Planning your next child – it’s complicated
Deciding to have another child is right up there with other life-changing decisions like a career change or moving to another country. It’s not an easy decision and there is no right or wrong decision.
People respond differently to having a child. Some couples love the baby experience and can’t wait to welcome another little person; others find the experience overwhelming and need a few years to recover before they can enter the fray again.
Many factors come into play and each family is unique and have unique circumstances making it impossible to suggest an ideal time to expand a family. Here are some factors to consider if you are thinking about having another child.
Physical health considerations
Giving birth takes a lot out of a woman’s body. For instance, it is not ideal for a woman to fall pregnant within six months of giving birth, as the body needs to recover after childbirth. Women who conceive within 12 months of giving birth run a number of health risks. The risks extend to the baby as well, including low birth weight and an increased risk for long-term health problems.
However, the World Health Organization’s recommendation that women allow a minimum of two-year between pregnancies has been called into question. Researchers at Curtin University found waiting 24 months to conceive again may be unnecessarily long for mothers in high-income countries such as Australia, Finland, Norway, and the United States.
If you had a C-section with your first child, keep in mind that it’s not advisable to get pregnant within 12 months of giving birth. And if you want to try for a vaginal delivery, keep in mind that there’s a risk of uterine rupture especially if the two deliveries are less than 18 months apart.
Consult with your healthcare giver to be sure about the optimal time for your body to carry a little human being to term again.
Mental health considerations
Having a new baby is a huge decision that will affect your family profoundly. How do you feel about the night shift that can carry on for months, constantly feeling exhausted, and living in a seemingly eternal mess? Make sure you are mentally prepared by reminding yourself that however bad those first months get, they don’t last forever. Make a mental note to watch yourself for signs of burnout or postpartum depression and try to have a plan in place to handle it should it occur.
Planning another child inevitably affects your relationship with your partner. Couples are not automatically ready for a next child at the same time. Make sure you know how your partner feels and be sure to talk the issue through. Proceed with the pregnancy only once you both are sure that you are ready to extend your family.
Having a new baby becoming part of the family is also a big deal for your firstborn, who has had all the attention up to now. The age of your child plays a role here. A toddler doesn’t have a strong sense of their status as the only child and is unlikely to show jealousy. It’s not always possible to know how an older child may react, whether with great excitement or resentment. Here you have to play psychologist and make sure that you find ways to reassure your child. In my experience, most children love babies, are proud to have them as part of the family, and can’t wait to play big sister or brother.
- Are you ready for the chaos?
Life changes completely when you have a second child. With just one child, you still had ample time to yourself but as soon as the second child arrives all those stolen moments when your firstborn was happily playing by himself or taking a nap are now taken up by the new baby. It’s not so difficult to go out to dinner or away for a weekend if you have to deal with only one child, but with two or more, even a simple outing can become challenging.
Some mothers manage to get their firstborns into a daily routine that makes everyone’s life more manageable, but enter baby number two, that carefully crafted routine is likely to fall apart as it’s difficult to sync the sleeping patterns of two small children, especially in the first few months.
Depending on the age difference, you may find yourself with two little ones in nappies, using bottles, and not sleeping through the night. Babies and small children are a lot of work and with two of them, it’s twice the work. Many household chores won’t get done or will only get done with a baby hanging on your hip.
Before you commit to the second, third or fourth child, take a minute to consider the practical realities of another human being to care for.
- Can your finances handle another child?
Life is expensive and bringing a child into this world has very real financial implications. Apart from the cost of the birth and everything that leads up to it, raising a child is costly. And these days, due to astronomical childcare costs, going back to work won’t necessarily relieve your financial burden – you may find that your whole salary goes to paying for childcare.
Money isn’t everything, but enough of it is necessary to raise a healthy family. What you don’t want is the stress of caring for a baby compounded by financial stress.
- Your living space may change
If you don’t live in a big house with multiple bedrooms, you may have to rethink your living space. A little newborn will fit in a crib next to your bed, but eventually, that little person will require more spacious sleeping arrangements.
You may have to give up the office you started using during COVID, or acquire another bed so your kids can share a bedroom. If you have been coping in a small apartment, the addition of another family member may force you to find larger accommodation and that will eat into your budget.
Having said that, it’s also true that millions of babies have been born in less than ideal circumstances. Once you hold that new being in your arms, all thoughts of ideal circumstances disappear anyway.
And young couples who raise their children while traveling the world will tell you that they don’t need to own a home to raise a family. All that’s required is an environment where you feel settled and comfortable to raising a child.
Consider the age gap
While there is no such thing as an ideal age gap between siblings, the length of time between births has very real implications for parents and siblings. Planning short intervals between births means you can finish with the baby mode in a relatively short time, and the siblings are likely to form a strong bond. On the other hand, brothers and sisters spaced further apart allow parents to devote time to each child. And children who are born too far apart might be lifetime strangers.
Having said that, it’s also true that there are siblings born months apart who can’t stand each other, and I know of siblings ten years apart who love each other to bits. Human beings are unpredictable, so don’t worry too much about finding the ideal age gap.
Most importantly… do you want to have another baby?
This is the most important question to answer. Are you considering it because you want another child or for one of these reasons:
- You want to save your marriage
- You are told your child needs a sibling
- Your partner wants another child
- Your biological clock is running out
The answer you come up with when you discard these reasons will tell you what’s going on in your heart of hearts. Listen to your inner voice and trust yourself. Ultimately, that is all that really counts.
How do you feel about having another child? Do you feel ready? Tell us what’s going on for you in the comments below. We’d love to support you!