Is There Ever a Right Time to Have a Second Child?
Around the time that our only child was a little more than two years old, my husband asked me a rather silly question:
“When do you think we should have our second child?”
I looked at him and wondered if he was completely insane. Had he been living in the same home as I had for the last two years? Had the poor man suffered a blow to the head and been afflicted with amnesia? He couldn’t possibly be asking this question in a rational state of mind.
Because, if we thought about it practically for slightly more than a few seconds, the answer would be an emphatic “Never!” We had fallen for the myth of the angelic child once. We were wiser now and knew better than to fall for that again, didn’t we?
After two years of sleep deprivation, we were finally able to get six straight hours of shut-eye before our son awakened us. I could finally arrange play dates where he and his friends wouldn’t end up biting each other, pulling each other’s hair, and bursting into tears within five minutes. Now that he had a slightly wider repertoire of things that he would eat and drink, I could go out with him and not have to worry about carrying a back-up to the back-up bottle of milk in case he got hungry. We weren’t out of diapers, but the communication on that front had begun, and hope lingered on the horizon.
There appeared, finally, to be light at the end of the parenting tunnel, and I thought we were making our way towards that light. Why was my poor, delirious husband suggesting that we retreat and start again at the beginning?
My husband and I both grew up with siblings and wanted our son to enjoy and benefit from the same bonds that we had experienced. Even before we became parents, we had spoken about having more than one child for that reason.
After I had grudgingly accepted that my husband’s question was perhaps not as insane as it had initially appeared, we began to discuss and debate timing in detail. Should we wait till we emerged out of the tunnel completely and then start again, or should we take the plunge now, while we were still familiar with the contours of the tunnel and its many open manholes?
Very soon, there was one thing that was abundantly clear to both of us: There was never going to be a “perfect” time to have another child.
There would always be something that would impede it. It could be our son’s needs, a career move on the horizon, or even other family obligations and responsibilities.
The perfect or even good time to have another child may never come. We had to decide what made the most sense for us as a family. Did we want to have another child sooner so that the siblings would be relatively close in age, or did we want to wait for a few years until our son would be past the toddler stage and possibly more independent? After considerable discussion, we decided that we would start trying for our second child and leave the rest to the Fertility Gods.
The pink line on the pregnancy test appeared after another few months.
Being pregnant and caring for a young child was exhausting. Picking up a screaming, flailing toddler who is in the midst of a temper tantrum, while trying to control the ebb and flow of nausea, was a regular activity for the next several months.
Empathetic to my condition, some other mothers in the playground would occasionally help me chase down my son as he ran screaming across slides and swings. One day, a mother of two children told me that having the second child didn’t mean that the amount of parenting doubled. For a few moments, I was relieved by that information. Finally, some benefits of scale.
But then, I realized to my horror that I had misunderstood. She grabbed me by my shoulders and spun me around so that I was looking straight into her wide eyes and whispered ominously, “It is going to rise exponentially, beyond anything you could have ever imagined. They are going to completely take over your life and your sanity!”
Her piercing stare, her words, and the desperation in her voice struck a deep chord of fear in my heart.
Oh Lord! What had I done?