Child spacing: When to have baby number 2
Spacing children close together has its risks and frustrations, but has benefits as well.
I’m 33, I’m not a baby person, I’m trying to finish my Ph.D., I work full time, and I have a 7-month-old son at home. Am I out of my mind that I want to have another baby right now? I probably was when I made the decision to get pregnant again. But I'm a planner, and when I get something in my mind, that's just how it's gonna be. So why the rush, you ask?
The medical community's scare tactics worked on me. I was so afraid of reaching the dreaded "advanced maternal age" category that I was determined to have my children before 35. Waiting any longer than the minimum acceptable period between my two kids was out of the question. For me, the answer as to when to have my second child came down to timing. But did I endanger my daughter's health because of my own self-imposed deadlines?
My OB pleaded with me to wait at least one year before trying to conceive a second child. When I told her we planned to try again at 6 months, she urged me to wait at least 9 months, if not the full year. But why?
She discussed the stresses of having two small children. Her own children were fairly close together, so she reiterated the physical demands and chaos of two small children, but she hardly mentioned the medical implications.
Before I got pregnant with Giada, I spent hours searching the internet for the pros and cons of waiting. Most of the information I found said that conceiving within the first six months would increase the risk of premature and low birth weight babies. My son Rocco was almost premature. He was born at just over 37 weeks. I assumed my daughter would be born early anyway, given that Rocco was over 6 pounds and fully cooked at 37 weeks.
Mostly dismissing the doctor’s suggestions, I waited 7 months before trying to conceive a second time. Just as I had planned, we got pregnant on the first try. My second pregnancy went smoothly, other than my being extra tired from chasing a toddler around; that is, until week 35 when I went into preterm labor.
This is not what I planned. I sobbed as I haphazardly tried to pack a hospital bag I wasn't prepared to pack. I cried because I was panicked that Giada would be a preemie. I worried she would have to stay in the NICU.
I was admitted to the hospital for monitoring. Luckily, after two days in the hospital, the contractions stopped. They released me even though I was already 5 cm dilated. They put me on bed rest, which is nearly impossible with a toddler to take care of, but I was able to hold Giada off for another week and a half. She was born at 36 and a half weeks, at just under 6 pounds. Although she was technically a preemie, her overall health was good. We were able to take her home after two days and no time in the NICU.
I do wonder if my decision not to wait a year or longer to conceive my second child contributed to her premature birth. Given her size and overall health, it is difficult to know if my decision impacted her or if she would have been born early like Rocco anyway.
So is there a right time to have baby number two?
When deciding on the right time for number two, I found this checklist helpful. Yes, I wanted my children to be each other's playmates. We liked the idea of our kids being close in age so they would play together and maybe even share the same friends and interests. And yes, I wanted to get diapering and sleepless nights over as soon as possible. I remember reading about the intensity of having two so close together, but my endless reading didn't prepare me for just how tough it has been.
Should we have waited longer? Maybe. The last four months have been very difficult with a colicky baby and a toddler starting his terrible twos a few months early. I can definitely say I've had my second thoughts about our choice of timing.
But, I do love that my two kids are going to grow up together and never know a time where they weren't a part of each other's life. Watching Rocco's eyes light up when he sees Gigi, as he calls her, is priceless. He has this innate love for her already (see how he's holding her hand in the picture above). Without any coaxing, Rocco has this innocent love for his sister that is so pure.
I also love that my kids will have a close relationship with their dad from an early age. According to Hart, closely spaced children draw the father into action because of how demanding it is to care for two young children at once. Jade, my husband, has been extremely present, patient and loving. Rocco adores him (I have to admit Rocco's first word was "dada") and I know Gigi will feel the same.
There's probably no way to tell if we made the right choice in our timing decision, but I feel lucky to have two healthy, beautiful children and I wouldn't change that for anything.
So, what is the right time to have a second baby? What do you think?