Before my husband and I got married, we planned to wait two years to have children. However, the minute we were pronounced husband and wife, I caught the fever—the baby fever. Within six months we were pregnant with our first son. I was in my second trimester and blissfully happy when our first anniversary rolled around.
Little did I know I would spend our first three anniversaries in the same condition. Our tentative plan to have two children 18 months apart evolved into three boys who are 28 months apart from start to finish.
This testament and offering of sage (yet completely unsound) advice is for moms out there who are either committed to the idea of having little ones close in age or who are scared stiff upon discovering they’re expecting again already. The experience requires a lot of strength and determination, but if you’re ready (or need to get ready really quickly), read on.
What to consider
I am hesitant to offer a list of cons for back-to-back babies, because I know I would build my family the same way if given an opportunity to do things over. However, there are many factors to consider before making your own decision, as every mom is different and each family functions in its own special way. The good news is that the considerations listed are simply that—a preview of the challenges of bringing up babies who are close in age—not a discouragement for brave mommies up for the adventure.
Two kids, one mom
Though the reward of little ones close in age is exponential, there are many challenges that come with the undertaking. The first trial a mom of two or more faces is being outnumbered. The degree of supervision required suddenly grows tremendously. You actually have two babies, and the older one will not grasp the concepts of soft spots or neck support.
Words like “gentle” and “careful” will become the core of your vocabulary, and patience will often spread much thinner than it did before. You may also need a few months to balance the kids’ naps and feeding schedules, and downtime is practically nonexistent. Eventually you may find a way to synchronize their naps, which will allow you to have a bit of time for yourself. Take advantage when this ordinary miracle of parenthood happens—it may be the only time during the day you get to complete an activity without interruption.
In some respects, back-to-back babies present challenges more unique than multiples. You have two babies, but they are at slightly different stages of development. There are two sizes of diapers to keep track of, two stages of baby food to prepare, and most importantly, two sets of individual basic emotional needs to be met. Moms need to be able to shift easily back and forth between their children and meet them at their varying developmental levels. It’s also important to make a special effort to spend some one-on-one time with each child, a goal that can be especially difficult to achieve when both babies depend on one mom for the majority of their needs.
Your body and mind
Taking care of yourself is even more important during the second consecutive year of pregnancy. Your body doesn’t have an opportunity to regain its balance—physically or hormonally—when you experience close- range pregnancies. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals as a way to continue replenishing nutrients lost from your first pregnancy and to ensure healthy weight gain in your subsequent pregnancy. Ideally, moms should lose the weight they gained in previous pregnancies before getting pregnant again. But if extra weight is carried into a second pregnancy, you shouldn’t deny yourself much-needed calories. Instead, turn to exercise, which allows you to nurture your body and spirit as well as counteract the double dose of exhaustion being a pregnant new mom can bring.
Take the time during your busy day to be aware of your own emotional state. When I discovered I was pregnant for the third time in three years, I had great difficulty coming to terms with what lay ahead for me. I cried and worried for many months into the pregnancy, and later suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. Looking back, I recognize many of my symptoms from my postpartum days with my second baby, but I was too busy raising two sons and growing a third to prioritize my own mental health.
If you are considering close-in-age babies, take inventory of where you are emotionally before you take the plunge. If you have any unresolved postpartum issues or just wish you felt more comfortable and confident as a mom, it might not be a bad idea to give yourself a few more months to get in a groove before jumping into the great adventure of close-range kids.
The good stuff
I felt confident in my decision to have my first two children one right after the next. Admittedly, I was terrified when I found out I was expecting the third time, but have since discovered the positive elements to our family dynamic.
For a mom who revels in the pitter-patter of little feet, three sons in two-and-a-half years is my dream come true. Some moms deliver their best work under pressure and truly find their niche finger painting with a toddler while simultaneously nursing an infant. If rowdy is the prevailing undercurrent you are seeking, there is no better way to up the rowdy factor in your home than to give birth to babies so close in age that they prompt the question “Are they twins?” for years to come.
Closing the baby factory
Many moms approach their decision from a big-picture standpoint. They look forward to moving beyond the pregnancy stage and into the child-raising stage. Those who choose to move from one phase to the next in a shorter amount of time certainly have their hands full, but often feel relief in shutting the door on their baby-making days.
Daily play dates
Back-to-back pregnancies guarantee a built-in playmate for your children. My oldest son was instantly smitten when I brought his brother home, nicknaming him right away and designating him as his number one target for snuggles. When my third son joined the pack 13 months later, the phenomenon of brotherly love was quite the same. The older my three boys get, the more fun they seem to have, and it brings me great happiness to know they will always be there for each other.
Learning from your children
My children have taught me a great deal about myself and the world around me. Through their little eyes, I see joy in the simplest of activities. Through their arguments, I see opportunities to explain injustice and offer diplomatic solutions. Through their moments of spontaneous and unintentional humor, I have learned to laugh at myself and the chaos around me. Most of all, through the journey of motherhood, I have learned how to let go of any semblance of control and go with the flow.
These amazing little people in my life continue to teach this stubborn mom that sometimes the best plan of all is to let go of the plan. There is no perfect answer for how far apart to space your children. The key lies in what you feel comfortable with and what feels right for your family as a whole. Any age gap that allows you to be the best mom you can be is a good option.