I’m starting to think about timing for having my next child. We haven’t decided for sure if we want two or three kids, but we know we want more than one. My husband and I are 32, so although many young people are putting off starting families, it still feels a bit like the clock is ticking. At 35 a pregnant woman is considered to be of “advanced maternal age”. Ouch.
So what’s the big deal about age 35? Apparently, after this age there tends to be a more significant decline in fertility. Additionally, the older a mother, the higher the risk of fetal complications such as Down’s Syndrome. I was able to assuage many of the concerns I had by reading Emily Oster’s “Expecting Better”. In the book, Oster dives into the research behind all the common pregnancy advice, and tells you how it really is. What’s the typical rate of fertility decline with age? How much does the likelihood of Down’s Syndrome increase at various ages? The more you know, the more informed decision you can make. I highly recommend the book for anyone who needs help wading through the vast amounts of (sometimes unsolicited) advice about pregnancy.
Another book that helped me in considering the timing of growing our family is “How to Raise a Brighter Child” by Joan Beck, which suggests spacing children two to three years apart. Of course, this advice is a little harder to swallow when considering pregnancy after age 30. For me, I’d prefer to be done with pregnancy by 35, but if I want a third child, I’ll have to space them much closer together to achieve a family of five in that time frame. So why allow two to three years between kids? The reasons cited include allowing the mother time to physically recover from the prior pregnancy, improved outcomes in health of the children and the ability of parents to give each child the level of attention they need in the crucial early years of development.
As a working mom who started late and already feels the pressure of not having as much time as I’d like with my daughter, I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I want my firstborn to be at least two when the next baby arrives, to ensure she’s had 100% of my attention for a reasonable amount of time. My brother and I were close in age and my mom is a big proponent of “getting the diaper stage over with quickly.” For me, though, I’d rather not rush into baby number two. I’m still enjoying my daughter and I believe she still needs as much of me as she can get. If I was younger, I’d wait until she was three years old. But alas, I still think we might want three babies and I don’t want to risk being close to 40 before that happens.
I’ve decided to stay on birth control until 8 months before her second birthday. After that, I’ll take the same “let’s just see what happens” approach that I did the first time around. That way, I won’t risk stealing her spotlight by having another baby in the same month as her birthday, and I won’t stress out about getting pregnant as quick as possible. It’ll happen when it happens, and if it takes a few months to conceive, that just gives my daughter a little more time to enjoy being an only child.
I’m also thinking about taking her out of daycare during my maternity leave. While my husband is on paternity, he’ll be able to help me with the kids and I think it will give her time to adjust to the new family environment. When my husband goes back to work, I’ll have to consider my options. Maybe I can get family to come from out of state and stay with us for a few days before I send Peanut back to daycare part time. Going back two or three times a week will help her get back in the swing of things before I start work, and give me a little break from caring for two babies by myself.
I think this approach to planning the next pregnancy is also a happy medium in terms of giving myself enough time to recover. Year one has been tough in terms of getting back in shape. During my first pregnancy, I worked with a personal trainer and went to the gym two to three times per week until I was almost 8 months pregnant. I suspect it helped with my delivery, which was very quick. But the stress of being a new mom, working full time and being the primary breadwinner really threw me for a loop and I haven’t had a proper workout since. Now that we’re settled into a new normal, I have a few months to get back into the gym to prepare my body for the next baby.
There are so many other factors I wish I had the luxury to consider when planning for a growing family. For instance, I’d love to time it just right so that I’d deliver in the spring and have all summer off to enjoy maternity leave in the sunshine. When the biological clock is ticking, though, it seems like I ought to put those kinds of priorities into perspective.
Did you have your first child later in life? Are you over 30 and thinking about starting a family? Let me know what concerns you have in the comments!