Are you trying to figure out family planning and child spacing? Here are some thoughts.
When I was pregnant with my first and said I wanted lots of children – and wanted them close together – my grandmother said something poignant. I’ve used it to defend myself (thanks, mima) to many people who think I’m crazy for having my children close together. It was this.
“Well,” she said, “It’s better to run through fire than to walk through it.”
My husband would probably argue that running or walking through fire will not make the amount of fire that comes into contact with your body any less, just simply that you are moving through it faster. (update: my husband just told me the that running through rain doesn’t make you less wet, but fire burns by heat transfer through contact so running faster will mean less burns! Right on, mima!).
But for me, that was part of our decision to have 4 kids in 4 years.
When I take them all out, people look at us like a traveling circus. To be fair, sometimes I feel like a traveling circus. It’s tough, you have to be “on” 24/7, but we love it. That said, I know that intensity is not for everyone.
*I know family planning is a difficult subject for many women suffering loss or infertility. There are many factors outside our own control in life. Know that I don’t mean to diminish or make light of the pain of infertility.
Factors to consider in family planning
1. Think about what you can /want to handle.
Different women find different stages and ages of parenthood more challenging. If you know that infants and babies will be your hardest time, then perhaps having a few close together wouldn’t be the best idea! I love the baby phase. My fourth baby is now 8 months old and all day every day I feel in love. It’s sappy really, but also why my mind always says, “My baby’s almost grown up. Let’s have another baby!”
I know women who’ve said (after a very trying first year dealing with severe food allergies, etc.) that they nearly felt they couldn’t have anymore children because they were so stressed already. Your temperament and stress triggers will play a large part in whether you want to keep a tight reign on birth control and for how long. I have a friend who is 1 of 4. Her mother had two close together, got the youngest into Kindergarten, and then had two more close together. She got to have her 4 kids but didn’t have them all at home at one time!
Read: pros and cons of having children close together in age
2. Think about your career goals.
Do you work, stay at home, or work from home? If you stay at home, do you ever plan on returning to the work force? If so, how long do you want your total time out to be? Personally, I knew I wanted to stay at home until my youngest was in Kindergarten and then I wanted to do some type of work, at least during school hours. So, after thinking about it, I realized that if I had large gaps between children – of which I want plenty – then I’d be out of the workforce for 10 or 15 years.
These decisions factor into our child spacing decisions. Personally, I believe there are some women in professions where it’s very difficult to leave for a long period of time due to changes in technology or research (pharmacy or nursing, for example). Knowing how long you are willing to sit it out will play an important part in whether you’ll have to train all over again.
3. Psychology says…
far too much if you ask me because there are studies to show every thing under the sun. One article I read said that there are pros and cons to having children with all age gaps so not to fret about it overly. 1 to 2 years means ready-made playmates and perhaps stress for a mother early on but ease later (same schools, sports teams, etc.). 2 to 3 years – the most common gap in American culture apparently – means they are close enough to play but far enough apart to give the mother some time to recover from the preceding pregnancy.
3 or more years can mean there is less sibling competition, but there can be a struggle for a mother to go back to baby phase once they’ve experienced the freedom that older children brings. In short, there are pros and cons to both and the atmosphere in your home will come down largely to how you parent and the daily choices you make.
Read: why having babies close together isn’t as hard as you might think
4. Give some wiggle room.
As much as we’d like to, most of us can’t say “this Thursday I’ll get pregnant… you know… because my best friend’s birthday is in December and it’d be cool if the baby shared it….” We have to do our best to plan accordingly and pray that God will give us a baby in good time. It comes very easy to some and very difficult to others. I have a friend who is pregnant with her fourth child. Her dad said all her husband has to do is walk by her in the kitchen and they have a baby in 9 months.
I’ve also heard of a few women who wanted to be sure they didn’t have their children too close together and then, after a year or so, started trying but found it took years to get pregnant. They were then in the “bigger gap than I wanted” phase. Basically, this is an area that seems convenient to want to plan out, but is really out of our control.
A friend (who has children but has had fertility problems and numerous miscarriages) shared her heart with me. She said it is so challenging because almost everything else you want you can plan for. If you want a house, you can save. Sure, it may take 20 years, but you can do it it penny by penny. You can’t make yourself get pregnant. It is an area where we have to trust God and pray our hearts out.
