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?