How to Decide When to Have Your Second Child

second child

So, when are you going to start trying for baby number two?’ Once you have your first child, it can feel like everyone from nosy relatives to complete strangers are interested in when you and your partner plan to start all over again for your second child. This seemingly innocuous question is actually pretty loaded, given that there’s a lot of family planning and many other things to consider before deciding to add to your family. And that’s if you even want to have a second child.

Is there really a perfect time to have a second or third child? No, there isn’t. In truth, no time will ever be perfect, but there are periods in life that are easier than others. Below are some questions to help in the process of assessing whether or not you and your partner are likely ready to start heading down the road of considering expanding your family.

No one ever feels ready for their second child until he or she arrives

Questions to consider before adding another baby to the mix:

Have you given your body enough time to recuperate and heal since your last pregnancy?

Speak to your OBGYN and confirm from a physical standpoint. It’s also imperative from an emotional perspective that you allow ample time to adjust to new motherhood with baby number one before embarking on pregnancy for baby number two. Otherwise it’s common to feel as if you have lost yourself to being a baby making machine for years on end. Are you and your partner in a groove with parenting your first child? 

Are you and your partner in a groove with parenting your first child?

Partnerships and marriages change when a baby arrives. Your relationship began before your kid(s) arrived, and it will remain strongest if there is time carved out (lots of date nights) to connect as adults. Figuring out how to do this while also raising a family can be tricky, and often requires some trial and error before finding a sweet spot as a couple. It’s also important that both people are involved with parenting and feel valued and supported. Communication is key, and before adding another child to the mix, it’s important to ask yourself if your relationship is ready for another baby?

Do you have adequate support to help with your older child when the second child arrives?

Having a newborn is tough; add in a toddler and it can sometimes feel like you are being pulled in two. Toddlers don’t realize that you didn’t sleep much last night – they don’t care that their little brother or sister needs to eat or just had a blow out diaper. The more support mom has, the more likely she is to be able to cope and thrive with all the new demands placed on her as a mom of two. Help may be from grandparents or other extended family, close friends, daycare, a nanny or from hiring a mother’s helper – whatever the support is, ask yourself if you will have help at the ready once a new baby arrives.

Have you emotionally recovered and returned to baseline after having your first child?

Did you suffer from a Perinatal Mood and/or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) like postpartum depression or anxiety after having your first baby? Proper treatment including therapy and sometimes medication is vital for a swift and complete recovery; focusing on self care, obtaining adequate sleep and proper nutrition, exercising regularly, socializing and having a strong support network are additional ways to improve mood during the postpartum period. If you are still suffering from postpartum depression and/or anxiety when you get pregnant a second time, these negative feelings will likely follow you through this second pregnancy without adequate help. It can take several months to over a year or even longer for a new mom to feel back to herself after struggling with a mood disorder during and after pregnancy. Struggling postpartum increases the risk that you will experience symptoms again during or after future pregnancies if left untreated. The best course of action is to find a psychiatrist and therapist you trust and a treatment plan that works for you so you can feel your best before embarking on another pregnancy.

What was it like conceiving baby number one?

If you and your partner required fertility treatment, then it is always a good idea to see your reproductive endocrinologist to find out what may be needed in order to conceive baby number two. Then, take some time to think about whether you are ready and comfortable devoting that time to the process now or, assuming you have the option, if you would prefer to wait a bit longer. This can be a loaded question and a hard one to answer – and sometimes it is one you don’t need to consider at all (we all know someone who struggled to conceive and then got pregnant spontaneously with baby number two). But, if conceiving baby number one was not super easy, then take time to consider if you are comfortable right now starting the process anew again given you have a baby or toddler to consider also.

Do you have an OBGYN you trust and feel comfortable with?

Your physician is there to help you have the safest pregnancy and the best delivery possible. Sometimes, delivery doesn’t go as planned, and this can be traumatic and scary, but you need to have confidence that your OBGYN is doing everything in his/her power to save you and your baby. Your physician’s goal is a healthy baby and a healthy mom, and if you don’t believe that in your gut, your heart and your head, then find another physician. If you had a traumatic first delivery for whatever reason, if you didn’t feel heard or felt somehow victimized in any way, then either first speak to your OBGYN about your feelings and the experience or opt to find a new OBGYN.

How does your partner feel about having a second baby?

No decision about extending a family should be made alone! Discuss this choice together and decide when you both feel good about starting to try for another child.

Do you have the financial resources to support another baby now?

Children are expensive – will adding another one now overextend the family’s budget or will you be ok? Yes, you can use your first baby’s clothes for your second, but can you afford the diapers, the bigger car, the second car seat, double stroller, possibly formula, time off from work, child care for two children, and so much more (and that’s just for the first year with two kids)?

Do you have room for baby number two?

Where will the baby sleep? It’s a lot easier to move to a bigger home or a bigger apartment sooner rather than later. Nothing is worse than trying to move during your third trimester while simultaneously keeping a 3 year old from unpacking boxes that were just boxed. If you will eventually need more space with another child, consider making the move now or early in your pregnancy rather than just before the baby’s arrival – this also gives you time to get settled before delivery day.

Have you had enough time with your first baby?

The answer to this question will always on some level feel like ‘no,’ but really ask yourself if you have had a chance to have fun with your first born. Have you had the opportunity to be a family of three and to enjoy time just hanging out together? Have you played endless games of peekaboo, read the same book so many times that you’ve memorized it, kissed tons of boo boos, scheduled playdates, been able to appreciate the world in a new found way by seeing it through your child’s eyes, as if for the first time? Spending time with your firstborn is magical because it is the only time as a parent you can truly give undivided attention to one child without another care in the world. Having more children is a blessing, and each child brings joy and love beyond your wildest dreams, but hold onto the moments with your first born and cherish them.

Realize that no one ever feels ready for baby number two until he or she arrives – I have yet to meet a mom who doesn’t have feelings ranging from uncertainty to sheer panic during her second pregnancy at the thought of having a second child. It is impossible to imagine how you can love another child as much as your first until that second child arrives. It is natural to feel conflict and fear about sharing your heart, time and resources with a new, unknown baby. But, it really is true that your heart expands with the number of children you have and your capacity for love only grows to include the newest member of your family.

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