How do you decide whether to have another baby? This is an intimately personal choice, everyone and every circumstance is different, of course, but the kinds of things that go into this decision are often quite similar.
Even though this is such a private choice, often outsiders offer unsolicited input. Nick and I always knew we wanted three children. We had a girl and two years later, a boy. Then when I was pregnant with our third baby, someone actually said to me, “Oh, why would you do that? You have the perfect family!” Um, seriously? You have your perfect family, I’ll have mine.
There is so much that goes into family planning decisions. It’s tough to sign up for another pregnancy when you look ahead at going through sleep deprivation, being tied down for nap schedules and managing babyhood, all while ALSO dealing with the needs of toddlers and school-aged kids.
Maybe you feel that things are going smoothly now, well, usually. Your kids are walking on their own, maybe they’re all even going to the bathroom by themselves. Nap times are extinct, diaper bags have been donated and you’re sleeping through the night (most of the time). So it’s hard to think about going back to square one just when you’ve really got a rhythm to your daily life.
My younger brother once said of growing families to Nick, “Everyday, you guys are moving closer to freedom and everyday we’re further away.”
If you’re struggling with this decision, you’re not alone in your conflicted feelings. I’d venture to say that most women and couples explore the idea to have another baby at some point. It’s a modern day battle between head and heart, between practicalities and emotions.
A friend of mine wrote to me: “The question looms in our hearts and our heads….do we have a third baby? If I could create a cartoon to depict myself I would literally be pulled back and forth from two extremes …. suffering from whiplash! I literally feel like I change my mind within minutes of each and every day.”
So what do you consider in deciding whether to have another baby?
You already know the basics, you’ve thought about the cost of raising children and wonder logistically how you could possibly handle all you do now with another baby.
You’ve thought about the size of your home and how to configure beds or roommates. Do you need a bigger car? A new stroller?
I believe in living within your means and being fiscally responsible, and I’m sure Suze Orman would disagree with me, but budget isn’t really the biggest factor, is it? It must BE a factor, to what extent is individual.
Times are tough, many families’ incomes are static, costs are rising, only you can evaluate if you truly cannot afford another baby, or if it might be tight but doable with some creativity. What weight should money have in your decision to have another child? What else is in the pie chart?
Juggling another child will be challenging at first, but eventually another new normal will fall into place. You’ll learn tips and tricks like baby-wearing to chaperone a preschool field trip and having older kids hang onto your pocket to stick with you in the store.
You’ll figure out how to pack lunches in five-minute intervals while the baby’s content, how to pay bills while the baby nurses and how to host a playdate during the baby’s nap time (you’ll also discover the incredible value of a white noise machine if you haven’t already!)
The older kids will adjust to a new family member, kids are so very resilient, and you will find and make time to hold and love each of your babies, big and small.
These things will come. They are natural to worry about and plan for, but they don’t last long enough to give them much voting power in this decision. With each addition to a family, everyone’s roles shift and change, there is always a transition. There is transition without a new baby as your child/children grow up.
This is the practical stuff. The thinking stuff. You need to add these into the equation, but in the end, the decision runs deeper.
What ELSE do you consider when deciding if you should have another baby?
How many kids did you always say you wanted?
Think about how you visualized your family. Have you envisioned four kids your whole life and are suddenly contemplating stopping at two, but something’s still gnawing at you? Take time to listen to your gut.
This is a trivial example to illustrate. If I go into a restaurant with the idea of having salmon, but then someone else orders the butternut squash ravioli and since it sounds good, I switch my order when the waitress comes, I’m almost always disappointed. Sometimes sticking with your initial desire matters and this is certainly more important when we’re talking babies vs. entrees.
Do you FEEL like your family is complete?
Women understand this question. Maybe you feel settled and satisfied with your two little guys even though you thought you’d want three. Sometimes your ideas change once exposed to the reality of what having kids means or simply because what you have feels right. Other times, you’re waiting for the finishing puzzle piece.
Ask yourself, “How will I feel looking back in 10 or 20 years if I don’t have another baby?” A few years ago, at a dinner party, a group of us were discussing the to-have-another-or-not question as one Mom was sharing her struggle to decide. A woman in her 70’s told us, “You’ll never regret having another baby, but you may regret NOT having another.” Though my family was whole by then, those words struck me, I pondered them and can see their wisdom.
Are you and your husband/partner on the same page?
When one spouse is adamant and the other wishy washy, when neither one can commit either way, when each partner is on opposite sides of the question, or when it changes from one day to the next, how do you handle it?
Talking. There’s no way around it, you need deep, long, nothing-held-back talking. It won’t happen over one discussion, but through continuing communication. Probe feelings and fears, take a walk into the future together, what do you each see? Ask questions without judgment, actively listen and hear one another. Create a safe and open space to share what having another baby, or not having another baby, means to each of you. Talk and talk some more, seeking clarification and ultimately, an in-sync decision to have or not to have.
Be patient with yourself and one another as you navigate your decision-making. While you can read articles and personal accounts, while you can be open to others’ insights and look up research on scientifically ideal family spacing, no one can make this choice for you. No one can tell you what’s best for your family. This is a precious decision and I suspect that you already know what to do.
11 questions to help you decide – You could use some of these in your talks with your spouse, or journal about them.
© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013