This question can be asked in a few different ways – “When are you having your next one?” or “When do you think you’ll start trying for another baby?” or the very straight forward “Do you want anymore children?”
I think every mother (and father) has been asked this question at some point. Whether you only have one child currently, or were asked it years ago when you used to have one child. Some of us get asked this question very quickly after we have had our first child, some get asked months down the track. I was asked when I was planning to have another baby when Jonah was about 2 weeks old! I thought to myself “WOW they are asking me this soon? I haven’t even physically healed yet!!”
Two weeks post partum I was in the midst of feeling very overwhelmed (and honestly not entirely in a good way) at a great number of things. At physically giving birth, letting it sink in that I was a mother to a tiny baby and being completely depended on, my milk coming in, healing from a vaginal birth, waking in the night to feed and no longer being able to get 10 hours sleep………..the list goes on. Jonah was an easy baby but that didn’t mean I didn’t have to adjust – not only as a mother, but transition into being parents together with my husband.
My first thoughts on the whole subject of having a second baby was that there was no way I wanted to go through childbirth again. I had 16 hour labor with Jonah and it was quite difficult. Although the end result was what I prayed for and was relieved about – I still found it to be the most painful experience I have ever been through. I think there is a fear of the unknown when you are pregnant for the first time. Before you experience labor you are a bit scared as you don’t know what to expect or how it will feel. This unknown territory is actually a twisted kind of positive. See now that I have been through it I KNOW what to expect next time. I no longer have that veil of “unknown fear” to keep me guessing or wondering. I know how painful and physically strenuous it is. Mothers have told me over the years that I will forget what childbirth was like as the joy and love of having a child overshadows it and blurs it into oblivion for good. Nope, this hasn’t been true for me. I remember everything. To be honest I dread labor again. I am not sure if this whole “forgetting what labor was like” story is true for some – but for me it is a fantasy. Now that I know what’s to come, it makes me afraid sometimes when I think too much about it. This is something I have to regularly pray about so the Lord can help me overcome it.
Accepting that you must go through it again in order to have a second child is a hurdle in itself. I am still not there yet mentally. There have been times I have wanted to resign to the idea of just having one child. That Jonah will be it for us. Then as time has gone on, I have started to entertain the idea of having a second baby. I have had to pray to the Lord to open my heart and mind to the thought of wanting another child. Deep down I cannot be content with the idea of having one child. When I honestly search my inner thoughts and doubts of having any more children all I can come back with when I examine myself is that my selfishness stands in the way of wanting more.
Motherhood and parenting is about being selfless, NOT selfish. Yes, as parents we do need a little “me” time now and then of course. We need to tend to ourselves and make sure we aren’t stretched too thin, that we don’t always come last in every little thing. However I am talking about as a whole – collectively. Being selfish stopped the moment we gave birth to our baby. Having a second or subsequent children means you relinquish any slither of selfishness that might be leftover. This is done so you can add another to your family, give your first child a sibling they can grow up with. For some mothers this is no challenge at all. They are ready and wanting to be pregnant and bring a second addition into their lives. However for some of us it is a struggle and there are some fears and insecurities attached.
In those first few weeks and months, all new mothers (and fathers) want to do is get used to their new role and job in life: parenting. We want to tackle and conquer the daily challenges of what a baby brings us. We want to learn to multi task, to be able to cater to our little one and also cater to our husband at the same time. We learn to function throughout the day on a significant amount of less sleep than we have managed previously. We want to nurture our bodies with the right nutrition, we want to experience being able to move and exercise with ease again (without a giant belly!) or in some women’s cases – to rehabilitate depending on their delivery. There are such a large array of things mothers and parents need to prioritise and get used to in those first few months.
