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Making the Mommy Call: You or Me?

The decision to add an infant to your family comes after a great deal of thought. If you're in a committed relationship, add another choice: Which of you will carry the baby? The solution depends on your ages, health, lifestyle, financial situation and maybe which of you has the better insurance.

Financial Planning

When expanding your family, there are always aspects of your life to consider aside from the simple emotional joy of having a child. A pregnancy and birth is an expensive undertaking, not only in medical costs but also in the sense that it'll likely impinge heavily on the career of whichever partner is pregnant with the child.

Chris Donaghue, a Los Angeles-based therapist specializing in sex and relationships, suggests taking a hard look at individual finances.

“Knowing this will be such an investment both financially and emotionally,” says Donaghue, featured on the Logo TV show Bad Sex, “consider which partner has the job where the family won’t feel so much of a hit if they don’t have that income for a while. Think about whose income is most needed.”

“The person who has more of a ‘caretaker’ personality style may be the best option to be the supporter, not the carrier, at least for the first child.” —Chris Donaghue, Los Angeles-based therapist specializing in sex and relationships

Further considerations include parental leave and disability. Check to see whose company might provide paid leave and whether you can tap your short-term disability policy. States also provide short-term disability coverage (usually 4 to 6 weeks) while the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees.

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Also take a look at which partner has the best medical insurance, says Barbara Crone, a nurse-midwife in Michigan. "Having a baby is not inexpensive, but insurance can cover a lot of the costs."

Age and Fertility

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz., a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based ob-gyn who counts many celebrity moms among her patients, has some specific ideas about which partner should carry the child.

“One thing to consider is whether both of the women in the couple eventually want to have kids,” Gilberg-Lenz says. “If age is a major factor of both of the partners and both partners want to conceive, then you should go with the older partner, because we know that fertility significantly declines in women between 35 and 40 (years old) and then significantly again after 40. As you get into the higher age category, the chances of fertility with your own eggs definitely decreases.”

An additional vote for the younger partner comes from Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director of the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles. He also notes that female same-sex couples have different options.

"The most cost-effective one is for one of them to do artificial insemination with donor sperm," Sahakian says. "In these instances, I prefer if the person is relatively young, under 35, but they certainly can try even up to age 43."

Another option is to use the eggs of one partner and the sperm of the other partner's brother, thus creating a genetic link between the partners. "In cases where one partner will be the egg source, we prefer that individual to be the younger partner to increase the chances of success," Sahakian adds.

However, age is not the only factor in considering which partner should carry the baby. The couple should also assess the medical history of the person wishing to carry the child.

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“If there's any concern,” Gilberg-Lenz says, “like a history of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, which could affect the Fallopian tubes and fertility, you should be fully evaluated so that you don’t spin your wheels and waste a lot of time. You could very likely become pregnant, but it might require attention.”

Relationship Stability

Emotionally speaking, there are many issues to consider before moving ahead and choosing which partner will carry the baby.

“If your relationship doesn’t feel completely stable, you’re about to move into something that’s even more destabilizing,” Donaghue says.

Something that can help you decide who will carry the baby is taking a look at your relationship "style" and your emotional role in the partnership. “There’s typically one person in the couple who has more what I call ‘self-regulated’ emotions, meaning they’re able to calm themselves easily. These tend to be the ‘caretaker’ types,” Donaghue says.

Donaghue does not suggest that only the most emotionally solid partner should bear a child. Instead, he says the emotional role dictates only in what order the partners should bear their children.

“The person who has more of a ‘caretaker’ personality style may be the best option to be the supporter, not the carrier, at least for the first child,” Donaghue says. “Then, if you have a second baby, you have a better idea of what it’s going to feel like, so the less self-regulated partner would then be ready to be the supportive one.”

Butting Heads: If You're at an Impasse

If you cannot come to a decision that satisfies both partners, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship for a while before moving ahead with having a child.

"If you can’t agree after going through all your options, it may be that you need to ask yourselves: 'Do we always have a problem decision-making together?'" says Chris Donaghue, a Los Angeles-based therapist specializing in sex and relationships, who is featured on the Logo TV show Bad Sex.

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"You should practice decision-making together before you make this big life decision about carrying a child, because how do you think you’ll handle it when, later on, there are choices to make about how to raise your child? … Take some time to make sure your relationship is as stable as it can be,” he says.

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