When is the right time for a second baby?
I had one of those transcendent motherhood moments about a month or so ago in a dark ultrasound room of Mercy Hospital.
I was laying on the white-sheeted gurney with warm gel on my belly and an ultrasound tech to my right sitting in front of a monitor. Squeezed in on that thin bed, flush to my left side, was my almost-2-year-old son, tucked under my left arm.
Together, my son, the tech and I, watched a monitor mounted on the wall as a tiny alien blob emerged on the screen. That blob, mostly baby-shaped at just 13 weeks, was my second baby.
“Do you see that on the screen, Silas? It’s a baby,” I told him as he lay motionless, no doubt a bit freaked by the dark room and the tech’s arm extended to my belly.
“Yeah,” he said in a high-pitched whisper of a song that sounded timid and unsure. His default word these days is “yeah,” which I fully appreciate in that it isn’t the universal toddler “no” – yet.
I had spent the week home with him and a resistant fever, watching Sesame Street and Dinosaur Train. He was feeling pretty puny all week, but I was drinking in the cuddles. And there was something profound about cradling my first baby next to me while we watched the beginnings of my second baby emerge on a screen.
“We’re going to have another baby,” I told him.
“Yeah,” he sang softly, eyes wide at the screen.
He had no idea what was going on, and still doesn’t as my belly grows more round. I tell him from time to time that we’re going to have a baby, that he will have a little brother or sister. His response? “My baby.” Everything is “my” and “mine.”
He’ll be about 2 ½ when Baby No. 2 makes his or her debut in September.
I spent very little, if any, time pondering the appropriate age gap between my children. I didn’t think much about when was a good time to try for a second. It just felt right. My husband and I reached a point in parenting where we felt like we had hit our stride, everything was going smoothly, we had a solid, comfortable routine. So why not muck up the equilibrium with a newborn?And once we were pregnant, I figured 2 ½ years was a nice distance (and from what I just read, it’s the national average). But I was surprised at some of the reactions I got with news of my pregnancy.
“You’re young. Why not wait between kids?”
I shouldn’t be surprised, though. When it comes to pregnancy and parenting, everyone has an opinion and no one is afraid to share it. I guess the idea is that more time between babies allows us to dedicate more attention to each young baby during those critical years. We could avoid two babies in diapers (although Operation Potty Training is planned for full force this summer), clear the terrible twos hurdle, make sure Baby No. 1 was in a place where he needed less attention.
My brother and I are just more than two years apart, and we have always been close. (Well, mostly, and we have grown even closer as adults, especially now as we both have entered parenthood.) I imagine our household was pretty insane for a few years, but we turned out OK.
How do you really know if you’re ready for a second baby (or a first for that matter)? Fret not. If listening to your gut, following your heart, and discussing it with your partner isn’t enough, Parents.com has a handy 12-question quiz you can take to see if you’re ready for another. I just took it (I’m now 19 weeks pregnant, folks, the cards have been dealt), and here was the response:“You may want another child, but it sounds like you also have some issues to think about.”
I’ll say. Parents.com kindly reminded me that there are finances to consider. Can we even afford another child? Then there are the first kid’s feelings. Mine’s a mama’s boy so surely he’s in for a rude awakening. And the kicker: consider “if you can handle any more stresses.”
Truth be told, though, I’m terrified of having a newborn again. Most moms relished that time when the baby slept 20 hours a day and cooed and nursed. I still have PTSD looking back on those early weeks. My kid cried nonstop for nine weeks straight. Or it felt like it. And nursing didn’t happen for me, which left me devastated and depressed and distracted. I had no idea what I was doing and lost all my confidence. I was a mess. It took me months to recover, and I fear the recurrence of those old wounds. (Note to self: Find a therapist now. Meet with said therapist and work it out.)
I take some comfort in knowing this isn’t my first rodeo. And maybe Baby No. 2 won’t be so unhappy all the time. Maybe I’ll be able to breastfeed. Maybe I’ll be so distracted wrangling an active toddler and coddling a newborn that I won’t be able to indulge in self-absorbed feelings of new-mother doubt and worry.
Either way, it’s happening. Either way, they’ll be a couple years apart. Either way, we’re having a second baby.
Sara Michael is a first-time mom with Type A tendencies. She likes rules, makes lists, and follows plans. That all seemed to work out fine until she had a baby. Now she balances her need for order and answers with the desire to enjoy the unpredictable journey she is on with her 2-year-old son (and a second on the way). Her day job? She is a writer and editorial director at a health care media company where she manages content for an online publication. Her journalism background started in daily newspapers, covering health, science and government. Follow her on Twitter @sara_the_writer.