The Myth of the ‘Perfect Time’ to Have a Baby

My daughter, Lucia, in a custom onesie

In the Excel sheet of my life plan, I was ready for my first baby at 29. I had made quick work of my twenties and it seemed the perfect time: a fantastic husband, a great job at Twitter, some published books under my belt. It turned out, though, that my baby wasn’t ready for me.

When all the fertility treatments were a mere speck in the rear window, I was 32.

The pregnancy wasn’t without its complications, and having to take time off from Twitter in the early months was an essential step in making sure that baby Lucia came into the world the hairy-headed, scrawny human she was. In those first few months of pregnancy, I did a whole lot of nothing. On most days, I laid in bed watching Agatha Christie movies, keeping the persistent nausea at bay with pans of gluten-free Kraft macaroni. An hour before Twitter’s IPO, I felt Lucia kick for the first time. I was supremely useless, and it was supremely essential.

But then, by the time things started going pretty smoothly and we weren’t worried anymore about how the strands of her DNA were snapping into place, I started to get sloppy. I got on too many planes. And I piled on the work.

A week before Lucia’s due date, I had a new book coming out. Hope Runs, which I co-wrote with my foster son, Sammy, charted our journeys together from the orphanage in Kenya where we met in 2006 to present-day Mexican food-eating in California. In the acknowledgements, I asked my unborn child: “Please don’t come a week early, so Mamá can launch this book.”

She didn’t listen.

When she leapt onto the scene nearly a month before I expected her to, I was surprised, to say the least.

The majority of my experience live-tweeting the birth of @Lucia was punctuated by me, like a supremely boring broken record, saying to my husband, “I can’t believe this is happening. Now.”

This was not in the plan.

And, as a die-hard planner (see Life Planning Excel sheet), I was entirely unprepared.

And thus began one of the stupidest periods of my life.

The period in which I immediately realized that having a baby wasn’t just one more thing I could manage with Basecamp. The baby took over. And the sleeplessness ruined me, and it became all too clear that the second I had found I was pregnant I should’ve put my foot down and tattooed a big old NO on my forehead. No, I can’t publish a book the month the baby is born. No, I can’t be expected to fly anywhere. No, I can’t be counted on reliably to shower or dress or do anything that requires fine motor skills.

These days, when I hear about women taking short maternity leaves, I commend them. I am in awe. Truly. To each her own. More power to you, you superwoman. But that’s not me.

I love work, too. But I can’t do it until my baby sleeps through the night.

Until that time, if you need someone to watch three entire seasons of Scandal with a breast pump as my witness, I’m your gal.

For another anything else, email me in five months.

Looking back now, I see that I didn’t have Lucia at the perfect time in my career. There were other times — like at 29, say — that might have fit more seamlessly into my Excel sheet. But it happened when it was supposed to, and much good came of that. Great career things (like helping the Pope to tweet) happened during the years I waited for her to arrive, and by the time she did appear I was confident enough in my work to take all the time I wanted to hang out with her drooling self.

Ultimately, though, there is no perfect time. And therein enters the advice of my own mother — who told me the same thing, more or less, one day long ago when I was whining about the timing of meeting the man I would marry in Argentina just as I started my MBA a hemisphere away at Oxford. “There’s no perfect time for this family stuff. You just have to do it.”

So that’s the story, more or less, of why I became a Mom when I did.

Why did you?

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