Once we find our footing again, thoughts of expanding a family start to come to mind. But not before someone else – whether that be a friend, family member, or total stranger – asks us the questions of “if and when” we are going to have another. The question can stop us in our tracks. It can make us agitated, offended, nervous, anxious or curious. It forces us to think about it, to confront the decision. For some it’s premature, for others they have already been considering it. For myself personally, in those earlier months I had discussed the subject with my husband a handful of times and we always came back undecided, sometimes “no” if i was having an emotional day or sometimes “yes we will have another, but let’s just not start trying now.” Nowadays, 14 months down the track we just casually talk about “when the next baby is here or comes” as we have both come to understand that having 2 children isn’t an awful or terrible thing, it won’t ruin our lives and won’t be a burden. God has softened us to the reality of another sibling for Jonah. However we aren’t quite at the stage of trying right this moment.
Because I was asked so soon after having Jonah if I wanted another baby I have tried my best to be considerate to other new mums and not ask those same questions of them. Of course I have asked a couple of close friends. Usually I say “I realise this is way too soon but……” so that the mother I am asking doesn’t consider me rude. It has made me understand why some women have asked me this same question – morbid curiosity. It gets the better of us all and we want to know the answer. However there is a time and place to ask of course, and that isn’t a mere 2 weeks after she has had her first baby! Not all women feel overwhelmed by motherhood entirely – but some of us do. This should be kept in mind before launching into any questions or conversations about adding a child or children to the family. I suppose we ask this questions of other mums because we want to open up the discussion platform. It helps us clarify in our minds where we stand on the subject ourselves. It helps us brainstorm, consider things from another point of view. Sometimes talking to another mother about having another child can put our own minds at ease. Sometimes it can do the opposite and make us anxious. I guess my point is this discussion about having more children can occur for many reasons and these questions are also asked for many reasons. Questions asked about subsequent children asked prematurely can trigger negative responses or anxiety, and it can snowball from there. Anyhow is it necessary to start thinking of having another baby immediately after your first one is born? We all have different levels of comfortability in thinking about this and reach that in our own time.
I know I have wanted to look to other mothers and their answers about having more children as I am searching for some sort of clarity for myself. Most of the time I came back with no change in my tug of war thinking. It’s only by praying about it and discussing it with my husband that I have come to feel peace about having another baby.
I mentioned above that Phil and I had come to realise that having another child won’t ruin our lives. Let me elaborate on this. Over many years of observation and talking to other mothers/parents with more than one child I had come to the realisation that many of these parents did not seem happy. They were disgruntled, stressed out, even bitter. There was a noticeably large rift between them and their husband/partner due to the pressure of multiple children. This was not always my conclusion but their own admittance. So often have I heard “wait until you have a second child. That’s when the mayhem starts.” “Kiss any time together goodbye” “We have drifted apart since the kids.” Usually a substantial verbal outpouring about endless battles and struggles with everyday family life and their marriage follows. They haven’t had much positive to say about their significant other. Comments flood in about how their children are unruly or brats. There is so much yelling, fighting and screaming! Listening and watching this has made me fear adding to our own family. I have let other peoples experiences and advice turn me off or question having more children.
I have had to just turn my back on this habit of listening and observing other parents with multiple children. I can’t predict my own family situation through watching their experiences or allow myself to develop an unhealthy fear based on their personal circumstances, and neither can anyone else. I’ve had to learn to mature in this regard – not always take in so much of what other people say to me or how they act in front of me. At some point I have had to let go of it, instead of taking it all on and trying to mentally process it. Is it possible that there are plenty of other mothers with one child out there that have done something similar to me – developed a fear or uncertainty about having a second baby based or stories or feedback from other parents we know or meet along the way? Obviously there are a good percentage of mothers who couldn’t care less about the negative stories they hear, as they want a large family and nothing deters them from this dream. I on the other hand have been deterred by outsiders. This has meant that I have stewed over things I haven’t needed to. I know that there would be other mums out there that can relate to this.
I don’t want to accept the fear that I will grow cold in my marriage when we have another baby. I cannot make those assumptions, as what are they based on? My husbands current relationship with me, his habits and behaviour give me NO reason to have any doubts. He is selfless, supporting, shows initiative and genuinely wants to be a present and active part of our family. So God has shown me I need not fear having another child based on these hollow fears, it’s merely the enemy trying to oppress me with negativity and doubt so I cannot enjoy a family life of freedom.
