Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another Baby: Are We Ready?

When holding another baby knocks you off your feet...

This is a tough decision for anyone, made even tougher by the fact that two parents don't often agree on the answer. There are a lot of factors involved in this decision and since having a baby is a lifelong commitment, it is wise to consider all the factors involved in this complex decision.

We are wired to want to have children; our genes tell us to reproduce when the conditions are right. Sometimes this is immediately after we have recovered from having a baby, sometimes it is when our children get a bit older and can play on their own, sometimes it is when we realize we don't have to buy diapers, formula, or baby food anymore, and sometimes it is much later when our kids have lives and friends of their own. Biology doesn't usually drive us to stop having children. Instead, once that urge knocks on the door, it is a hard one to fight. Even if you are perfectly happy with your life and current family, one day you may be looking at baby pictures or holding a newborn and you are blindsided by the urge to have another child. Sometimes this feeling comes on strongly and feels urgent. Other times, it can sneak up on you over the course of time until one day you wake up and you are sure that you want another. It can be difficult to separate that biological force from your own feelings.

Before you commit to it, sit down and honestly evaluate your life. Ask yourself if you are just bored with where you are in life. Try to answer honestly. Are you afraid of never experiencing that purpose and all-consuming love again? Do you just need to spend some time remembering your children's babyhood? Are you afraid of not being needed? Do you just miss that sweet baby smell and that soft skin? Having another child is more than sweet babyhood. Take some time to remember the negative aspects of having a baby and a child. The hard work involved and the heart-ache. These are honest questions you need to answer before you move forward, because even if you have that baby, if the biological urge is pushing you forward, you will likely feel them again. Postponing your honest answers is not a good reason to have a baby.

However, if you can answer those tough questions and still come out of it wanting another baby, then perhaps biology is not the only thing motivating your desire. Next, take a look at your family.

How would another baby impact your family? Would your child or children benefit from a sibling? What would the age difference be between them? Would this new baby have any step-brother or –sisters who would be impacted? Would your child or children be excited about a little brother or sister? Adding another child to your family does take time and attention away from your other child or children. The benefits gained by the child in the form of a sibling can be worth the trade-off. You know your child or children best. What is in their best interest? Do you have an only child who would significantly benefit throughout life by having a brother or sister? Do you already have three little girls who might not see the advantage in yet another little sister? You will need to look at your family and answer these questions honestly.

What type of support group do you have in place? Do members of your extended family live nearby? Would they welcome another baby into their lives? Would they be able to provide any help?

Most importantly, you need to know how your husband or wife feels about adding another child. You cannot make this decision alone. That person must be entirely on-board with the idea or it will be an unpleasant trip. If your spouse is eager to have another child, this part of the decision is easy. If he or she is skeptical, you need to ask why—and really listen when they tell you. They probably have legitimate concerns that you will need to address. Be sympathetic and compassionate about their concerns. You may be able to work through some of them together.

Be sure that you are not trying to have another baby to fix a problem. People often have another baby in the hope of having either the boy or the girl they didn't get the first time around. While this is a logical hope, you need to want to have a baby even if you get the opposite of what you hope. If you are a family of four boys, thinking of trying for a girl, you need to know that you will still be as excited about having a baby if you knew you were having another boy. Perhaps your husband travels too much and you are sure that if you had another, he would have to curtail his travel schedule? It is never a good idea to have a baby to solve a problem.

Babies are inexpensive, but children are quite costly. The actual cost of caring for a baby is minimal, especially if you breastfeed, but the long-term cost of raising a child is expensive. Current studies have put a $155,000 price tag on raising a child from birth to age 18. While money should not be the only reason you decide to have a baby or not to have a baby, it will probably impact your decision in some way. Will you need a bigger house, a bigger car, more child-care? Will one of you stop working for part of the time or permanently? These are critical questions that every family must address when considering another child. Long-term costs are even more difficult to plan: college, weddings, high school events, clothing—these are variables that will make it difficult to ensure you have enough money to make this leap.

In addition, planning for a baby often comes with a host of other costs: infertility treatments, doctor's visits, a nursery, baby equipment. These costs are small in the beginning but can accumulate quickly. However, people who have not had money have been having kids forever. You do not have to plan where you are getting all the money before you have another child, and few people do. It will just certainly be an element you want to talk about and consider before making that decision.

You need to know how another pregnancy will affect your (or your wife's) health. Was her previous pregnancy difficult? Were they any infertility issues that you might expect this time around too? Are you (she) in good health now? Have you had a recent physical? You might want to schedule a routine check-up with your doctor before making a decision. You will want to be aware of any high-blood pressure or other potential health problems before going down this path.

If your doctor gives you the all-clear, you can cross this concern off your list and pick up some prenatal vitamins that will help get folic acid into your system before the pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevent spinal defects and will also give you additional nutrients if you do make that decision.

A baby requires a lot of additional time and energy. If you are running the PTA, volunteering at the food bank, shuttling your existing children to soccer practices, and thinking about going back to work or about picking up more hours at work, something will have to give. You won't need to become a hermit, but you will simply not be able to do it all with a newborn. You need to have the time and the energy to take care of a baby. Can you make that time or are the demands of your life too pressing right now to cut? You need to also understand your husband or wife's time limitations. Will he or she need to travel a lot for work in the coming year? Is your husband thinking of starting his own business? Will your son need speech therapy twice a week in another town? Is your mother getting older and will need some care soon? You need to be aware of your limitations. If you think you have room in your life and can adjust your schedule to make time for another baby, then you are all clear.

Having a baby is a wonderful, life-changing experience. You get to meet someone and shepherd them as they grow into little people and then into full-grown adults. It is a magical and rewarding experience fraught with challenges, heart-ache, joy, and love. That pull to have another baby is strong in both men and women and should not be ignored. Take time to listen to that feeling, evaluate your life, and decide whether you are ready to make that leap.

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