Read: what infertility feels like
5. Don’t ever care too much about the opinions’ of others.
I have tons of opinions. In fact, I love opinions. Hence my blog. But when you hear conflicting opinions, conflicting research, conflicting experiences, it can be daunting and bring a lot of fear into a pregnant woman. Or a woman who is looking to get pregnant.
Too close together?
Too far apart?
You have 3 under 3?
Are you insane?
One is in 9th grade and one is in 4th grade? That had to be an accident.
People will ask if you had accidents, surprises, or what you were thinking. They’ll tell you their way was best and that you are in for it. People always think what works for them is best for everyone else. We must temper everyone’s advice with the realization that they are speaking from their own experiences. Maybe you will handle it differently. Maybe their circumstances made life a lot harder for them, but that is no reason for you to be afraid. It’s a good reminder that we can offer gentle opinions spoken in love when asked, but to be mindful that our stories can carry a heavy weight with someone else who isn’t sure what to expect.
priest's wife @byzcathwife says
….as long as you are able (mentally, physically…) make babies while you can! Our children are 16, 15, 8 and 6…..yup- we lost a baby at 20 weeks in utero in between the two ‘pairs’ of kids… you can’t assume that all will be well…
We had 3 boys under the age of 3 – all planned & yes I’m told we’re crazy for doing that on purpose. But we want 4 kids and wanted them close together – we got a late start and aren’t getting any younger. My mind, my stress level & my body needed a little longer of a break for this next time. My youngest is barely 2 and I’m pregnant again. In some ways it feels like such a big gap (more than double the time from my others) but in other ways I wonder if we were crazy to do this again so soon. Obviously we will adapt and make it work & love it. It really is an individual thing – you don’t know what you can handle until you are dealing with it & each kid brings it’s own set of challenges & joys that makes the spacing between each kid a unique situation. I love your posts – keep ’email coming!
Rachel Norman says
Tammi, thanks for your encouragement and I’m right there with you. I’ve always said we’ve done it because none of the kids had any medical concerns or issues that would have made it impossible. I also think certain personalities can handle that challenge better than others, too!
I have four children — two boys, two girls — with three years between each. I love the dynamic between all of them. Sometimes the older & younger kids pair up, sometimes the genders pair up. The entire dynamic shifts when you pull out just one child. The three year gap enabled me to recover fully from pregnancy, and to never have more than one “baby” at a time. The choice is a personal one, and I’ve had my share of inappropriate comments over the last 15 years. Bottom line, to each his own. You know what works for you!
Rachel Norman says
ove this, Meghann and you are so right. I’m paying now for not letting my body fully recover, I’ll be honest!
My husband and I have 7 children (6 boys and 1 girl) in 12 years. We can’t get pregnant unless I am completely done with breastfeeding, so our kids are 21-24 months apart. I am getting up there in age as well and dislike all the hoopla doctors give me with being a mother of advanced maternal age and grandpara. But both my husband and I are still not sure if the last should be the last baby. God certainly provides for my patience, food, clothing, and our sanity ?. “Let it go” attitude is one of the best advice given, I would further add that- especially with all those momma fears- it’s not just let it go but given up to God to take care of. I have found that by having a large family it has taught me that I am certainly NOT in control and have gotten much practice on learning how to trust the Lord with many matters I would in the past have tried to micro-control. Thanks for your wise words!
I currently only have 2 children. I really want 3 kids, don’t know why, it just feels in my heart that this is when my family will be complete. However, on the hard days, I wonder if I’m capable of handling another child. My kids are 6 and 3, so another concern is the bigger gap between my youngest and another child. Another issue is my husband, he’s not sure we should have another. He has some health issues which can make things difficult for him. And he definitely struggles with his energy and chronic pain. For this reason, I worry that a 3rd child might be too much for him and I don’t want to make his health worse or harder to manage. However, I just can’t seem to get another child out of my head! I constantly imagine my family in the future, with 3 kids. I’m not sure how to move on without having another but not sure that we should. I’m really stuck and been struggling with this for a long time now. Any help or advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!