Having a second child, or not

Luanda writes:

“I’m having the hardest time deciding if I want a second child. I’m an only child (a happy one), but always wanted to have a big family. It’s been taking us (specially me) a while to decide because I had a scary pregnancy the first time with Alice involving pre-eclampsia and two months of bed rest. Not fun. 

I’m coming close to deadline and after seeing different doctors and finally deciding to go through another possible high risk pregnancy, I find myself with another issue.

I’m feeling lazy. Alice is already 3.5 and life is pretty peaceful. The thought of starting all over again haunts me.  As much as I always wanted a second, I’m also concerned of how that would impact Alice. I would be so sad if she didn’t accept the fact that she is not the center of our world anymore. We have such a close relationship, I’m afraid that a second child at this stage would create a distance between us. She’s already at an age where she is used to being an only child and she would be 4+ if we decide to try for another one soon. On the other hand I see the age difference as an advantage for all of us. I could never imagine myself having two kids close in age. I would go nuts.

We’re definitely not financially prepared and probably never will be, but I see the addition of another child as a desire and not a calculation. And what if having a sibling be the greatest gift to her? And I know this crazy period of baby’s life goes by fast and eventually I would get my life back again. I just don’t know if I want to go through it. But I’m afraid of regretting if I choose not to. I’m so on the fence. Every time I see a pregnant women or siblings getting along well my heart melts. But I love having only one child. Alice is my little sidekick.

I wished I didn’t have so many concerns. I hate to over think this. I just want to come up with a decision and free myself from this subject. “

Thoughts? I know what decision I made, but the calculation isn’t the same for everyone. How did you make the decision?

21 thoughts on “Having a second child, or not”

  1. I can so relate to this. We started trying for a second child when my son turned 3. Now, two miscarriages later, I am becoming more and more ambivalent. I see friends with 2 (or more) young kids and just see how hard it is and how worn out they are. We are in a relatively sweet spot where my son can play independently but still wants to be near us all the time (and we all sleep at night!). But then I also feel a strong desire to hold a baby and help him or her develop into a unique and wonderful person, despite all the sacrifices that will entail. I’m turning 35 next month, so I feel the (mostly imaginary) pressure that I need to make a decision soon. I think we will probably try again, but it is hard to accept how little of the outcome I can really control.

  2. I’m newly pregnant with our second, and our son will be almost four when he gets a sibling, should all go fine.

    Like you, I wanted a bit of an age gap. Like you, I am no fan of pregnancy and childbirth (though I didn’t have the life-threatening aspects thrown in like you did).

    At the end of the day, I’m betting that the long term benefit of having another child will outweigh the heavy workload of pregnancy, childbirth, and the first couple of years. I know now that life does get significantly easier, so at some level I’m holding onto that as I feel constantly nauseous and ponder all that’s yet ahead.

    And I will say, it took me awhile to be brave enough to consider getting pregnant again…and then it took over a year to get pregnant. So there were some extra emotional challenges along the way. But on the whole, I’m really happy we’re having another little baby. I’m thrilled to see who this little person will be.

    Just my experience to add to the anec-data.

  3. I could have written this: I am an only child, had a rough high-risk first pregnancy, and loved the closeness I shared with my first-born. My second pregnancy was more or less an oops, and my girls are 5.5 years apart. I can’t say I really MADE a decision so much as I was too lazy to go out in the middle of a tropical storm to get birth control, so I can’t speak to the decision-making process, but I will say that having a second child, and watching the love that my two girls share for each other, is the best thing I have ever done. Good luck!

  4. I have one child, who just turned 8. It took me 3 years to get pregnant with him, but I was not in any hurry to try and have another, even though he was born when I was almost 34. In fact, when a co-worker who had a child the same age as my son told me she was expecting, I almost had a panic attack thinking of being pregnant at that time! We eventually decided to try again when my son was 3 1/2, but had no luck after a year of trying. I was so tired of living my life in increments ("Well, we can plan this event (or vacation or financial decision) this way now, but if I get pregnant this month, that will change.") and just waiting for my life to start instead of living the life I had. I felt fine with the fact that we would have one child "because that was just how it worked out", but I felt very guilty about making the conscious decision to just have one child, if that makes any sense. I felt some of the very same things that you are feeling- things had gotten so easy now that we were all getting regular sleep and we were done with diapers. My son liked being an only child (he said that way he didn’t have to share his toys!) and spent plenty of time around other kids at daycare/preschool. My husband was fine with just having one child, and the more that I thought about it, I was as well, so we stopped trying to get pregnant and started living our lives as a family of 3. I have a tinge of regret every now and then when I think about what a great big brother my son would have made, but 99% of the time, I feel that we made the best decision for our family. Best of luck with your decision.

