Guest post: Christine Koh on having a second child

We are delighted to share our space with Christine Koh today. She is our second guest blogger on the topic of having a second child.

When I saw Heather and Whitney post their reader query about whether or not to have a second child, my immediate thought was, If only it was as simple as deciding yes or no. I come from a large family (seven kids) and conceived my daughter Laurel quickly once my husband and I decided we were ready to start a family. However, our decision to have a second child was followed by several years of confusion and heartache when I couldn’t conceive. I felt like a failure, particularly whenever Laurel begged me for a sibling.

I “came out” about my infertility on my personal blog in one sentence, but the process of writing that post and putting it out there, then absorbing the subsequent outpouring of love and response was truly cathartic. Not long after that experience, I made my peace. I donated my baby gear. I happily ramped up my client work. I was content.

And then I learned I was pregnant. Of course.

To say that I was shocked is an understatement. The day I learned I was pregnant, we were overrun with family visitors and I was on my way out to an event. I literally handed my husband the pregnancy test, curtly said “We can discuss this later,” and walked out the door. There was no jumping up and down, only shock. Jon and I didn’t even have a chance to talk about it until a few days later. By this point I had taken another couple of pregnancy tests (including one at an already scheduled annual checkup). It took time for my husband, 5-year-old daughter Laurel (who also made her peace after I told her it didn’t seem like I could grow more babies), and me to move from shock and confusion to joy and anticipation.

Only you will know whether you are ready pragmatically (e.g., Can we support a second child?) and internally (e.g., “Do I feel ready?”) to expand your family, but here is what we have found in having a second child:

  • I worried about Laurel having had our exclusive attention for 6 years. We were so entrenched in our routine and time together. Would I have enough to give to another baby? To Laurel? The answer is yes, there is always enough love to go around.
  • If you decide to wait and revisit the topic of expanding your family later, don’t worry. Big gaps are good. Laurel and Violet are 6.5 years apart and it is fantastic. Laurel helps with Violet, she’s old enough to take instruction and help herself to things (e.g., if I’m nursing and can’t get up to help her), and she’s also old enough to have her own playdates and special sleepovers with her grandparents, which I think is a contributing factor to why we have not seen any jealousy issues so far.
  • Yes, the first month is hard. For me, it wasn’t so much about sleep deprivation as it was about coping with the freakish boob fluctuation associated with nursing, and the recovery following 58 hours of labor. But you do come out of the fog, and there’s this chubby, smiling baby gurgling at you on the other side.
  • People are incredibly generous and will help you. We were immensely touched by the kindness as people came by with meals, to snuggle Violet so I could nap, and to pick up Laurel for playdates to save us the trip and to give her a little extra attention.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money to prepare for a second baby. We had next to nothing since I had given most of our baby things away. We received tons of baby clothes and gear at my secondhand baby showerand after Violet was born, people came by with more things to fill in the gaps. Honestly, I have barely spent any money at all – the only baby-related things I think I have purchased since Violet was born include breast pads and Seventh Generation diapers and wipes. For real.
  • Bizarrely, even though I run multiple businesses, I wasn’t terribly worried about keeping up. I didn’t schedule formal maternity leave and winged it. It all worked out fine. Part of this is because I love my work so it didn’t feel onerous getting back to it, and part of it was because Violet slept so much in her first month that it was easy to poke in and keep work projects moving.
  • It is possible to maintain relationships — you just have to make it a priority and enlist help. My husband makes it possible for me to visit with friends and travel for work. My mom made it possible for Jon and I to go out on our first date not too long after Violet was born. And we have a couple of great babysitters too. If money is tight, consider swapping sitting with other mom friends – watch her kids one night and she can watch yours another.

So there you have it. I suggest that you evaluate the pragmatics and internals. If the pro column outweighs the con column, take the goalie out of the net, as it were, and put your faith in the universe. If the con column outweighs the pros, live your life as a family of three to the fullest.In my eyes, it’s win-win either way.

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Christine Koh is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas, the designer behind Posh Peacock, and writes a personal blog at Pop Discourse. She lives with her husband Jon, 7-year-old daughter Laurel, and 7-month-old daughter Violet in the Boston area. She tweets about it all at @bostonmamas.