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Suzanne Power: Remember it really does take two to become a parent

A friend has just left her boyfriend temporarily, because they got on too well. I'm not making this up. He is keen to start a family and she realised it isn't what she wants. So she's moved in with a friend to take some time to think it through.

The 21st century has brought more choices and one of them is not to have children. Fifty years ago, most thirtysomethings would have been parents of pubescent offspring. Now, the game has changed and the rules have yet to catch up.

What do you do in this situation? First and foremost, talk about it. But what if one of you really doesn't want the burden, the responsibility, the life and mind altering fact of a child?

A priest I know, who runs pre-marriage courses, is amazed how many couples decide to get married without thinking about children: "I think if you're setting a date then you need to know if you're thinking the same way about starting a family."

Dr Phil, the best bald counsellor on the subject of love and the expectations between men and women, has a few words about this: "If you want a baby and the person you love doesn't, there is no point coercing or ignoring the reticent partner's views. To have a baby you need to physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare, together."

It's not about checking when you ovulate then, but whether you're with the right person. A hard thing to do when you're married or have made a real commitment to them. But necessary.

When I conceived I was 32 and, up to one month before I did, I was unsure about having children. A conversation with an older woman persuaded me that my fear was not knowing what would happen to me when I became a mother. I got real and got pregnant straight away with twins. If their dad and I hadn't really wanted them then I don't know what I would have done when they arrived. I needed his help so much. When it came to whether we would have more children there were two obstacles: we might have twins again and he didn't want another baby.

I didn't want to coerce my partner or put the pressure of another multiple pregnancy and delivery on us and our boys. I struggled with baby hunger and the older wiser woman again set me straight: "It's a biological need, as well as an emotional one. Remember that when you're facing up to your decision."

It's even harder for couples who haven't had a child, when only one wants to. One woman I know of has been honest that she doesn't and had a lot of guys walk away. She has become a brilliant stepmother. And I know one man who went through with conceiving for his wife's sake: "It was a really testing time. I didn't know whether I would be able to love the baby. I really only got my head on straight when they put my daughter in my arms". Many people who persuade a partner to have a child rely on this moment to work its magic, and it does for most. But alongside joy it brings sleepless nights, endless responsibilities and financial pressure that can buckle the strongest.

Taking the decision together, working through issues before you have a nine-month deadline imposed, can make all the difference.