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Baby Number Two: How Soon Is Too Soon?

Apr28

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Dear Amy,

Hello, I’ve been reading your blog for the last week or so and I find you hilarious and your advice sound and really helpful. So I have a question for you. My husband and I have a 16 month old son, he is the light of our life. Recently we have been considering having another baby, my husband wants another baby, like right now! We both want a big family and to have our children at least semi close together age-wise.

But every time we mention that we are hoping to have another one sometime next year people look at us like we are crazy, and ask us why we want our children that close together and I know they kind of scoff at our financial situation (we are both about to enter our final year of college in Sep.). So I wonder, is it too soon to have another baby? When is the right time? We both definitely want more children and I am really looking forward to the prospect of being pregnant again (I know, I know… WHY?) and having baby number two. But I’m afraid maybe these scoffers know something I don’t about having two small children or having them close together. What do you think?

Sincerely,
J

You know, I personally file this topic — the whole having-more-babies-and-when topic — under the category of topics you simply don’t need to talk to other people about. Just stop mentioning it. It’s not their family, their situation, their decision and it’s just not any of their business. Plus — like discussing potential baby names — the feedback you get is almost guaranteed to be unhelpful. Some people are like, “OMG UR CRAZY,” while other people are just gonna be all “OMG R U PREGNANT YET? WHAT ABOUT NOW? OR NOW?” every time they see you because babiezzz!!1!

You are under no obligation to “mention” your plans to anyone, nor are you obligated to announce to the world that you intend to engage in unprotected sex that you hope will result in another pregnancy (AKA going around telling people that you’re “officially trying!”). Like a baby name, keep it to yourself until you actually have a real announcement to make, so people will (presumably) have enough manners to act happy and not be all vocal with the judgment over your choices.

You guys want another baby. You’re both on board with the idea of another baby. You guys want siblings close in age together. And you guys (I assume) can do your own maths and budgets and think you can swing another pregnancy and baby just fine, despite still being in school. All right then! Assuming you are not financially dependent on anyone else and/or living in someone’s basement and using them for free childcare, there isn’t anyone else who gets say in this decision.

I’m guessing someone you “mentioned” your plans to is concerned about your ability to finish college, which is valid. Or your ability to find work and launch a career with two very young children to care for. Also valid. You don’t mention if you’re in undergrad or grad school, so it’s possible that people are more concerned that you’re too young or rushing things and are just using the spacing thing as a stand-in for their real worries. That one’s subjectively valid. (I got married at 20, but am very glad we waited until my late 20s to have children, but it’s an entirely personal, YMMV thing.)

But unless I’m missing something about your living situation or level of financial independence here, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are capable adults in a solid relationship who are both aware of these issues, and that you feel confident that having children now won’t completely derail your options and plans later. (Or that any sacrifice is worth it, in order to have the family size/sibling dynamic you want.)

As for the “do these people know something I don’t about having kids close together” thing, I’m more questioning these people’s ability to like, do math and stuff. Your son is 16 months old. Assuming you were to get pregnant RIGHT THIS MINUTE, you would still not have the baby until after his second birthday. That’s…not really unusual? Two years apart is pretty common spacing, I’d say. I’d maybe raise my eyebrows if you said your son was like, three or four months old, but two years apart? Meh. Which again makes me suspect that the reactions you’re getting have a lot more to do with your age and school/financial situation, rather than the spacing issue in and of itself.

(So…I guess if you DID leave out the part about living in your parents’ basement and not being at all financially independent or able to finish school without using them for free babysitting…maybe consider slowing your roll a little, since their objections actually should carry a little weight in that particular situation.)

But if the scoffers are just your fellow college students projecting their own not-readiness to have children because that’s simply not where they’re at in life yet, whatever. Different strokes and stuff.

But look. You know. You’ve had a baby. I don’t need to state the obvious, here. You know the commitment and the work and the costs. I’m sure you are aware that two babies are more work and money than one, as delightful and rewarding as they are. (And remember that the costs don’t magically all go away once you’ve bought the crib and stroller and have some hand-me-downs.) (MY GROCERY BILL, YOU GUYS. Good lord.) Plenty of people have children two years apart (or less!). Plenty of people have children while young, or while they’re still pursuing college degrees. Plenty of people wait to have children until their finances are stable and they own a house and can fund multiple college savings plans.

And lots of people fall somewhere in between, believing that there’s no “perfect” time or age spacing or any of that — you just do what feels right for you, for your family.

