Second Time Around
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
JULY 14, 2016
Not so long ago, a "graduate" of one of the mom's groups I run, came back to visit. I'd heard that she'd recently delivered her second child, and she stopped by the group to say hello and introduce me to her son. I was thrilled to see her, and hear how she was doing, this second time around. Her first question was to ask if I would please run a group for second time moms, as she already knew how to survive the newborn period, but was struggling with how to survive with a newborn and a toddler! But that’s something beyond the scope of this brief blog….
I remember many conversations in the group where she addressed her uncertainty about when to have her next baby. Her husband was pushing for sooner, and she was feeling more like a little later. She'd poll the group members weighing their responses, evaluating the pros and cons of having children closer in age, versus spacing them apart a bit. There were no easy answers, as there were many valid points on either side of the question.
For some moms the issue of spacing pregnancies isn't an active decision, but just happens by default, or is a matter of circumstance. Pregnancies may be spaced closer together for various reasons, including for example contraceptive failure (oops!). Moms over the age of thirty-five or those who had a difficult time conceiving in the first place may feel a greater sense of urgency to start trying again sooner rather than waiting.
Your obstetrician or medical provider familiar with your medical history can address your particular concerns, but for many parents it's more a matter of personality, personal goals, financial and/or career goals that will help guide your decision. Some practical questions for parents to consider are:
- How are we as a couple doing right now? For many parents the impact of parenting on the couple relationship is significant. Before pursuing another pregnancy, it's a good idea to have worked through that adjustment. This leads to question 2...
- Can we agree on when to pursue the next pregnancy? Are you able to find some middle ground and come to an agreement?
- Do we want /can we afford two children in diapers at the same time. (Substitute diapers for car seats, or formula.)
- For parents who are both working, can we afford two children in childcare at the same time? In some childcare settings the cost goes down a bit as children get older.
- What else is going on right now? Are there other stressors such as a new job, new house, family illness or other things that are demanding of your time and energy? If so, it might make sense to put off pregnancy until things feel more settled.
Knowing yourself, your family and how you function best is key. Evaluating your health, age, emotional well- being, financial situation and family relationships can help guide your decision. In the end it doesn't matter what others say, or the results of any informal polling you might do. It's a decision that often comes down to one side of the question feeling more right than the other. If it’s one of those deep down feelings that you’d like to have more than one child, then go for it, and don’t over think it. Knowing or hearing from others that having two children is much more than twice the work is not helpful. Conversely, if having your one child is the right choice for you, then feel confident in that choice and brace yourself for those that may not recognize that their opinion on the number of children you choose for your family is not one you are interested in hearing.