  5. I don’t have any advice for you – I can only commiserate. My son will be two in December. I am 36 and my husband is 40, so another child is a decision we need to make sooner rather than later. I love where we are with things right now and worry that having another child would throw things off too much. On the other hand, I worry about waiting too long and then realizing we want another only to not be able to. I suspect that we will likely take the same approach we did in having our son – if it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. What is meant to be will be.

  6. Sorry, no advice but same struggle over here. I’m 36 and son is 2 months away from turning 4. Life is great right now. He will play by himself, he eats what we eat, he’s happy and well adjusted and I love being a family of 3. He is also my sidekick and my special guy. But I can’t get past this nagging feeling in my heart? gut? that says even though I personally may not want a second child, that the sibling relationship would be a gift to him, and something we should do in our son’s best interests. Husband is an only child and was always lonely. I have a sister and we don’t really get along. But then we did a weekend away with friends and there were 2 other boys with us – one his age and one 2 years younger and he did great with the other boys. He was especially sweet to the little one. So we’re going to give it a try. They’ll be 5+ years apart but it feels like the right thing to do.

  7. I’m going through the exact same dilemma. Mine is 4.5 and my husband travels a lot and the kid and I spend a lot of time just the 2 of us. Some days I can’t imagine it being anything other than just we 2 and other days he’s bored and lonely I think that I’m depriving him of the opportunity to have the sibling relationship because of my selfishness.I had a very scary delivery (prolapsed cord) and a rough first year (so many reasons). On the one hand we are so far from sleepless nights and diapers and all the baby chaos that it seems unimaginable to go back, plus I have such a bond with the kid that it seems unimaginable to disrupt that. On the other hand I can’t seem to get the "what if" thought out of my head of the idea of holding a tiny baby again and of enabling that sibling relationship. I’m not sure how to be at peace with just having one, but I’m not sure if I can bring myself to try for another.

  8. I am in a not dissimilar situation although for different reasons. I have one son (almost 3.5). We badly, badly want a second, but the first is an IVF baby, and so far we haven’t succeeded a second time (we got close, but I lost a baby in the winter). We have one frozen embryo left, and we are agreed that if this one does not take, we will not start over again. We are just worn out (financially, emotionally, physically).

    I am finding myself becoming more and more ambivalent about having a second as my son gets older and things get easier (he was a challenging infant). We are in a good groove, and I can see how easy it would be as a family of three. But I don’t know how much I really believe this, and how much is me trying to protect myself in case the last FET fails.

    The best assvice I have heard about having more kids is "don’t think about the next year, or the next five years. Think about who you want around your dining room table in fifteen or twenty years from now." When I think like that, I always want the second. I am very close with my two sisters and it is very difficult for me to imagine my son as an only.

    On the other side, there is a good book called "One and Only" by Lauren Sandler- she delves into the research into only children. It made me feel a lot better that if we aren’t able to have a second I won’t have ruined my son’s life. Might be worth checking out if you are feeling on the fence.

    Good luck with your decision. You are lucky you get to make it and circumstances don’t make it for you.

  9. I’ve been wrestling with that exact same question for so long. Before I had my daughter, I wanted a huge family with five kids, but now that it’s the three of us, I find I like it. I don’t want to go back to that horrendous year of sleepless nights (she woke up every two hours on good nights), and the things I like to do in my spare time just work better with older kids! And yet, I love my siblings and couldn’t imagine living without them, plus, I want someone to share the burden of our care with my daughter when we get older (not that having kids is a guarantee that they’ll take care of us anyway, but you know). All that to say, I get where you’re coming from. There is no magical way to answer. I think you’ll be happy with just one, and happy also with two, or even more!

