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Child Spacing: Waiting For Number Two

 

AppleMark

Growing up, I thought I wanted my children two years apart. I'm almost 5 years older than my sister, 7 years older than my brother, and 15 years older than another sister. I felt like the age gaps were generations. Though I'm close to my siblings now, I didn't have a warm, fuzzy childhood of sibling bonding, and I wanted that for my own family. Now, I realize that it's an unpredictable mix between a crap shoot and family dynamics that creates a close family, rather than a specific age gap.

 

There are so many articles and forums and Facebook pages teeming with questions about ideal spacing, and no matter what great advice Mama2Five and her cronies gives, it's a very individual choice. Because our national average is about 2 years apart, it can feel like you're "behind the times" if you wait much past for your child's first birthday to get pregnant. That's how I felt, at least, given the fact that I was asked almost daily by strangers, family, friends, and anyone who knew I had one "aging" child, when the second was coming along. Old ladies at the post office made comments that I better hurry up with another, that one child would be spoiled and not know how to share, or get along in the world. Friends made innocent but sometimes stinging comments that Anabella "just needed a sibling."  And when we finally told people I was pregnant, there wasn't that same surprised joy as with the announcement of Anabella. People were happy for us, but I actually heard, "It's about time!" and "I figured you'd have to get pregnant one of these days." Not exactly a warm, fuzzy congratulations. 

 

I am sharing our story in hopes that it may resonate with others who are choosing that "longer-than-average" gap. This isn't a prescription or a one-size-fits-all. It wasn't a decision that came easy. But after tears, questions, varying levels of confidence in our decision, and ultimately surrendering to what will be, will be, Mark and I decided to wait almost 4 years between the birth of our first and second children.

 

My Body

Around the time my daughter was a year old, many of my new mom friends were getting pregnant! I, however, was still in physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction, as a result of a bad tear (and even worse misdiagnosis of the issue) during childbirth. So, never mind an imminent delivery on an already sensitive area, just romping around the bedroom for baby-making wasn't ringing bells of joy for me. I was still nursing around the clock, 10-12 times a night, and feeling pretty exhausted from being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease a few months earlier. Adding a newborn to the mix just didn't feel right. Still, a part of me was really sad as we approached AnaBella's second birthday, and I realized she'd never have that little sister (of course it would be another girl!) so close in age.

I also wanted to give my body a chance to recover from the demands of heavy nursing. I knew it would take extra attention on my part to replenish my calcium stores, and get my abs and body back in shape for carrying another child.

 

My Buddy

I'm just going for aliteration here, but my husband wasn't ready either. He has a really demanding job, and several times a year, for 1-2 months each, he's at the office until 8-10pm. He was studying for an exam that's only offered once per year, so on those nights he didn't have to work late, he was out studying. Mark didn't want to miss a whole year of babyhood, and didn't want to put pressure on me to carry the weight of two kids, and a household.

 

My Baby

As much as I wanted another baby, by the time Anabella was two, we were having so much fun! She used the potty on her own,  communicated clearly (well, at least I thought she did), was an amazing little person, and I just didn't want to have to share this special time, or take away from the freedom we had to spend all day at the park, or the museum, or the library. I knew it would be harder to tow around two, and wanted to cherish every moment I had with her alone.

 

Also, as I mentioned, Anabella was nursing pretty frequently until about age 2.5, and then she finally weaned shortly after I found out I was pregnant. I didn't want to wean her prematurely, and I didn't want my milk supply to dry up during those first two years. I wanted to give her a strong foundation of love and attention, so that when another baby came, she felt confident, and independent. When Anabella hit age 3, she really blossomed in these areas, and it's been amazing to see. There were times when I wondered if she'd ever play alone or leave my side at a party. Now, she's outgoing, friendly, strikes up conversations with adults and children alike, and enjoys dancing and singing anywhere she can find a "stage." If we had a new baby in the house during that pivotal transitional time, I'm not sure she would be where she is emotionally.

 

...And despite all these solid reasons, I still cried and pouted several times throughout the decision-making process. (Usually my husband was the one reminding me that it was best for us to wait.) Anabella's new baby brother or sister will be born a few months shy of her fourth baby, and we are thrilled. It was actually a bit of a surprise (we were going to wait for a full 4 year gap), but an unexpectedly joyful one! 

 

How far apart are your children? What factors weighed on your decisions?

 

 

Megan is a freelance writer, and author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year. She's mother of three year old AnaBella, and currently cooking bun #2 in the oven, due in February.

Comments (5)

You story of how annabelle is tempermant wise gives me so much hope for our DD. She's an amzaing articulate little person and outgoing on her own terms, but still very clingy and shy around a lot of situations.
at almost 2 she is nowhere near sleeping through the night, still nursing twice a day, and very much a mommy's girl.
I struggle with the idea of TWO "babies" at once and yet have felt the pull for a second very strongly. Thanks for this as it was something I needed to read.
Needed this right about now! My firstborn is about 18 months, and it seems like all of my friends with babies the same age are either pregnant or trying. (I have at least one friend who already had her second!) I am currently planning to wait until my son turns 2 before trying for #2, but I must admit that being surrounded by so many pregnant friends makes it easy to second-guess all of the reasons we've decided to wait. It's always refreshing to hear from others who are spacing their kids a little farther apart.
Bobbinbopbop, HUGS! I have been there. I actually wrote a longer piece about the constant night nursing, and how we got through it. I feel like there are fewer stories floating around that encourage moms that it's all going to be OK! If you're practicing some form of attachment or gentle parenting, it may take a little longer to see some of those developmental milestones (STTN, weaning, independence), but they will come! Here's our story: http://theotherbabybook.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/sleep-deprivation-and-weaning-a-toddler/
Holly, I sometimes had trouble trying to figure out if I was really ready, or just didn't want to be left off the baby bandwagon! Every day though, I am more thankful we waited. Having this time with my daughter and getting to really heal my body (not to mention having a husband who will be present!) is invaluable! Good luck!
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I find it really upsetting, as a woman, how society puts so much pressure on us to have multiple babies, and even worse, to have them back to back! As if our body didn't just endure 9 months of physical labor on top of the ACTUAL labor itself...
Anyway, I commend you for waiting, no matter how hard it was for you, until your child was just independent enough and you had to chance to get to know her little personality. I'm 24 and I have three children. The first being born when I was 20, then 22, then 23 (and I'm currently three months pregnant with my fourth). This has taken a toll on my body and while none of them were exactly "planned" by definition, I am kinda glad that they're all around the same age. Sure, sometimes it gets a bit hectic and chaotic, but they are sweet little angels who, suprisingly enough, don't give me too hard of a time. Plus, my partner is an amazing father. He helps me with one or two while I'm taking care of the other one or two... we're constantly switching roles, but here we are, taking care of our little ones. Sure, I wish I would have waited in between, but I'm honestly super happy with my big family. This is my last one so it's an even bigger deal for me.
But I am happy for you. Stay strong and don't listen to what people have to say about yet another baby. It's a decision between you and your husband, because quite frankly, you two are the main ones raising your child(ren). And plus, you went through some unfortunate things throughout your pregnancy, and I'm sorry to hear about all that, so it was definitely a good thing you let your body mend. Congrats on the new addition! :)
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