(Or, in our case, while we endlessly debated whether or not we were ready for baby number THREE — or completely insane for even contemplating a third — we found out we were already pregnant and that baby number three was happening, ready or not.)

(Spoiler alert: We were totally ready.)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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21 Responses to “Baby Number Two: How Soon Is Too Soon?”

  1. MR Apr 28 at 8:07 pm Reply Reply

    My siblings and I were all about two years apart (I’m the youngest of 5 kids), and I thought it was a great spacing. So much so, that I wanted my kids to be 2 years apart. But, then we had our first, and she was a HORRIBLE sleeper. So much so that I was still horribly sleep deprived at 16 months, so we waited a bit longer. They are a little less than 3 years apart, and that was good for us. But, a 2 year spacing, is definitely NOT unusual, so shouldn’t be raising that many eyebrows. If you are both ready, go for it! Just remember to be prepared that this baby may not be as easy/difficult as your first. Each child is different, and I know there is a tendency to think your next baby will be just like your first, because that is all you know, but they almost never work that way. Purely from the aspect of, you never know what you are going to get in terms of children, I’d suggest waiting a little bit before trying, just so your due date would be at least a month or two after graduation. I know people who tried to plan for baby to be right around graduation, and baby came a month early, or the night before finals. Made finishing up that much more difficult.

  2. IrishCream Apr 28 at 8:41 pm Reply Reply

    I agree that there’s no right or wrong way to space out your kids, only what works for your family. I’m sure there will be comments from parents whose kids range from ten months to ten years apart, all equally satisfied with their family’s configuration.

    We started trying for #2 when my older daughter turned one. My girls are 22 months apart, and I love it. The first three months were brutal, the next three were rough, but it’s been essentially smooth sailing. They’re three and almost two now, and best friends who spend all their waking hours playing together. The biggest downside…three years of overlapping day care tuitions is no joke. It’s a real strain on our finances, and a big factor in our decision not to have a third (probably. mostly definitely. until I hold a friend’s newborn and then I waaaaaant one of my own.)

  3. z Apr 28 at 11:42 pm Reply Reply

    Well.  I totally agree that it is your business and nobody else’s unless they are supporting you or you live with them.  

    But.  The right time to have a baby is when you have a realistic plan for supporting your family.  It is still a really hard job market out there for new college grads.  Depending on where you live and what you want to do, it varies.  But still, a lot of people are having a really, really hard time finding jobs that pay any salary at all.  

    So I understand if people are uncomfortable when they hear your plans.  If you’re sharing your pregnancy plans without also sharing your plans for looking for a job or grad school or whatever, then I’m not surprised you are receiving some pushback.  People will probably find it easier to get on board if they hear about what you are doing to ensure you can support these kids.  You seem to have a dismissive attitude to people’s financial concerns and that raises red flags for me.  Money is a pretty reasonable worry in this economy, and you don’t mention any reason why their skepticism is unfounded.  

  4. Wade Apr 29 at 2:14 am Reply Reply

    Also, be aware that people are just bizarrely annoying on this topic (so as Amalah says, don’t share “we’re trying.”)

    A friend of mine has two 13 months apart.  She struggled with infertility for years, gave birth prematurely after bedrest, couldn’t breastfeed, and then had a surprise second pregnancy.  She is so sick of “irish twins” comments that she may murder the next person who says anything.

    My two are 25 months apart, and I definitely got comments from older people (who I think were encouraged to have at least three years between kids).  And of course, since I have a boy and a girl, I got a lot of “oh, that’s perfect” in the second pregnancy which irritated me — like two girls would have been a major disappointment.

    In other words, best to ignore dumb things said on this topic, as long as you have your own plans for graduation, working, etc.

  5. J Apr 29 at 2:22 am Reply Reply

    We conceived when our son was 16 months old — his sister is now 2. I am SO glad we have the kiddos we have, because we adore them both — but if I could space them further apart I would do it in a heartbeat.

    At 16 months, our son was perfect. Sleeping through the night, adorable, well behaved, great eater… just as perfect as any 16 month old can be. And we thought ”OMG. We want ten of these! This is amazing!” And we decided to have another perfect baby.

    You know what happened? While I was pregnant, my son turned 2… and it all went downhill from here. I had a kid going through the terrible 2’s, and a newborn… and I went from ”this is amazing” to ”omg this is horrendous” in less than a year. And three is so much worse than 2, by the way.