Something that often comes to mind with many first time mothers I am sure is the thought of “can I love another child as I love my firstborn?” I think this same thought about Jonah. It’s hard to imagine loving another baby/child as much as I love him. Can such a bond be repeated? I am yet to experience this but I have heard time and time again that your heart simply expands further to love and care for more children. It happens naturally and willingly. A second child is not meant to replace or sideline your first child, but add more love, personality and memories to your small family unit. Not to mention company for your first child. You go from being a small family to a larger family. I do not have to take away love or decrease my level of love for Jonah when we have a second child. My heart expands. It’s because of my love for Jonah that I have wanted to have another. Love creates and inspires more love.
Another fear of mine has been the fact that I will not cope with 2 children as there have been times within myself that I have struggled having 1. I have not submitted to my new job and role as a mother completely. I have come to realise this very recently, and I believe the Lord has opened by eyes to this fact. There have been moments that I have struggled to grasp this new motherhood journey in my life, and even at times have wanted to fight against it. I have felt being a mother is inadequate and falls short of a real job or calling on a woman’s life. Occasionally I feel I have wanted to break free and do something else to feel fulfilled at times when I have felt trapped by it. I have feared these feelings and actions will continue after I have had another baby and consume me, affecting my ability to parent. My sister recently reminded me that according to Gods Word (the Bible) there is no GREATER calling than being a mother. There is no more important institution than motherhood. It is a holy privilege from God.
John 16:21 – “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”
Psalm 127:3 – “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
At the end of the day, it’s no one else’s business when you decide to have another child. They can ask these questions all they like but there should be no obligation you feel to answer them. I admittedly have felt I have needed to give an answer to people when they ask. There was even a point when Jonah was about 6 months old I thought briefly “ah stuff it I will just have another baby right away, smash it out and get it over with!” so I could get the difficult physical side of pregnancy over and done with. This wasn’t sincerely what I wanted though, I just gave this answer to a couple of people at the time. I felt pressure to tell people that yes, I wanted another baby. I felt guilty about my fears of not wanting any more children. However now I can talk about my transition from not wanting another baby momentarily based on my fears, to now having my mind and heart opened to the idea.
That doesn’t mean that I want to be pregnant today. It just means I have gone from being really doubtful and negative about it, to being accepting of it. I do still dread childbirth, and even to an extent the pregnancy. I had a smooth and effortless pregnancy with Jonah. I looked after myself, didn’t get morning sickness, didn’t catch a cold or flu, trained up to 39 weeks and didn’t gain an excess amount of weight. I got my fitness and athletic physique back, and most of my strength. Taking this into account though still doesn’t diminish how physically hard and draining the ENTIRE process is. Can I do it all a second time and successfully look like my old self again? These thoughts come up and I mull over them. It can, and still does seem daunting at times to me. Occasionally I have wondered “I did this once, could I do it all as well the second time?” So often we hear that it’s much harder to “bounce back” after a second pregnancy. Training or making it any sort of priority in your weekly schedule becomes harder with 2 children as opposed to 1. Everything is more difficult. Will I have that level of commitment? Self doubt can momentarily creep in.
I just have to keep thinking “one day at a time. One month at a time.” God’s timing is perfect when it comes to having children and I must trust that He is in control and will prepare me. As I grow and mature as a wife, mother and a woman – so will my ability to multi task, prioritise, organise and commit. I see how much I have grown from motherhood thus far, how much I have matured and learned. This is the beginning and there is more to come, I don’t doubt that. It’s ok to feel you aren’t ready just yet, however don’t dismiss the idea of another baby just based on external fears or what you have heard and seen from others. Don’t dismiss it based on the fact it’s physically difficult and takes serious commitment. As women we have amazing determination and do recover and get ourselves to where we want to be after babies. We all continue in personal growth as we journey throughout motherhood. With each subsequent child we adapt. We manage. We can even thrive.