fbpx
Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How Did You Decide Whether to Have Another Baby?

A couple weeks ago, I opened up my IG stories to quick advice questions anyone might have (saved to a highlight reel here). The most common question was: “How did you know if you wanted a second baby?” I gave a brief answer in my stories, but I thought I’d open the topic here, too, for anyone else contemplating this question or able to share a personal experience.

Much like deciding whether or when to have a baby in the first place, I think a lot of the decision process comes down to listening to your heart, considering your family dynamic and whether you think a baby will add or detract from it, and thinking about timing and long-term goals and plans and how a baby might fit into or disrupt such plans. There’s no real magical formula – especially the “listen to your heart” part – but, obviously, talking it out can help one arrive at a decision. (And it should go without saying that making a decision is just part of the process; even if you want a baby, things may not work out that way.) The most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to having a baby, whether it is a first baby or second or more is:

Don’t do it if you’re on the fence (at least, don’t set out to do it; if you get accidentally pregnant and feel on the fence, that’s a different discussion). (AND if you’ve already decided you don’t want any kids at all and prefer a post about that, you might like this one, “Women Discuss: Deciding to Never Have Children”).

For me, deciding to have a second baby worked pretty much like deciding to have the first: My husband made known that he was very open and eager and that the decision was mine and he would respect it. I was on the fence for a long time (both in deciding for a first baby and then in deciding about a second). I mostly knew I wanted a first baby, but I wasn’t sure when. And then, on the morning of New Year’s Day 2011, when I was 34 years old and Drew and I had been married for a year and a half, I woke up and it was like a switch had been flipped. I went from “not sure” to “sure” – just like that.

The second time around, I was less sure that I wanted a baby at all. Parenting a baby and toddler had been challenging for me and I didn’t know if I was cut out for more than one (truthfully, at the time, I didn’t know if I was cut out for the one I had). But when I thought about not having any more, there was a nagging feeling that our family wasn’t complete – like there was a soul out there who was meant to be with us. I did a lot of soul-searching for a year and talked it out a bunch. One of the friends I talked to was someone I knew from college who was a mother herself and also a therapist (it’s nice to have friends who are therapists!). I laid out my whole thought process and finished with “I just don’t know if I want a second child,” to which she replied, “Yes, you do.”

I didn’t understand what she meant. If I knew, I wouldn’t be talking it out like I was. I wouldn’t be asking for advice. I wouldn’t be agonizing. I would KNOW. You know? I told her all this, and she repeated: “You already know what you want.” And then she explained that I also knew what having a baby and toddler was like and, knowing how challenging those years are – and not knowing what the years after three-years-old might be like – it was exceptionally hard for me to embrace the anticipated stress without proof that the subsequent years might be a little easier as a parent. She was right, but as soon as I looked at it that way, I felt the knowing so acutely. I DID want a second baby; I was just scared to have that second baby. I was confusing fear with indecision.

Drew and I had that second baby about a year after my discussion with my therapist friend. I’m happy to say that parenting a baby and toddler the second time was so much easier, though I think that has as much to do with the temperaments of my babies as my experience level. And the years beyond three-years-old have been so fun and wonderful. My kids are 11 and 7 now and I truly love these ages and the relationships I have with each of my kids and the relationship they have with each other, as well as the family dynamic we all share together (along with Drew, of course). And as soon as Joanie, our second, was born, I made known that I was “two and through,” as the saying goes, and Drew made an appointment for a vasectomy shortly after.

How about you all? Did you ever struggle with decisions around whether to have a baby? How did you handle deciding?

21 comments… add one
  • Avatar photo

    Lady_Red January 18, 2023, 1:04 am

    My husband and I agreed on wanting two kids before we were married. But when our second was about 15 months old, I started getting baby fever. I told my husband, thinking he’d be the rational one and shut me down, but instead he said “let me think about it”. We had all sorts of pros and cons for adding another child to our family and just kept going back and forth. What really cemented it for me one day was looking at an ad for a craft store and seeing a sign that said “(our last name) party of 4”. It was a literal sign that said our family should be 4. And it broke my heart. So we’re now a party of 5.

    Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 18, 2023, 11:30 am

      Oh, I love that! When I am indecisive about less important things, like where to go out for a dinner date, Drew will tell me to flip a coin and if I am disappointed by the results, I’ll have a better idea what I really want. It usually works!

