowing until you get pregnant. And in spite of the name, the sickness can occur at any time; it’s not just confined to the mornings.
There are various courses of action you can take to try and combat the effects of morning sickness such as over-the-counter medications or natural remedies, but a lot of women will simply ride it out until it naturally subsides after the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The effects of the thalidomide scandal of the 1950s can still be felt today with many pregnant women reluctant to take any prescribed or over-the-counter medications whilst with the child, which is partly why the grin and bear it method remains the most common method of dealing with the sickness.
Mood Swings and Cravings
You’re going to have a lot of hormones flying about, as you might expect, and whilst most people should probably give you some leeway as a result it may still be necessary to warn those around you, especially those who’ll never have experienced a pregnant woman’s fury before, that you are quite possibly going to be a little erratic, over-emotional and just a tad irrational. It’s another one of those things that you just have to get used to as there’s no easy way around it so just remember that when all seems hopelessly frustrating, it’s rarely ever as bad as you think it is and that whole pregnancy excuse is one that you could easily find yourself relying on all too frequently!
You may also find you start craving certain foods more than normal, some of which you may never have previously been particularly fussed about. Whilst TV would have us believe that expectant mothers are all slaves to bizarre combinations of weird and wonderful foodstuffs such as Marmite smothered melon slices or beetroot soaked banana, in reality, the most extreme and unusual cravings are fairly rare. In fact, almost half of all women who go through pregnancy never really notice any specific cravings for foodstuffs and many of those who do will only be seeking the all too common sugar rush easily fixed by that box of new baby biscuits your work kindly gifted you or a hit of protein from a tasty slab of red meat (sorry vegetarians).
Your Size and Weight
It’s pretty difficult to hide a baby growing inside you so you’re going to need to prepare for an expanding midsection! It may seem obvious but it can still take some getting used to when it actually happens to you.
Prepare yourself with some plus-size clothes for the earlier stages and then full-blown maternity wear when the bump gets more serious. You don’t have to go all out on an expensive new wardrobe that will be redundant after a few months so seek bargains through hand-me-downs from friends and relatives who’ve gone through pregnancy and check your local free ads papers or sites like Craigslist and Gumtree for barely worn garments being given away or sold on the cheap. You can also join local community Facebook groups where people are always giving away that which they no longer need. This is also a great avenue to utilize when it comes to sourcing essential items you’re going to need once the big day comes from baby clothing to funky Bluetooth candles for the nursery. Never underestimate just how much stuff you’re going to need and how much you’ll inevitably end up with once you start accumulating it!
Facing Up to the Financial Commitment
There’s no way around it; the cost of raising a child in the UK today is as high as it has ever been. In fact, a recent study concluded that the average cost to a new family of raising a child is as much as £230,000 until they reach the age of 21. To put that into perspective you could buy yourself a seafront apartment in Brighton paying about £1,300 a month on a mortgage over those 21 years at current rates!
For the early years, it’s all about nappies, the constant need for new clothes, prams, buggies, pushchairs, etc., and then you’ve got to think about children’s nurseries and other childcare which can be quite the eye-opener in terms of the costs for many new parents. This is certainly a time for tightening the purse strings and daddy’s little luxuries are going to be well off the agenda. Think childminders rather than watch winders, because that’s where your spare cash will be going!
Statistics show more and more women are choosing to have children later in life or not at all, and cost has to be a big part of the reasoning behind this. As women are increasingly focusing on their careers the decision to have a child becomes more difficult, particularly as pregnancy discrimination is still sadly rife in the workplace and taking a career break for maternity is rarely as simple as enjoying the early days of motherhood and then picking up where you left off as you return to work.
What’s more, a lot of mothers find they simply don’t want to return to the demands of a full-time job once they’ve become accustomed to full-time parenting. It’s something that will change the way you look at life and effects everyone differently. If you feel you don’t have the capacity to juggle parenting alongside a career, and financially you can afford not to have to, then you may be better suited to either staying at home to look after your new family or possibly taking on a less demanding part-time position.
To Work or Not To Work
With changes in UK employment law making it theoretically easier for parents to manage the all-important work/life balance, all new mothers should be offered a choice of flexible solutions to allow them to work in a manner that best suits their circumstances. However, it has become increasingly popular for stay-at-home mums to ditch the day job altogether and keep an income by working from home. The swathes of popular mummy blogs and websites devoted to parenting are a testament to the fact that there’s money to be made online if you’ve got the time and inclination to earn it.
Many busy parents find that a laptop and a wireless headset are all they need in order to make money around raising their children and with sites like Elance, PeoplePerHour and Fiverr making it easier than ever to pitch for freelance jobs or offer your own services online to the world, the financial burden that comes with having a child can at least be lessened. If you’re a crafty sort you could try selling handmade goods on eBay or similar online marketplaces, and as a bonus, there’s a chance you can get your child involved later down the line to turn earning into learning, as well as valuable bonding time.
Making the Most of Motherhood
Whilst you may think there’s much to fear (and there is) at the same time it’s impossible to put into words the feeling that giving the gift of life will bring you. Treasure the moments, from the early stages of your pregnancy to the hospital check-ups, the first time you feel your baby kick, your ultrasound scans all the way through to the big push. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure and though you may not feel it at the time, you will later realize that it all went ever so quickly. My advice would be to capture everything you can, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time. Grab your mobile phone, or better yet a digital SLR camera, at every opportunity because you can’t get those moments back.
Strap yourself in and prepare yourself because mum, you’re in for one hell of a ride!