The topic of when best to have a second baby is a touchy one. Some people want to do it as soon as possible; to get the baby stage out of the way all in one go. Others like to space it out as much as they can, to give each baby undivided attention and to make things easier childcare-wise. We had no real preference at first – we’d like to have more babies down the line, so getting the baby stage out of the way doesn’t really apply. As for childcare, we knew we’d work something out. It was only as she started to leave the baby stage behind, and I found myself yearning for newborn snuggles once more, that the topic of when to TTC #2 (that’s “try to conceive a second child”, for the uninitiated) really started to play on my mind.
As SB is now eighteen months old, inevitably people have started to ask us when they can expect baby number two. I don’t blame them for asking – most people want smaller age gaps between their babies, and we were no exception. When things were easier, and we thought we had it all planned out, we were trying for number two. I was so impatient – I was watching out for every twinge, wondering if it could be implantation. I’ve never tried to conceive before – SB was very much a one-shot wonder, so to speak – so we’d entered a whole new world of terminology and slang I didn’t understand.
OPKs (ovulation predicty somethings) and POAS (pee on a stick) and EWCM (yeah I still don’t know this one), and it all seemed so complicated. We grow up being told that “all it takes is once”, and previous experience showed me that this is true. Thing is, it seems a lot easier to fall pregnant when you’re not actually trying to – this new world of charting and working out when the best days are and the two week wait was totally alien to me.
Then, within weeks of deciding to start trying, I ended up in hospital on the verge of having my appendix removed. Since then, life has been a whirl of hospital appointments and tests and uncertainty and, above all else, pain. September was a no-go for trying, because I couldn’t risk being pregnant for the MRI scan. October has been written off too, because we haven’t had the results yet, and I’ve got an appointment with a surgeon in a few weeks. Right now, we don’t know what’s wrong, but I can’t get pregnant if there’s the possibility of an operation in a few week’s time – it would be extra stress we just don’t need. November will probably be a write-off too.
And then we get to December, which would give us a due date of September next year. September next year is when I’m hoping to start my PGCE, assuming I get accepted onto the course. That gives me at least two, maybe three years where I can’t get pregnant, because I’ll want to be working. So that means we’re looking at no more babies until SB is five or six.
It’s not what either of us want. If we find a way around it, we will. At the same time, though, it’s not safe for me to get pregnant right now. As well as the obvious risk of surgery, we have no idea what strain pregnancy will put on my body, especially around my appendix. So we’re having to learn to live with the idea of having a much bigger age gap than we wanted – and we’re learning to find the positives.
Everybody says that kids closer in age look cuter together – but there’s a five year age gap between my brother and I, and our childhood photos look pretty damn adorable. Besides, I loved having my parents’ undivided attention for so long, and it’s probably the reason why I started school able to read and write my name – because they could devote so much time to reading with me and teaching me. Establishing a career first will remove the money worries, and will give us a lot more stability, as well as a guaranteed maternity leave. Besides – it’s not like my clock is ticking right now. I’m twenty one years old – I should have years of fertility left, all being well. If I have a second baby at twenty five or twenty six, I’ll still be the same age as the majority of people having their first.
It’s tough though, because there are so many people around me, who had children at the same time as I had SB, who are now pregnant again. I think about the adorable pictures they’ll have, and I do feel a twinge of jealousy. Now and again, it’s more than a twinge – I’ve sobbed my heart out at times, wishing our circumstances were different. That’s life as a young parent, though – there’s so much going on, so much pressure to carry on and train and establish a career, even when all you want to do is give your child a sibling. As cold as it sounds, I’ve just had to blank it out. I say my congratulations, and then I keep my distance. I don’t hide the posts; I don’t block the people – I just don’t look at the posts unless I’m feeling strong enough. I don’t want to hear about how great close age gaps are – I want to hear about how good big age gaps are – in the same way, I’m sure, that those having smaller age gaps don’t want to hear that it might be tough, and more of a balancing act – I don’t want to hear about the risk of jealousy, or the feelings of being ‘replaced’ by the new baby. I don’t think I’m being hard-hearted in that – I’ve spoken recently about the anxiety I’ve been struggling with, and the postnatal depression I’ve only just overcome. It’s a self-preservation technique – if I don’t hide the posts, I’ll start to feel guilty. I’ll feel like SB is doomed to feel relegated to ‘second best’ by her baby sibling; that they won’t be close if I wait too long. Then again – I wonder if that will really be an issue.
I want to be able to tell SB that she’s going to have a baby brother or sister, and have her actually understand what that means, and see her excitement. I want her to be able to help look after the baby, and to understand that she can’t jump on me while I’m pregnant. Right now, that wouldn’t happen – if we wait a few years, we can get to that point with her. Plus, although there were a few years when it was tricky, but I have good relationships with my brother and sister now. My sister, who is seven years younger than me, will be my bridesmaid when I get married. We could have been twelve months apart and hated each other, or twenty years apart and be inseparable – age isn’t the only deciding factor in how siblings get on. I love being the older sister, and I loved having the responsibility of helping out with the babies when they were newborns.
I’ve thought about it a lot lately, and it’s made me feel quite selfish. We’re lucky to have one beautiful daughter who we love, and we’re lucky that thanks to our ages, we can consider waiting a few years for a second – and a third and even fourth could still be on the cards even further down the line. I’m lucky that I’ve had one child; there’s no obvious reason we’d struggle fertility-wise. For some people, a health setback like mine could mean that they run out of time to have a second baby, so we are lucky. Some people are struggling to even get pregnant for the first time – I am so, so very lucky, and I love the life we have right now.
So for now, I’m happy to devote all of my time to SB. If I was to get pregnant, I wouldn’t be upset, and we’d make it work – but I know now that the best thing for us is to give it time. It will happen when we’re ready for it, and SB will be a fantastic big sister, no matter how old she is when a baby sibling comes along.
But if you’ve read the posts recently, advising everyone not to ask newly married couples – or any couple, for that matter – when they’ll start having children… I’d like to extend that to asking couples when they’ll have a second or third. That question can be every bit as loaded as the “When can we expect the pitter patter of tiny feet?” one. Some parents want a second child but can’t – either due to time, space or conditions like secondary infertility. Others may be trying and struggling to conceive. Or maybe they just don’t want a second child – there’s a lot of stigma against choosing to have an only child, because people seem convinced that it breeds children who are spoilt and self-centred. Either way, another person’s reproductive choices are none of your business – and the fact that they’ve already had one child doesn’t make the blindest bit of difference to that.
There’s only one thing I know for certain. It’s true what they say – “There’s no right time to have a child”. Problem is, there’s a whole lot of wrong times – and right now is definitely a wrong time.