    Now they’re 4 and 2 they fight like cat and dog. They’re also sweet and lovely and people comment on how amazing they are (and they are!!)… but if you have dreams of them both playing sweetly together… well…they will, but they will scream at each other also! A lot. So much screaming and howling.

    If I were you I’d wait until your kid turns 2 and see how it’s going. But… then again… so many people think it’s a perfect age gap. It’s purely anecdotal… you just have to do what feels right to you if you’re not relying on anybody else to help it work (like living in your parents basement etc).

    • IrishCream Apr 29 at 11:01 am Reply Reply

      I commented above that my two girls play together nonstop. It is very sweet. It is also very loud and every two minutes there is a minor argument, and at least a quarter of those minor arguments escalate into something needing parental intervention.

  6. Rosalie Apr 29 at 9:45 am Reply Reply

    I am pregnant with my second child and my daughter is 14 months (they will be about 17 months apart). I waited until we were done school to start, but barely. I was 23 and had a 0.2 job (one day a week) when I was pregnant with my first and managed to get a 0.4 job (every afternoon) with my second pregnancy. People said I was ruining my chances to land a job when I got pregnant with my first but sometimes you just get lucky and have to have faith that things will work out (living in northern Canada might have something to do with job prospects though). I think it is your job to decide when to have your kids and it depends on Soooo many things. But financial stability is a must!

  7. Carie Apr 29 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    I have a boy and girl two years apart and am pregnant with my third that will be two years apart from my second (SURPRISE!). I think it’s a great age difference. My son wasn’t old enough to really get that he wouldn’t be by himself but didn’t have a lot of memories of being an only child so we don’t really see a lot of jealousy. 

    I just wanted to point out that being pregnant the second time is different. You are going to have to balance school and an active toddler while feeling miserable.  You won’t be able to just focus on the pregnancy and a lot of the attention, especially from other people, just isn’t the same. 

    • MR Apr 29 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

      Yes, and having a newborn is also different the second time around. Because you can’t just nap whenever the baby sleeps, because your older child is awake. That was one of the hardest parts of having a second, was working out how to get enough rest. It seems like everything should just get easier because you know how to do babies, but having to do two babies is very different. All of my friends told me that 1 is 1, 2 is 10, and 3 is 100. I think it was a pretty accurate description.

  8. kimm Apr 29 at 1:19 pm Reply Reply

    Our little boy & baby girl are 3 and 1, 2yrs plus 2 weeks apart. I love them, think its perfect spacing. My sweet boy loves his sister so much, has a special nickname for her,&if I dont bring her to him when he wakes up he goes to find her & they play every day. It was tricky at first, thought I would never stop saying Gentle ! All day long, but he finally is most of the time,& he is her favorite person. We gave him a real looking baby doll before she was born and talked a lot about what babies do, I think that helped too.

  9. Sarah Apr 29 at 2:27 pm Reply Reply

    My brothers and I are all 3 years apart, and I always looked at friends who were 2 years apart and envied their seemingly-closer relationships. 3 years was just enough to be at different stages, but similar enough to still be competitive with each other. With my own, I think I’d like to space them at either 2 or 4 years. 4 years seemed to really allow for an older-younger dynamic without all the competition my brothers and I had.

    OTOH, my mother clearly felt 3 years was a good spacing for her. (Although she knows what I mean when I mention the above to her.)

  10. Kim too Apr 29 at 5:13 pm Reply Reply

    After years of infertility and ART for my first child, I got pregnant spontaneously  five days before our COBRA healthcare ran out. My husband had been unemployed for months.  My daughter and I were put on state assistance for healthcare.  My second was born 2 weeks after my husband started his new job, right after we paid what would’ve been our last mortgage payment had he not been hired.
    She’s now four, he’s still at that job, we are all healthy and happy and if we are not leading the upper middle class life I did as a child, we are not hurting for anything.  It all works out. Go for it.

  11. kim too Apr 29 at 5:18 pm Reply Reply

    oh, and my girls are 3 years and 2 weeks apart.  They get along fabulously and are terrific friends.   Spacing doesn’t insure that they will get along or they won’t. Some of that is my stellar parenting, I’m sure, but mostly I think it has to do with luck.