      Reply Link
    • scattol January 19, 2023, 11:49 am

      And now you realize that the world is made for “Party of 4”.

      Turn up 5 and suddenly cars, restaurants, planes don’t have room for all of you in one nice tidy spot.

      Ah, well, that’s why they have minivans and restaurant tables are movable.

      Reply Link
  • H January 18, 2023, 2:25 am

    Hmmmm. This is not a good story, looking back.
    I am extremely close to my sister. We had a difficult and violent childhood but made it through, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her.

    So, I always had it in my head that if I had one child, then I’d have two, if you see what I mean.

    The signs weren’t good. My marriage was already bad: my husband unkind and controlling. We had our first child and then I had terrible post-partum depression. Then my father killed himself and I went to pieces.

    Eventually I recovered and my husband agreed to have another baby. After I got pregnant, I realised my marriage was in terminal decline but still hoped somehow I could “change” so that my husband would love me again (turned out that was impossible).

    Having a second baby was a delight: no PPD, thankfully.

    But our marriage was dead, despite my best efforts.

    Having tried everything, and tired of hearing how our problems were all my fault, I left him when our younger daughter was 2.

    Fast-forward ten or so years.

    I am very lucky. I am re-married to a good man. We share four wonderful children: my two from my first marriage and his two from his.

    My husband and I did discuss having a baby when we first got together, but given we already had four kids between us, we got a dog instead.

    My thinking may not have been rational at the time I decided to have my second child but I’m glad with how everything’s worked out.

    Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 18, 2023, 11:33 am

      Well, I think this a good story, actually. There are unhappy notes, but look where you are now. I like to think that its much of life adversities that help us really appreciate the good stuff when we have it (and it sounds like you have it now!).

      Reply Link
  • Avatar photo

    Lucidity January 19, 2023, 6:57 am

    We needed a fourth for board games nights. Most games just don’t work as well with only three players.

    In all seriousness, we had more love to give and thought our daughter had love to give too. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that both my husband and I had siblings. My sister was and still is my best friend, and I wanted my children to (hopefully) experience that bond. I wanted them to have an immediate family member besides their parents, to not be so alone in this world.

    It seems cold, but a major factor influencing our decision to stop at two is our finances. We can provide comfortably for two, but we won’t be able to live the life we envision with three. I want to hold another baby, but I also want to give my kids extracurriculars, education funds, vacations, and help out when they’re starting life as young adults.

    Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 19, 2023, 8:52 am

      Well, I have to ask: do you four play a lot of board games now?! 😀

      Reply Link
      • Avatar photo

        Lucidity January 19, 2023, 5:41 pm

        They’re 3.5 years and 8 months so not yet! We do play Candyland, Jenga, and a simplified version of Pictionary with the older one.

        Link
      • Avatar photo

        Dear Wendy January 20, 2023, 6:49 am

        Guess Who is a fun game your oldest might be ready for soon. And my kids loved Hoot Owl Hoot when they were little.

        Link
      • Avatar photo

        Dear Wendy January 20, 2023, 6:52 am

        Just checked and Guess Who is marketed for kids 6+, but both of mine started playing younger than that. Hoot Owl Hoot is for 4+ and I think a smart 3 1/2 year-old could handle it.

        Link
  • SM January 19, 2023, 8:08 am

    This is actually a great time for this article. I had my first at 38 and I always envisioned having two. I have a brother who is 3 1/2ish years younger and while we had sibling fights, we’ve always gotten along. He’s someone to go through life with in all aspects even though we both had friends. We can relate to each other so to speak.

    However, being a mom is MUCH harder than I ever anticipated. I question every decision I make and its just…hard. I love it and I love being my daughters mom, but feel rushed in my decision to have to have another as I’ll be 40 later this year.

    Also, she’s 16 months old now and her dad is just now kind of figuring it out. He was not a good newborn dad. I probably had some sort of post partum-ness that I didn’t realize until about 8 months after she was born and the fog started to lift. And my anger was all at him for not being a great dad. He’s much better now and they have a great relationship, but I did most of everything while working full time until she was about 10 months old.

