Does Everyone 'Just Know' When They're Ready to Be a Mom?

A few years ago, my husband and I had a friend whose long-term girlfriend had started vigorously hinting that she’d like a ring on her finger. I wondered how the guy would make his decision, since it was obvious he was on the fence about things. Would he eventually pop the question? Would she grow impatient and move on? How would he know if this was the right girl, the one he wanted to spend his life with?

My husband's advice to him was, “Dude, you’ll know when it’s right. You’ll just know.

I didn't tell my husband this at the time, but I thought that was terrible advice. While I’m sure lots of people just know when it’s the right time to embark upon a major lifestyle change, I sure as hell never have.


Marriage, for instance. My first marriage was a brief, ill-advised affair when I was all of 19 years old. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but a year or so later, I realized it was in fact a bad move, since 1) I no longer loved him, and 2) breaking up is way more of a pain in the ass when legal documents are involved.

For a while after that I thought I’d never get married again, because in my overly dramatic way of thinking,
I could never be sure that my feelings wouldn’t change. How could I promise to love someone until death do us part, when I had no way of knowing whether I was capable of such a thing?

By the time my husband and I got engaged, I was a little more mature and confident enough in the love we had that I didn’t obsess over what negative possibilities the future might hold. I wasn’t 100 percent positive in my decision, I didn’t "just know" that it was the right time. The truth is simply that I was willing to gamble on success.

I think that’s what it comes down to for some people. You look at your feelings, your life situation, and you just ... take a guess. You accept the risk, or you don’t. You make a leap of faith, or you don’t.

Before I became a parent, I kept waiting and waiting for the moment when I would know that I wanted to have children. Well, the unerring belief that it was the right choice never came to me. I never had a moment when I felt free of doubt about the decision. In the end, I had to jump into the unknown without the confidence I wanted so badly.

You never do know what your future will bring. Back then I would never have guessed at my life today, I wouldn’t have been able to believe it. Oh, it would have been such a gift, to peek forward through the years and see my own joy and fulfillment. All I could see was fear and doubt.

I took another step in the dark when we decided to try for a second baby. I was never really sure that was the right choice either. All I could do is balance what I knew and what I didn't know and what I was hoping for and what I was scared of, and see what came out on top. It certainly wasn't a painless process.

It seems so obvious now: of course it was the right choice! Look at this life of ours, how rich and chaotic and ridiculous and amazing it is! Look at my two boys—my god, just look! But oh, this is now, and that was then. My husband knew, he knew all along he wanted children, and he knew he wanted more than one. I never did know for certain, I never had complete faith. I only know now, after the fact.

Some people may go with their gut or their heart or whatever internal organ helps the process, but the truth is that no matter how you make a major life-changing change, it's a risk. You can’t really be sure that your feelings and circumstances won’t change from one day to the next, because that’s what life is all about, growing and adapting, hopefully for the better.

It's also true that if you’re really, really lucky, the hardest choices you ever make will pay out in a big way. Like some great slot machine hitting all three winning reels, raining joy and laughter into your life.

Did you "just know" when you were ready to start a family?

Image via Linda Sharps

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