  12. Shannon Apr 29 at 9:37 pm Reply Reply

    I wanted my kids 3 years apart & it worked out perfectly for us. I was not ready to even think about another baby for the first 2 years. When my baby was born, my older one had a bit of independence, was totally potty-trained & had a good understanding of how to treat the baby. Now they are 1.5 & 4.5 years and they get along great & play together. My second was born while I was working on my doctoral dissertation but I purposely timed it so I would be finished all my classes. Timing your kids 2 years apart is very common & certainly doable. I would advise you to try to plan it so you are both finished your classes if possible. You may be much more tired with the second pregnancy & postpartum period when taking care of a toddler all day so it will be harder to do homework & study.

  13. Olivia Apr 29 at 10:44 pm Reply Reply

    Personally, I’m really happy with our three year spacing. We originally discussed spacing them two years apart, but when my daughter turned one we both felt she was still too much “baby” and wanted to give her, and a subsequent sibling, the opportunity to be the only baby. In the end, I don’t think it matters much to the kids because it is what it is, but as a parent I think that extra year was so beneficial.

    By the time my second was born my daughter was really communicating well, she was potty trained, and she was ready to go to preschool part time. She was done nursing and she was sleeping thru the night. And she was capable of truly being helpful with things like fetching diapers. She was also old enough to play quietly while I napped with the baby. She adored her brother and was trustworthy enough to let her watch him while I showered or started dinner. I don’t think that would have been possible when she was two.

  14. Kate May 01 at 3:03 pm Reply Reply

    I like to joke that you see a lot of kids spaced roughly 2 years apart because that 16-20 month stage is so adorable but you don’t see a lot of kids around 3 years apart because 2 year olds are so difficult. 

    That being said we were shooting for 2.5 – 3 yrs apart because DH and I are both 2 yrs 2 months apart from a (same gender) younger sibling and in our experiences that led to a lot of competitiveness and not awesome relationships with said sibling as a result (at least not until adulthood). My daughter is 3 days short of 2.5 yrs younger than my son and although after she was born I had a few months of “this was too soon” now at 2.5 and 5 (as of tomorrow) they’re great buddies. They’re such good buddies in fact that I’m already panicking about what that will mean for their relationship with the potential younger sibling we’ve been trying for.

    TL;DR
    2 years is common but hard; ymmv on what that means for their relationship with each other.

  15. Jules May 01 at 9:17 pm Reply Reply

    My boys are 18 months apart. Yes, we got a lot of side-eye for that, but it was our decision. TBH though, it was very, very hard up until the baby turned 1. Nevermind being pregnant while catering to your older child’s needs, having an 18 month old going through a sleep regression and a newborn who sleeps odd hours means ZERO SLEEP FOR MAMA.

    That said, it all works out in the end. And really, what’s a rough year or two compared to the lifelong joy your children will give to you – and everyone else in their lives?

  16. Suzy Q May 01 at 9:19 pm Reply Reply

    I second the admonition for people to just stop communicating their reproductive plans. Most people don’t care what your plans are. Also, when people announce that they are “trying,” it becomes VERY uncomfortable to hear.

  17. nora1 May 02 at 5:24 am Reply Reply

    My two babies are 18.5 months apart. I was amazed at some of the comments people felt comfortable making when we announced my second pregnancy. Several people came right out and said, ‘Oh, that must have been a shock!’ implying that the pregnancy was accidental, which it was not. My partner was so enthusiastic to have another baby right away and i surprised myself by being willing to start trying, and got pregnant almost straight away. I don’t believe for a second that there is one right way to have a family, I think you just do what feels right and things will work out. Having two close together has its hard bits but in other ways having two made some things about parenting fall into place. For example, baby#1 was never interested in going to bed early, and bedtime was still a huge (and late!) production every night…until his sister arrived and loved sleeping, and somehow they both started going to sleep at 7.30pm every night. so although the days can be tiring, we now have our evenings to ourselves again. They are so sweet together and I would not change a thing even when they are fighting over their toys (how can they continuously fight over their toys? they have several MILLION!) good luck to you…

  18. Emily Huston May 05 at 8:21 am Reply Reply

    Well, I and my sibling is 2 yrs apart and   this gap is pretty well. We are good sisters and best friends too. We never felt the need of another friend to be so close. I, therefore decided to plan the next baby once he is 2 yrs and that gap will give sufficient time to overcome financial distress and physical health. 

  19. Marissa May 09 at 11:44 pm Reply Reply

    To inject a little science here: if you really want to know what the optimal spacing is for kids in terms of maternal and infant health, the answer is 3-5 years (cite: http://www.rhcatalyst.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Programs_Birth_Spacing_Optimal_Interval). In a Western country, these sorts of risks are tiny to begin with, so you may or may not care, but I find it to be worthwhile information.

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