  10. I honestly think it’s likely that you’ll be happy either way once you embrace the decision! You sound like you have real reasons for thinking you’d love a second child, and real reasons for loving your current life. Personally, I would base the decision more on your own feelings rather than on how you think your daughter would handle it or your fears about your relationship with her–she’ll still be young enough to adapt to a new sibling, it will quickly become her new normal, and you have a very strong relationship already. It’s wonderful having a little sidekick. What about imagining future stages, once your daughter is more independent? How do you think you’d feel about having one 8 year old, or one 13 year old (who may not want to be your sidekick), or one 18 year old? How do you think your family constellation would change, and does that appeal to you? When you look at other families you know with structures different than yours, what seem to be the pros and cons for both parents and children?

  11. I think having one child is fine and your kid will be fine… and having siblings is also fine, in that children eventually learn they are not at the center of everyone’s world, and it’s okay. As Laura says, I personally think how you and your partner feel about having two children – NOT babies, but actual people – is more important. And yes, pregnancy and babies are kind of horrible (needy, sleep-disrupting, painful… etc.).

    If it would help you cringe in advance less, maybe you could think about ways to make the pregnancy/infant period less horrible. Can you join a moms’ group? Can you have dinner delivered once a week? Can you hire someone to clean your house? Can you find a mother’s helper? I know most of these take money – heaven knows we didn’t have any when my kids were babies – but still.

    Also, like many parents, my thoughts the entire time I was pregnant with my second child were ‘Oh, ye gods, what have I done? What was I thinking? I HATE THIS’ but the actual kid is pretty fantastic. On the other hand, if you really truly can’t countenance the thought of going through pregnancy and infanthood again, don’t do it!

  12. Like one of the previous commenters, I could have also written this. I am an only child (who loved and continues to love being an only child) and I had a daughter who was 3.5 when we started to consider whether we wanted a second child. I also loved the intimacy of having an only child and like you, I considered her my little sidekick, and the three of us (my husband, my daughter and I) had an incredibly tight little circle that I was worried about disrupting. And yet. I started to feel that I wasn’t done. Part of it was that I didn’t want to simply repeat the pattern that I grew up with, I wanted to carve my own terrain and take this leap of faith. And, as I started to see my parents growing older, I started to realize how incredible it would be to have someone left from my immediate family after they’re gone, someone who could relate to all the things that went on in our household, all the inside jokes and memories and craziness. I wanted this for my child. When we eventually got pregnant again (after one round of IUI), we found out we were expecting another girl, and I suddenly got very worried: What if my daughter and her new sister developed a closer bond than the one I shared with her? I literally went and saw a therapist about that fear because it was starting to eat away at me (and the pregnancy hormones weren’t helping anything). But honest to God, the second I gave birth to my new baby girl, ALL that I wanted and hoped and prayed for is that the two of them will develop a bond even closer than the one I have with my older daughter. And, so far, my wish has come true. My older daughter is now 6, and my baby girl is 15 months, and they could not be more deeply in love with one another. I still have precisely the same closeness with my older daughter that I always had, but this whole new world emerged for my older daughter when her sister was born…this crazy, unrelenting, feverish love for her sister. And the baby has been the most incredible blessing for all of us…she brought this happy, joyful spirit to our family that hadn’t been there before, probably because so much intense energy and scrutiny went into my older daughter when she was an only. Also, with my older daughter, I felt like I had always been racing to the next milestone, excited for the new stage, new age, new things…with our baby, we just appreciate every single stage (and trust me, I never considered myself a "baby person") and don’t feel in any hurry to see her do the next thing. But when she does do the next thing, you can bet whose face is glowing with the most pride in all the world: my older daughter’s.