    I’d like to think a second time would be different as he’s realizing his interaction with her helps their relationship immensely, but I’m just so torn for multiple reasons. I can’t imagine life without a sibling, being the main one. But my friends that are an only child seem find without it because they don’t know that life. Ugh.

    Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 19, 2023, 9:05 am

      Having a newborn can be so hard, especially when it’s your first and especially if you have any kind of postpartum stuff going on. That was my experience with my first as well (I was never diagnosed with PPD, but I was very anxious and my dr prescribed Xanax, which helped a little). My first baby was also neurodivergent which I didn’t know until years later (I mean, I knew it but it wasn’t confirmed until later), and that made things very challenging too. He had different needs that other babies and how could I have known what those needs were when I barely knew what a typical baby might need? My second baby/ experience was just LOADS easier. Oh man, what an umcomplicated child she was. She slept 22 hours a day for the first few months of her life, which was great because, again, I was still trying to figure out what my older child needed to thrive and I was still years away from getting close.

      Anyway, all this to say that the experience you have the first time around does not necessarily repeat the second time. You’re the same mom, but your children will likely be very different, and you’ll be different too just from the experience you have. Same with your husband.

      But if you decide to stick with just one, that’ll be fine. Your child will likely thrive as an only, enjoying all on mom and dad’s attention. Here in NYC, the capital of only-child families, all the kids I know without siblings seem perfectly happy.

      Reply Link
  • Anonymousse January 19, 2023, 10:02 am

    I didn’t really. That sounds terrible, and we were actively trying, I just wasn’t expecting to become pregnant so quickly after the first. The first, I had bought like, 400 ovulation and pregnancy tests on Amazon and was dedicated trying to become become pregnant. So I was surprised when it didn’t take much planning the second time.

    And although the timing wasn’t ideal for me, in a way maybe it was? I had my kids exactly 17 months apart to the day. The early years had been difficult for me. Joyous, loving, life affirming, but hard.

    I also got through the baby years faster having them so close together, rather than spreading them out. Was it worth it with the extra stress (and maybe PPD although I was never diagnosed?) yes. To have it harder then, and be out of it now, I say it was worth it for keep and our family to have them closer together than I’d maybe would have chosen.

    Reply Link
    • Anonymousse January 19, 2023, 10:04 am

      Wendy, I’m just blaming my misspellings on my general disregard, care for quality work like that old woman on HONY this week said. I just can’t be bothered because I’m the digital generation.

      Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 19, 2023, 10:11 am

      Drew’s niece and nephew are 15 months apart (the older one born a few months after drew and I started dating so I’ve been around for their whole childhoods), and boy, those first few years looked really hard. But once the younger is six, it gets so much easier.

      Reply Link
      • Anonymousse January 19, 2023, 10:55 am

        Yeah, she’s seven and I really feel like we hit the fun part. It’s pretty fun!

        Link
  • Avatar photo

    Ettakit January 19, 2023, 1:54 pm

    I decided I was one and done early on. I had a very easy pregnancy and a super easy baby. She’s now 2 and we’re just now hitting a time where I feel unsure of what I’m doing. I don’t want to jinx myself by trying for a second!

    Also, I love my fairly low-paying job in education and I wasn’t willing to give it up, but having a second baby would’ve meant almost my whole take home pay in daycare costs. If we had delayed until my daughter was in kindergarten, I would’ve been in my 40s and my husband would’ve been pushing 50.

    My husband also has a son in his 20s, so while I have a step son, he’s off doing his own thing most of the time. I grew up similarly with much older half siblings and never felt like I missed out.

    So, for us to keep the lifestyle we enjoy while also adding to our family, we kept it at one child and have no regrets.

    Reply Link
    • Anonymousse January 19, 2023, 10:52 pm

      Honestly, you’re smart. Two nearly killed me and were not through it yet. 😂 I swear it’s more than twice the cost. You cannot ever buy one kid a thing, it has to be fair. I don’t even shop with them.

      Reply Link
    • Avatar photo

      Dear Wendy January 20, 2023, 6:49 am

      Sounds pretty great!

      Reply Link
    • Anonymousse January 20, 2023, 8:54 am

      My sister is technically my half sister, eight years younger than me. She’s my best friend. We text all day, everyday. That space but also shared upbringing can be a great tie that binds.

      Reply Link

Leave a Comment