Sunday, 11 January 2015
Trying for a baby while at the in-laws?
Planning to start making babies while living under your parents' roof? Creaking floorboards and squeaky bed springs are the least of your worries says Lizzie Catt
Trying for a baby is not necessarily the most romantic time for a couple. Let's face it, for those who don't fall pregnant during a glorious moment of heady passion, the whole thing can become a bit of a chore. If early morning temperature-taking and weeing on fertility monitor sticks isn't enough to kill the mood, you'll also have to muster enthusiasm for monthly bouts of the least spontaneous sex you'll ever have. And to make matters worse, an increasing number of couples – part of what's been dubbed the 'Boomerang Generation' – are now having to do all this while living with their parents.
This Boomerang Generation – an army of cash-strapped, overgrown kids living with mum and dad again – is growing fast
Last year the Office for National Statistics reported that there are now 286,000 'multi-family' households in the UK, where adult offspring have returned home with a partner in tow. Analysts say multi-family set-ups are the fastest growing household type, rising by 40 per cent in a decade.
Holly Thomas, personal finance expert, explains: 'The growing number of young adults living with parents just goes to show the severity of the situation. We spend our twenties trying to establish our careers then struggle to get on the property ladder in our thirties because we need such huge deposits.
This is a new reality for many couples who have no choice but to move back home and save the rent they would have otherwise been paying.' And for many, this move coincides exactly with the time in their life when they're hoping to conceive.
Picture the scene: You're both late home from work, tired and grumpy, but it's ovulation time and there is lovemaking to be completed. Deed done, you swing your legs up onto the headboard for conception optimisation purposes – and there's a knock on the bedroom door. It's your mum. 'Did you want some of this shepherd's pie for lunch tomorrow? I've put some in a Tupperware in the fridge...'
Believe me, it happens. My husband Will and I joined the Boomerang Generation when we moved in with my parents in 2012.
And like many others, we weren't just on a mission to save up for a home of our own – we wanted a baby to put in it. Returning from honeymoon, we packed up our rented flat and traipsed to the front door of my parents' house carting several suitcases, two cats, a droopy peace lily and my 36-year-old, loudly ticking biological clock, only marginally less obvious than Big Ben.
It took almost a year and many a furtive fumble to get to a healthy 12-week scan, and Will is quite possibly traumatised for life after having to repeatedly feign exhaustion and head to bed at 9pm while his in-laws, knowing very well that it was ovulation week, played along with the charade. We're not the only ones. Katy, 32, and her husband David, 34, were already trying for a baby when they moved in with her parents while renovations were carried out on the crumbling 'doer-upper' they'd bought nearby. She found the experience a bit of an ordeal.
'We hadn't told my parents we were hoping to get pregnant – they would've died of embarrassment!' Katy explains. 'I think my dad would actually prefer it if we slept in separate beds. But I didn't want to stop trying, although after an excruciating incident as a teenager when my mum – who is obsessive about cleaning – found a condom in my bin, I went completely over the top trying to hide the evidence.
'I was using a fertility monitor, which I kept hidden in a sock, and I was so worried about her finding the used sticks that I'd throw them away in the bin by the bus stop on the way to work. I once made David take one to dispose of and he confessed later that he accidentally ended up carrying it around in his pocket for a week!'
Teenage sweethearts Monica and Simon, now 33, made a pact that they would start trying for a baby when they turned 30 and stuck to this plan, even though they found themselves living with Simon's parents after he was made redundant. They quickly stumbled on a passion-killing pitfall.
'We fell foul of Simon's bedroom still being full of his teenage belongs. In one session he got his foot caught in the strings of an old guitar and fell over with a crash, causing his mum to run upstairs in a panic,' says Monica. 'We only just managed to leap under the duvet in time and it was quite obvious what was going on. I don't know who was more mortified. That was the last spontaneous moment we had for a while.'
Relationship coach Susan Quilliam agrees that trying to conceive under the parental roof is going to be tough. 'Just as when you're a teenager trying to make love in the same house as your parents, it's incredibly stressful. As for how your mum and dad feel about it, it's clearly better when you're married and trying for a baby but the sheer practicalities of noise and space may well impact on your fertility – not only on whether you get pregnant, but how often you have sex.
'One of the big things about getting pregnant is how often you do it – and you won't be doing it five times a night and all day at the weekend when you're living with your mum and dad!'
But there are ways of coping with it. Will and I only really got started on baby-making in earnest after we'd bought a solidly built superking bed and stuffed the creaking, squeaking futon from my parents' spare room into our storage unit. By that point I could have cheerfully set fire to it.
Katy and David, now happily expecting their first baby, used a very unromantic schedule to remind them when they could be carefree. 'My parents go away a lot, so we put the dates into our phone calendars and set pop-up reminders a few days before they were off so we knew we'd be able to look forward to having sex,' Katy explains.
'It was hard enough getting to grips with my fertile dates, let alone hoping that my parents' holidays would coincide with my cycle. But when they did go away it was great. A double joy, actually, as we could leave dirty plates in the sink too!'
Bada bing, baby
Monica and Simon, parents to Jack, aged 18 months, relied on violent box sets to get a little privacy. 'My dad had converted the bedroom next to mine into a cinema room with a huge TV and surround sound,' explains Simon. 'When Monica and I were trying to "make a baby", we put on very loud episodes of The Sopranos as our soundtrack!
We joked about calling the baby Tony, after Tony Soprano.'
For some, however, it's all too much. 'We lived with my in-laws for six months,' says Penny, 37. 'To be honest, our sex life took a nose dive during those months – there's nothing like the worry that your father-in-law is about to burst in to tell you about his latest DIY project to put a dampener on all things erotic. So plans to start a family of our own were put firmly on hold until we were clear of the one we were residing with, and I hid my folic acid tablets in my knicker drawer.
I got pregnant with my daughter shortly after we moved out.' Now that Will and I are set up in our own home and looking forward to the arrival of our baby, that first unconventional and, quite frankly, stressful year of marriage seems well worth the difficulties. And if you can get through those sorts of challenges together, parenthood should be a doddle, says Susan Quilliam: 'Make no mistake, it's a big test of a relationship. If you can survive this, then actually having a baby is probably going to be easy peasy - although there may well be times when you disagree!'