  13. My husband and I were also essentially only children (I have a half brother and sister that are 16 years older than me). I was ambivalent about having more than one, but my husband always wished he had a sibling so really wanted two. What convinced me to have another was seeing our parents and how much joy they get from our family. And at the same time, seeing my husbands parents and how much pressure they put on him around holidays and vacations since he is really their only. I realized that I wanted multiple adult children, so my son would have a sibling to rely on and we would have more family to share in their lives with. So I keep the end game in sight, because man, having one kid is so much easier than having two at this point…

  14. Hi, back again with one more comment: I think part of how you make the decision should consider what your initial experience was with motherhood. For me, I was absolutely driven to my knees by it. I was an only child, as I mentioned previously, and I had zero experience with babies. I had a rough, rough pregnancy and foolishly/naively thought that once the baby was here safely, everything would be OK. I did not anticipate a high-needs baby with horrible reflux who was kicked out of daycare BEFORE SHE COULD EVEN WALK for being TOO ACTIVE! I hate to admit this, but I spent several sleep-deprived weeks bitterly convinced that every person who had told me that parenting was rewarding was part of a grand conspiracy invented by furious parents to make child-free people as miserable as they were. (Like, I really actually believed this.) I had such a rough time that I really could not make a conscious decision to have another baby — but I embraced the idea once I found myself pregnant. And honestly? I could not have hoped for a more healing experience than the one I was lucky enough to get with my second child. Part of it is her personality — she came out happy, chill, low-maintenance. She had zero problems nursing or digesting or sleeping. She worked the way I thought babies were supposed to work. It was a tremendous relief to feel like I hadn’t failed my first daughter — I had done my best to meet the needs of a difficult baby. The other thing that was really nice was the level of confidence I had this time around. I trusted myself. I knew what she needed. I knew I wasn’t going to break her somehow. Having a second baby was a wonderful addition to our family, but it was also the most healing thing I have ever done. I am so much more at peace now than I was before. This is not the case for everyone — some people have their easy babies first; some people never have easy babies — but at least in my case, I am glad on every level (including a selfish level) that I was brave enough to welcome our second little girl into the world.

  15. Similar experience to Eve’s and others. Hate pregnancy and babyhood. Have three children, each 4.5 years apart (it just worked out that way, no plan). The age difference is great for them and us, and they DO play together. So far (the oldest is 10), they have excellent relationships, which is a wonderful surprise to my husband and I, who have less excellent relationships with our sibs. The second was a balm after the difficult first, too. Either decision you make will be great. This is just a perspective from someone who went on with the second (the third wasn’t exactly a decision).

  16. I have a handful of jumbled thoughts, so I’ll just share them one by one.

    • My first reaction is this: either decision will almost certainly be OK. There is no clear right or wrong choice here… both options allow for certain beautiful things and elminate other beautiful things (and will bring certain crap and eliminate certain crap). You can have a great life as a family either way. And I don’t say this to sound flippant, or "don’t worry!" – ish about it. But that we can find a little lightness when we realize it’ll be fine either way.
      – For me, the second baby was such a breeze compared to the first. There is nothing like that initial transition to becoming a parent. It also helped that my first was the fussy one, and my second was very easy. But who knows, maybe I was the fussy one first time around, too. Anyhow, all the work and discomfort that happens in the first couple of years felt much more bearable to me second time around. (Except the pregnancy… that part kind of sucked.)
      – I’ll pose a question that really helped me clarify my desire to have another child. It was this: Does your family feel "complete?" I knew mine didn’t. For others, it does. But putting aside all the hopes and fears for a moment, perhaps answering this question can at least orient you to something more fundamental.
      – My kids are about 4 years apart, and that age gap has been mostly awesome. Like you, I absolutely needed that gap for my sanity. There are pros and cons to all configurations, and I find it’s mostly pointless to think much about them because we just cannot control everything. My husband is 5 and 8 years older than his two younger sisters, and they are, and always have been, very close. You’ll work with what you get.
      – And sort of along those same lines… your daughter will work with what she gets. Try as we might, we can’t really manage or control much of our children’s lives. How she experiences a sibling really early on will be somehwat informed by how you feel about it (see below), but it’s also hers… to have to sort out, to enjoy, to be frustrated by, to work on, etc. It’s an important relationship that she’ll have for her whole life – not just right now. She’ll do what she will do with it. And on that point, I have LOVED seeing my kids develop their own relationship that is totally independent of me. It’s fascinating and exciting, and I love not being in the middle of that.
      – If you do decide to have another baby, I think that the way you "frame" it for her can have a big impact on how she experiences things initially (but not forever). Of course, you’ll want to validate whatever she is actually feeling. But I’ve seen older sibs truly rise to the occasion when parents celebrate and honor their role as older sibling, emphasize their strengths as an older sibling, and generally approach the whole thing as a gain, not a loss.
      I wish you the best of luck and believe, truly, that whatever you decide, you will love your family life (most of the time).
  17. I love the idea of a second, easier child "healing" wounds from the first – that was my experience both with the labor/delivery and with some aspects of the baby years (although I am good with babies – less so toddlers/preschoolers, so we’ll see what having a less spirited child is like when that time arrives). But this is also one reason I am, somewhat slowly, accepting my husband’s wish not to have one more. I adore my older daughter, for all the challenges I have parenting her. My younger is a delight through and through. While I know I would love a third child, I am too worried we’d have another (or perhaps more) difficult baby, and a difficult or even complicated pregnancy, since I’m now of "advanced maternal age." It’s sort of a "quit while you’re ahead" feeling, and it soothes me when I start to panic about never having another baby or early toddler to cuddle and kiss.

