Ask Naomi: Should I have another baby

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I am ready to have another baby, but my husband isn't. We have a son that is 19 months old now, and I miss having a little baby, plus, our 19 month old could use a playmate. How should we decide if to get pregnant now or wait longer?


There are three of you who will be enormously impacted by the timing of a new baby 's arrival; your son, you, your husband as well as your marriage and your relationship with your son and with the new child. Taking care of your desire for a baby must take into account all the participants so that you have the best support and peace with your family.

Therefore, there is no one answer to this question and much depends on your lifestyle and support. If you live with an extended family and there are other adults who regularly care for your son, then having another baby close together may be a choice that honors his needs. If, however, like most of us, you are set up as a nuclear family and your son is dependent on your and your husband's care and attention, waiting may be beneficial for all of you.

The most important person in this choice is your son. A two or even three-year-old is still seeing himself as your baby. You believe that he will enjoy a playmate. Yet, a two year old and a baby cannot be playmates. It will take a few very trying years of two babies competing for your care, before they can play together and then, you can't know if they will get along or not.

Many mothers call me for advice with two young ones. They find themselves often unable to meet basic needs, angry with the older child and not enjoying themselves. Or, they call when the children are old enough to play and they are at their wits'' end because the children are fighting non-stop.

"They" say that being close together makes for friends. Are "they" right? Maybe you had a good experience with a sibling close in age. But, in reality this does not happen often. More often than not, siblings have a very hard time relating, specially if the older one feels a great a loss with the arrival of the baby.

In the extended family or the tribe, young ones are carried by preteens and teens and their needs are met by a number of adults. The focus of these children is not only mom and dad and therefore the arrival of another baby is not necessarily as great a loss.

The nuclear family has brought the natural multi care givers to an end. A two-year-old's world is you and your partner. Having another baby is a loss of almost his whole world and a premature loss at that. Such a young child has no natural ability to sacrifice his needs for another (and believe me, he will have to and will not understand why.) He needs full physical care, feeding, holding, dressing, playing caring and attention. He has no reason to give up any part of his primary connection with you and when forced to, may feel desperate and become clingy, whiny, show regressive behaviors, and/or become aggressive.

A mother told me that the birth of her baby sister was the most traumatic event of her childhood; she felt her world collapsed. When you refuse to hold your child because you are holding the baby he doubts your love. If you get upset with him when he wakes the baby up or when you don't have time to be with him, he feels at a loss.

At the beginning the baby is like a doll and the toddler usually loves her. As soon as the baby starts looking like another toddler the older child feels threatened and anxious. He may start hitting or pushing the baby as an expression of his anguish. A mother responds by protecting the baby and the older child then feels even worse, as though he is bad and mom doesn't love him; he sees her as protecting the "real darling" from him. In turn this causes him to feel helpless and become more aggressive.

When we imagine having another baby, we tend to assume it will be an easy baby, and we see ourselves going on giving attention to the older one. Reality is often not as simple as our imagination. Your son needs more years of your full care. To bring another baby means that he has to give up his primal needs for the sake of another which is way beyond his comprehension. We are choosing for him something he would not choose if he truly understood what it meant.

My stepmother used to say, "I don't give birth to another child, until the older one is completely done with needing me in a physical, young child like ways." Indeed, a child can feel joy with a new baby when he himself has no baby needs. At a certain age, the child will not compete with the baby for attention and care. This occurs generally between the ages four and seven. Around the time when his baby teeth fall and mature teeth come in, the child turns a corner in maturity. He is still a child of course, but his point of view changes from being the loser of his spot on mom's lap, to being mom's partner in enjoying the baby.

Some of you may read this column and say, "This isn't true, my sister and I had a great time and I want to give such a friendship to my children." And some parents report wonderful friendships of their own closely spaced children. Although it is possible that closely spaced children will enjoy each other, it is actually not common. In addition, those closely spaced who do enjoy each other, do so when older and rarely in the early years. While the child may recall good days of play (in the later years), the parents recall anxiety and hard times.

This does not mean you cannot get pregnant now. But I hear that your husband does not want it yet, and I know that your son needs more time with you. Make your choice by taking into account your child's needs first. He may enjoy a play mate, but not at the high cost of losing his spot in your arms and then waiting a couple of years for the baby to be a bit of a playmate (maybe.) You can bring a friend to play with him, ideally, someone a few years older than he is because at this age, being of same age is too difficult to get along. Put your desire for another baby in line with your child's needs and your husband's point of view and you will come to the best and most nurturing decision.

©Copyright Naomi Aldort

Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. Parents from around the globe seek Aldort's advice by phone, in person and by listening to her CDs and attending her workshops. Her advice columns appear in progressive parenting magazines in Canada, USA, AU, UK, and translated to German, Hebrew, Dutch, Japanese and Spanish.

Naomi Aldort is married and a mother of three. Two of her sons are professional teen musicians you can see and hear: fourteen-year-old cellist Oliver Aldort And pianist/composer Lennon Aldort

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