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two children under two?

To Have “Two Under Two”…Or Not

By Amalah

Hello again!

You’ve already helped me once when I had my mid pregnancy freak out, and now I have another question for you.

I’ve been thinking about when to try for baby number 2. My original thought, before he was born, was to start trying when our son reaches one – so in December. But I didn’t account for how much I miss being pregnant! Which is silly, but no one tells you about the fact that you have this teeny tiny baby in your arms and yet you instantly go back to having bump envy. It’s bonkers.

Though, a couple of weeks ago you answered a question from someone who was talking about how they wanted an 18 month age gap – and practically every commenter underneath that post said how hard their small age gap had been on them and their partner, how it had nearly split them up etc etc and I’ve since been wondering about it.

My pregnancy wasn’t massively physically difficult. I did have spd and towards the end of the pregnancy moving around became difficult and painful. I managed without painkillers for the most part – mainly cause I sat my ass on the sofa a lot – but wouldn’t be able to do that if running round after a toddler/young child. So would a smaller age gap mean that I do less running around? I know he doesn’t stay immobile for long, but he’d still be taking frequent naps etc and I could hopefully put off the painkillers for as long as possible.

My breastfeeding relationship with my son didn’t quite go as I planned either. He didn’t take to it very well to begin with and lost too much weight so we ended up supplementing with formula and I expressed. He’s now at the stage where he takes five 6oz breastmilk feeds a day, with the occasional formula top up if he needs it. I also have a reasonable freezer supply. But I have fed him directly from the boob on a couple of occasions and now I know what I’m more confident, and so is he, he can latch properly and take full feeds from me. I’m worried I’ll forget how if I wait too long.

I think my main thing though is that it took us nearly three years to go from trying to get pregnant to actually having our son. I can get pregnant really easily. Sustaining a pregnancy, well, that bit I’m not so good at. Even if we started trying tomorrow and I was pregnant again in April, well, I’m not so convinced I’d carry to term. I think I still think in my head that it’ll take all that time again to get pregnant, and we’ll have all those problems again and so do I really want to wait a year, or two, to go through a process that took us so long last time? I don’t want that big of an age gap.

So, what, in your experience/observations is a ‘sensible’ (in as much as there can be one) age gap? So far this little one has been fairly straight forward (though when he’s crying for no apparent reason I’m inclined to change my mind at little!) and I know I might not be as lucky next time around. I love this little guy to bits, he’s amazing and made everything seem worthwhile. I’m just pondering when to think about giving him a sibling!

Thanks,
Claire

What’s right and sensible for one family is what’s right and sensible for them, full stop. There are endless (ENDLESS) pros and cons to every single baby-spacing scenario in the book, the end. Most families, however, tend to mostly see the pros after awhile. Or at least see the cons as not really that big of a deal. Because what’s done is done, right?

I could sit here and give you a thoughtful, sensible counterpoint to each of the pros you mentioned (pregnancy spacing has no real impact on your likelihood of breastfeeding success — you’ll remember enough and be more relaxed whenever; 18-month-olds require a different, frantic sort of running-around-after than an older child, since they have yet to really grasp concepts like “no” or “gravity” or “not chewing on power cables”), but then anyone who has done the “two under two” thing and lived to tell about it could easily give ME another dozen counterpoints as to why it’s an EXCELLENT idea.

(Yes, the comments on that post were skewed pretty negative, but I think that was more of a response to an OP who really needed a bit of a reality check, beyond simple baby-spacing logistics.)

It’s just…so different for everybody. Some people like getting the diaper stage done all at once, while others like getting one kid trained before bringing home a newborn. Some people have age/fertility concerns that bump their timetables up rather than any real desire to have babies that close together, but they do it anyway. Some people have “whoops” pregnancies, and other people overplan and overthink things a lot and start wishing for a “whoops” so they can just stop freaking out about these endless pros and cons and HAVE A BABY ALREADY.

My kids are spaced out at three years and two-and-a-half years. Absolutely neither of those age gaps are what we were technically “aiming” for.

Like you, I wanted another pregnancy right away. We started trying (-ish) at one year. A full year later, I still wasn’t pregnant. So I ended up with two boys spaced three years and two weeks apart. AND IT’S AWESOME. Yes, there were challenges (three-year-olds can be bratttt-teee, and my particular three-year-old had developmental delays), but there were also so many great things about it. I had three years of one-on-one time with my oldest child. He was out of diapers 90% of the time AND started preschool during the last stretch of my pregnancy so I had time to rest…and then could count on a few precious hours to fully enjoy being with my newborn. And now, as brothers, they seem completely unbothered by the three years between them and enjoy all the same things and play and fight and argue and love each other.

So then, like you, when it came time to debate a third, I mentally factored in the whole “it could take awhile” fertility aspect — this time, though, I was COUNTING on it. We figured another three-year age gap was about right, or maybe even longer. Four years seemed just fine too — get the older two more independent and able to help/contribute around the house before outnumbering ourselves.

Whoops! I was already pregnant. AND IT IS AWESOME. Noah is old enough to really be a help and having a baby is something fun and special for him, while Ezra was little enough that his world seemed less rocked by the appearance of a younger sibling. We’ll only ever pay for one preschool tuition at a time, thanks to the public school kindergarten age cut-off. (Though on the other hand, by the time Ike enters K, we’ll have been paying for preschools for EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS.)  My pregnancy was a bit of blur — it was challenging to find time to take care of myself and “cherish” the experience and all that — but in the end, there was no sense in overanalyzing the timing or spacing because it happened when it was supposed to happen.

So listen, while I don’t think there’s any denying that the “two under two” age gap is particularly challenging in a lot of ways, it’s ALWAYS going to be challenging, just in different ways. Only you and your partner know which challenges you guys are honestly up for and can handle best. And what challenges you’re okay with struggling with because of what you perceive as the long-term benefits to that spacing scenario.

And yeah, it absolutely can be a total crapshoot of best laid plans gone awry, since your body could completely surprise you, either good (pregnant on the first try and carry perfectly to term)…or not so good. At some point, you just have to take a deep breath and go for it. It’s a scary, dizzying jump, but rest assured that most families — even the ones who claim to have the “perfect” sibling spacing — were built on similar leaps of faith.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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