I think about this a lot. What it would take to have a baby without much financial strain and stress. The absence of these circumstances wouldn’t preclude me from having a baby (and didn’t!), but I think these would be ideal, esp. if you are a person who can’t tolerate money panic:
Good health insurance!
The ability take a real maternity leave, whether employee-sponsored (as it should be) or enough savings to cover yourself comfortably for at least 3 months and ideally 5–6 months (dare 2 dream). This is a money thing and also a career thing — are you at a place in your career where you would be able to sort of fade out for a few months and feel okay with it? Not wanting to miss out / unplug led to a lot of stress for me as a new parent.
And then, most critically I’d say, an extra $1000/month in your budget for daycare and other expenses. Our childcare costs have varied based on where we live (i.e., this may not cover it in New York) but I think once you have an extra $1000 in your budget that you find yourself either saving or spending on discretionary stuff you’d be willing to reel in: you can afford a kid.
Health insurance, an employment situation that is supportive enough for you to step away from for 3–6 months, and an extra $1k/mo. Yes being debt-free and having an emergency savings plan is good, too: three months of living expenses saved somewhere would be very soothing as you lie awake with pregnancy insomnia wondering wtf you just did.