    I used to love the advice to think of what you want your family to look like all grown up, and I still think it works on some level. But I will say that this can backfire, because you can’t know how your kids will get along as adults, whether they’ll want much to do with you (hopefully, sure, but people get their own lives, or get sucked into the families of friends or significant others more than you might expect), whether they’ll move across the country and only come see you every two years. I like the idea of having lots of adult children, since that’s what I’m most familiar with in my family, but what I actually want most when my children are adults is my own fulfilling life whether we all gather round for a happy Christmas dinner or not. This has really freed me up to see raising only two children from birth to college age or so as what will work best for us in the long term.

  18. I have many of these same feelings and although as my daughter turns 3 I’m 98% sure we are done the lingering 2% is real. I wish you the best in your decision.

  19. I only read about half of the comments, but I didn’t see this thought expressed. Apologies if it is already there. My kids are four years apart (6, 10) Having a second changed my parenting of the first, in a positive way. I have lightened up, for two reasons. 1) I can truly see on an experiential level that my parenting has very little to do with who these two children truly are (because they are so different, and it is so clearly at a basal level), and 2) I can truly see on an experiential level that my first child, my one and only extremely unique and brilliant son, is really just a regular kid. Almost everyone will say the second benefits by having more relaxed parents – well my first is benefitting from this as well.

  20. Maybe this is the less popular opinion but– if it can be managed safely for you and your family, I’d have a second. I’m an only child myself and I’ve always wished I had a sibling or two– there are so many reasons; from having that lifelong relationship with someone (good or bad) to caring for our aging parents– heck, even so my kid can have some cousins of her own! These things all probably sound quite silly, but it’s something to think about, right? And I can understand wanting to protect the special relationship you have with your first, but those relationships also change and evolve, sometimes going through good times and bad times– so I guess I’d just say not to make a lifetime decision on just what the current situation is… anyway, that’s just my 2 cents– do what’s right for you and your family!

  21. I think on some level you must know whether you want a family of three or a family of four. I’m an only from a single mother household and was always lonely, so I grew up with the mission of creating my own big happy family. (Turns out it’s more complicated than just getting pregnant… but that’s another story 🙂 I’ve heard & seen a lot of sibling horror stories, but I’ve also watched my mother and her FOUR siblings working together to care for their aging mother and still struggling under the burden.

    That said, our first child (now two) turned out to be WAY more work than I had anticipated. I know my husband and I both feel like we’re doing a decent job, but we are SO tired. So even though I knew I wanted another kid "someday," in theory, I didn’t necessarily want to double or triple my workload in any given month for some potential not-guaranteed slight payoff decades in the future.

    But after much deliberation and consultation with friends in a similar boat, I realized that there’s no special time when adding a second child doesn’t completely disrupt your family life and put you through the wringer. So I decided that since my long-term goal was to have at least two kids, it made more sense for me to do it at a slightly younger age. I don’t see myself getting more energetic as I age, after all.

    Nature settled the dilemma for me in the end. (Remember, even if you only have sex every seventeenth Thursday, you still need to use birth control!) If I wasn’t sure I wanted multiple kids, I probably would have been more careful. I’m already planning to go child-free in my next life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *