A New Baby

No, not mine. But I got your attention, didn’t I?

Our closest friends have a newborn, and his arrival has changed all of us. We don’t have any local blood relatives – all of BabyC’s grandparents and aunts and uncles live at least a plane ride away. But these friends are family. They live just a few blocks from us, and we are the kind of friends who drop in on each other without calling (or texting) first. This baby – we’ll call him Little Sprout – is their first child.

BabyC and I visited Little Sprout at the hospital on the first afternoon of his life.

I watched BabyC closely as she met Little Sprout for the first time, curious to see how she would welcome this new member of the family. BabyC is very close to Little Sprout’s mom and dad, and I wondered how she would feel about being second fiddle to a new baby.

Little Sprout, being a newborn, cried within a few minutes of our first meeting. BabyC looked immediately concerned, demonstrating that the innate human response to an infant’s cry is to do something, right away. BabyC turned to face me, started mimicking Sprout’s cry, and emphatically signed “milk” to me as if to say, “Mama, do what you do and help this baby!”

I thought, “Well, I’ve done this before. Sure thing, let me hold the little guy.” I picked up Little Sprout and tried my best to soothe him (but no, not offering milk), but he continued to wail. BabyC echoed his wail and continued to look worried. I handed Little Sprout over to his mom, and BabyC watched as she began to breastfeed him.

I observed as BabyC processed what this meant. Her dear friends had become parents, and it was their job to care for Little Sprout. After this first day, when Sprout cried, BabyC pointed at his mom and signed milk to her.

Over the last month, we’ve seen Little Sprout nearly every day. BabyC has quickly learned the basics of newborn care: milk, poop, sleep, and cry. At home, she asks about Sprout often.

“Baby?”

“Baby Sprout is home with his mom and dad.”

“Boop?”

“Yes, Sprout does poop a lot. All babies poop a lot, and we have to change their diapers often.”

“Hmmm.”

The arrival of Baby Sprout also inspired us to pick up BabyC’s first realistic-looking baby doll. Baby Doll came with a stroller, and BabyC pushes her all around the house. She really loads up the stroller, hanging bags and hats from the handle, and piling the stroller with blankets on top of Baby Doll. (She’s a new mom, and she still thinks that she has to load up the entire nursery when she goes out. Cut her some slack.)

She also changes Baby Doll’s diaper quite often, because as we all know, babies boop a lot. And sometimes Baby Doll’s diaper changes require a LOT of wipes, like a pile of them on the floor to get the job done. Sigh.

Best of all, in my mind, BabyC has taken on the responsibility of feeding Baby Doll. When we picked her out in the store, BabyC couldn’t wait to hold her. I pulled her out of the box so that she could play with her while I finished my shopping. Waiting in line to check out, Baby Doll started crying (typical baby behavior, right?), and BabyC pulled up her shirt and started nursing on the spot. I’m so glad that Target has become more comfortable with nursing in public, because BabyC was not showing much modesty. (Actually, nobody ever bats an eye about breastfeeding in public here in Eugene, doll or not.) I have also walked into BabyC’s bedroom to find her sitting in our rocking chair, where we usually breastfeed, nursing her Baby Doll while reading a book. Sometimes, Baby Doll needs to eat in the hallway, too. This is true feeding on demand, folks.

I have been impressed with BabyC’s level of care for Little Sprout. She is clearly empathetic when he is in distress, and she’s practicing the basics of newborn care. Seeing BabyC with Little Sprout has made it obvious that she really is not a baby anymore. She’s a toddler – and an independent, outspoken, and caring one at that. I can’t go on calling her BabyC forever. Her new blog alias will simply be “Cee.”

Sprout’s arrival and BabyC’s response to him has made us think more about trying to have another baby soon. It still overwhelms me to think of caring for a newborn and a toddler, but now I can actually imagine how we might make room within our family for a new little one.

When we were pregnant with BabyC, Husband and I started thinking about an “ideal” child spacing. We both agreed that we wanted two kids (Me: “Well, at least two.” Husband: “Two.”). Husband thought we should space them as closely together as possible, so that they would grow up being close friends. I wanted them a bit more spaced out. I wanted time to really let BabyC be a baby, to enjoy being with her and giving her my full attention for a few years. I wanted our second child to have enough distance so as not to grow up in BabyC’s direct shadow but not so much distance that they couldn’t relate to each other. I’ve said for a while that I think three years is a good inter-child spacing, and Husband has basically deferred to me on this decision. But now, I’m feeling antsy. I also know that it may take me some time to get pregnant, because it did the first time around. We can only plan so much, and then we have to leave the rest to a little physiological roll of the dice.

If you have more than one, how far apart in age are your children? Do you think there is an ideal spacing?

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43 thoughts on “A New Baby

  1. This is a great post. I love that she’s breastfeeding the baby doll!

    As far as spacing goes, I think the question of whether your kids will be friends is more a matter of personality than spacing. I know families with kids only a year or two apart who are best friends. Then there’s my mom and her brother, who are 16 years apart and are very close. My own brother and I, 2 years apart, were never close growing up. FWIW, I’d worry less about spacing and more about you; if you’re ready to try again, maybe it’s time! Best of luck.

    • You’re right – personality is huge. We try to make sense of it through our own experiences, but we can’t account for the personality of an unborn baby! As far as Cee’s personality, I think she wouldn’t have handled a very close spacing very well. She made it very clear during the first year of her life that she needed ME and a lot of me, and she has slowly grown out in her trust of others during the last 10 months. Now, she is suddenly becoming a daddy’s girl! It is a little bittersweet for me but also wonderful to share more equally in caring for her. I’m betting this my readiness has a lot to do with this shift, and its also an indicator to me that she could be ready to be a big sister.

  2. My children are 4 years apart and it’s just a bit too much. They were only in school together 2 years – kindergarten and 1st for the younger, 4th and 5th grade for the older one. Now my older child is off at college and it is kind of nice that we had the first 4 years alone with him and the last 4 years before college alone with my daughter. So that’s the bright side. But, if I had it to do over again I’d go with 3 years apart.

    Love seeing Cee nursing her baby doll and being such a sweet nurturer already.

  3. What a sweet story! The spacing question is such a tricky one – varies for every family I guess. My hubs and I are still deciding between 1 or 2, while also wondering, if 2 when? I hope we’ll just know when and if the time is right!

  4. It sounds like you found “your moment.” I remember thinking for the first 20 months of Jonah’s life “there is noooooo way I will have another child because it would be impossible for me to care for another child.” And then, in one moment, it was just the perfect time to start trying (of course, if I had known that TWO babies would be coming the next time around, I might have resisted that “moment” ;) Go get knocked up!!

    • Devon, I love you. And I miss you! I wish we lived closer during this stage of our lives. You could have given me all the inside scoop on babies. Also, I read your comment and thought, “Hmmm, twins would solve the contradiction between my husband’s “two and only two” and my “two and maybe one more” plans.” And then I thought, “What am I thinking?!”

    • Ha, the same thing happened to us. I had horrible hyperemesis (and then PND) with my first, and it took four years to reach “our moment”. Then we won the ovarian lottery and got twins.

  5. I thought 3 yrs would be optimal, but whoops! Our 2 are just 2 weeks shy of being 2 years apart. I think ideal spacing is whatever works for you as a parent. Age difference doesn’t ensure friendship, in my experience especially if the kids are different genders (my bro and I are not very close).

    I admit to not being ready for a second when we found out Biscuit was going to join us. But that’s the beauty of gestation- you have time to plan and figure things out. By the time Biscuit arrived I was ready, if nervous, about having 2.

  6. I have been thinking about the same thing. Three years apart seems like a good idea for me. I would like to

    There is research on various impacts of short birthing intervals, including high load on mothers’ nutritional stores. This might be a good review topic for you given your expertise.

      • Oh, this is a great topic. If only I had more time… I know there are maternal health reasons for not spacing babies too closely (maybe <18 months?), but I think I'm outside of that window. The science behind outcomes in kids is an entirely different question, though. I will add that I'm not sure my body is ready for pregnancy right now. I'm running a marathon in a month, and then I think I need to gain about 5 pounds and rest up:)

  7. I’ve read that at least 18 months between births is best for mom’s body, and more like 24 months if the earlier birth was a caesarian section. I did just see an article/study about how 3-5 years apart was better academically, too. Trying to conceive somewhere after the older child is 2 seems to be what is most common, so then the kids are about 3 years apart (I’m in a mom’s group where 10 kids were born at that timing last year).

  8. This is such a hard question…and I think there is no way to predict how your kids will interact with each other (regardless of how close/far apart they are) so it’s best to just go with your gut! ;) I watched a lot of my friends have their kids less than 2 years apart (18-22 months) and saw how difficult those first few months were. My girls are 26 months apart and I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly we have transitioned – my toddler loves her baby sister & is independent enough to be “helpful” & also take care of herself in small ways (play independently, eat a snack w/o constant supervision, listen & obey *most of the time*…etc) Although we did take some steps backwards in the potty training dept. ;)

    I know exactly what you mean about savoring time with your first born. Once baby #2 comes along (regardless of spacing) you have to become much more intentional with baby #1!

    • I like to think that I’ll enjoy baby #2 a bit more since I’ll have let go of a lot of my new mom worries, but I know I’ll be spread much thinner than I was with Cee. I also think I’ll feel sadder as I watch the milestones go by with #2, knowing that he/she will probably be our last.

      • I do catch myself “mourning” that I may be done having children… but I also have noticed that I’m MUCH more present with baby #2…I notice more things, appreciate more things, find myself slowing down to just look at her and “be”. I think with baby #1 I was so overwhelmed by everything and the time just flew by. You ARE busier with 2, but it is a different kind of busy…you adjust and make time to spend with each one & even if it is a few minutes, when you are PRESENT in those minutes they can be more meaningful than the hours of time you had when you just had 1! It’s crazy…and wonderful :)

  9. My Dad has lots of theories about most things and his one on spacing says 2.5 years – 3.5 years … with most of his main points being mentioned by the comments above! (Time to have enough time with each child, close enough that the arrival of a new sibling isn’t too earth shattering etc). My girls are 2 years 10 months apart and this is working fine for us. I agree that gap doesn’t = friendships etc. My step kids are 4 years apart and they are super close.
    My younger sister hated being home by herself when we had all left…. but there was only 3 years between her and our middle sister… so I guess she would have wanted a sibling 11 m older than herself… as a mum that makes me think … oh dear!
    I do think that the old maxim “you’ll never feel really ready!” is probably true… so if you can conceive of it then may be that’s the sign that its right for you! (And be warned “Just thinking of it” sometimes means its in progress… haha).

    • Ha! Your last point is highly doubtful! One thing I remember from the first time around was that when we first decided to start trying, I thought there wasn’t a huge rush, but then within a month or two, I really wanted to be pregnant NOW! I hope I’ll be more laid back about it this time around, because I ended up pretty stressed as the months ticked by.

  10. Well, for us…as with you, it took us some time (and some help) to get pregnant with E. We thought three years was ideal spacing, too. And I was in the first year of a tenure-track position. So we figured, when she was 13 months old, that it would take another year and more help. We started trying when she was 14 months old. And I got knocked up the second month we tried. In a month when ovulation was so late, I wasn\’t sure it was even going to happen. While still nursing Emily.

    My point is – I’m not sure you can easily plan these things. We got ours closer together than I’d like, and I had to take mat leave after only a year at my position. I did have the forethought not to start trying until I was at least three months into my new job, so that maternity leave would cover me when and if we succeeded, but every other plan was kaput.

    So…when you think you’re ready for two, I’d say go ahead. An infant and a toddler means no sleep for months, and I’m wiped out most evenings a year later, but, honestly, the second one is easier than the first by an order of magnitude. You’ll never be SURE you’re ready for two. ;)

    • I feel like I’ve heard this from quite a few moms – that the first pregnancy didn’t come easy but the second was surprisingly so. I don’t know if there’s any data on that. It may be that those are the “fun” stories we hear, and people talk less about the long months of waiting. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes for me. It took me 7 months to get pregnant – totally normal, I know. Still, it was long enough for me to start worrying about infertility. I think I’ll be more relaxed the next time around, knowing that my body has done it before and will likely – fingers crossed – do it again.

      • My colleague/friend Shelley is a reproductive physiologist, and she says the field agrees there’s this phenomenon in mammals she calls “priming” – as in, the best time to breed a mammal is right as you start to wean the previous baby. She swears there’s a surge in fertility as prolactin levels come down, which fades over time. I have no data to refer to, though, just the word of someone who’s supposed to be an expert.

        • Actually, you’ve reminded me. I did ask my OB about this, wondering if I really wanted to optimize my chances if I should wean at the same time as stopping the pill. She told me that there is evidence of this priming in women with PCOS, but not for the rest of us. Certainly seems plausible, though. I’ll have to look into it.

  11. Fantastic post as usual! We have 2 and they’re 20 months apart. I only had one cycle between them and we thought it would take longer as I had 2 miscarriages before our first child. Lucky for us, the first time stuck :) The first few months have been busy but we’re 6 months in and it’s going much better now. Keeping in mind that the first month was brutal as our son brought home pink eye, 2 fevers and hand, foot and mouth disease within baby’s first few weeks. I think we’re done at 2, but newborn onesies are still making me twinge, so who knows?!

    • Oy! Cee is 22 months now, so we’re already looking at a 2.5 – 3 years interval. Having the older kid in daycare or otherwise out and about in the world definitely has to change the germ environment around the newborn!

  12. How sweet! I was wondering when BabyC was going to lose the “Baby-”! The blossoming of her mothering/nurturing instincts is the perfect occasion. I can’t speak to sibling spacing directly since my husband and are both only children (and happily so). However, my grandmother had four baby girls in five years, and it sounds like those early years were crazy! (Maybe that’s why I’m an only…) The women are all great friends in adulthood, though. Seeing closeness between my mother and her sisters is the one thing that makes me kind of wistful that I don’t have a sibling.

    • Both of my parents came from large families, and from the stories they tell, were good friends or at least playmates in childhood. But honestly, I don’t know how our grandmothers did it! (And it was the moms in these families – the dads were out working to put food on the table for all those kids! And both of my grandmothers worked outside of the home when their kids were a little older as well. Wow.)

  13. My sister and I were 19 months apart. We hated each other growing up. We don’t particularly like each other now.
    My friends who had siblings who were about 3 years apart from them seemed to have the best relationships. I wanted to have our kids 3 years apart. However, we adopted, and the timeline didn’t work out as we planned. Our kids are about 5-1/2 years apart. That’s way too much. They have very different needs, so someone’s always being shortchanged. Also, the older one was an only for too long and doesn’t like sharing attention.

  14. This is a topic that really interests me! My and my brother are only 16 months apart and grew up very close as siblings… although I do wonder if that is more a consequence of environment rathen than age gap? We moved around a lot as a family so I think that may have had something to do with our close bond growing up. But my experience has always made me veer towards wanting a 1-2 year gap between my own children. However, I can see the advantage of spacing them out more and having a bit more time for each one individually, particularly when they are bubs. And also having that time between each pregnancy to allow your body to recover. There are so many variables at play, it’s not really something we can predict or plan for without life throwing us a curve ball. I’ll just feel very lucky to be able to have happy, healthy children :)

  15. Hi Alice! Great post! Guess what? We’re going to find out how 19 months work! :D We’ve been relaxed about it and set a date where we said ok, if it happens after this it will be great but we weren’t specifically trying too hard. As life would have it, it happened that first month. So here we are and yes, I am nervous but the 9 month comment is so true! I think I’m starting to nest already! Good luck. I’m with the go get knocked up girl!

  16. Perfect spacing for children? That depends on so many factors that you can’t possibly know before trying to conceive. Two girls very close in age may end up fighting more than they would be close, but a boy and a girl close in age could be pals. Different children have different personalities, meaning you can’t be sure how your next child will react to your current children. It’s really just a toss up.
    That being said, my husband and I had always talked about having children 2 years apart, but about 9 months into nursing our first daughter we got pregnant again (whoops!). Now we are going to have two children 18 months apart. We don’t know the gender of Numero Dos, so we’re not quite sure what kind of dynamics there will be. Ask me in December what it’s like having a toddler and a newborn; then maybe that’ll help you decide if you, hubby, and BabyC are ready for a new addition.
    (P.S. I love the picture of Baby C nursing her baby doll. She’s such a nurturing momma.)

  17. My two are almost 3 years apart; it took a LOT longer to get pregnant the second time than the first, but I’m glad for it. My older son is a great helper, and did the same thing with the baby dolly. He named it after his younger brother, diapered it, and didn’t try to nurse it (he realized he couldn’t quite do that), but gave it a binky, etc. He also used it to express a lot of his feelings: “Mama, my baby dolly is crying because he wants you”. What a good tool for helping with new siblings. As for ideal spacing, I agree with the poster above about the “switch”. All of a sudden, I wanted to hold babies. Any baby. And I was MUCH more impatient to hold another of my own. Now they’re playing great together; I’ve seen some serious dominance struggles in friends’ little ones who are more closely spaced together. Lots of aggression and pecking order arrangement going on that I just don’t see in our kids. Who knows, it’s only an n of 3 families, but I wonder if anyone’s studied that…

  18. My brother is 1 year and 3 months younger than me; it means my Mum was pregnant again before I was a year old (I’m the eldest). My little sister is 1 year 11 months younger thanmy brother, so My mum didn’t wait longer to have the third one. We grew up together, played together, climbed the tree together, ran in the field, and it was fun. Now we’re grown up together too. It sounds ideal. But I’m now a mother myself and don’t think I’d fancy getting pregnant before my baby is a year old 😜 How did my mum manage with three of us, God knows!

  19. I loved this post & can truelly relate to it. My son is 3 and we are trying for a second now so they are close but not too close. Although my sons reaction to babys or under 2 year olds has been a little bit of curiosity with a lot of annoyance. I has noticed that he thinks any baby who is getting mammys attention is bad. I can see problems when 2nd one comes along lol.

  20. It tool us two and a half years to conceive our daughter so I thought it would be the same for the next one though like you I think three years would be my ideal gap. We started trying as soon as my periods came back when daugter was 16 months thinking it would take a while. Conceived first month and number two is now due two days after number one’s second birthday.

  21. Aww we nicknamed our fetus Sprout! I am wondering now I’d the nickname will stick. Baby Cee sounds like she would make an amazing big sister.

  22. This was the most adorable story. I smiled the whole time :) I don’t believe in ideal spacing. If there is science to indicate there is, I will entertain it. We can only influence spacing so much, anyway. My Scooter is about 16 mos and we are working on the second. I am mostly concerned with not having to deliver a baby during April – May (planting season) and August – September (harvesting/putting food up season). But, there is a pretty good chance that we will stop caring about those things simply because we are excited about expanding our little family :)

  23. Well I originally thought to do 3 yr spacing between, then 4-5 yrs as I had heard that kids that age were more easily accepting of babies, wanting to take care of/nurturing. As a lot of other moms have said on here, I think a lot of the interaction is based on personality. I was not a fan of my little brother when he arrive, we were 3 yrs and a couple months apart. It didn’t take long for me to get pregnant the first time. The big thing now is just getting my husband on board with the idea of a second child, as he has not been interested at all, even though our son is 15 months old and I have no intention of getting pregnant this second (I think he was a bit traumatized with the whole birthing process in general). There’s just a lot of factors to consider before we make this decision. But yes, I feel the push for a second child, not only because I would love to have a little girl, but also because my friends who are married with a child are having their second already. Plus I would love for my son to have a little brother/sister, so he is not alone.

  24. Pingback: Weaning My Toddler | Science of Mom

  25. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the perfect age difference is 3 years. I think 3 pr 4 years would be ideal. My sister and I are two weeks shy of being 8 and a half years apart, and I think our age difference is too big. I’ll go out with her when my parents are busy (she’s still pretty young) and some people will mistake me for her mom. It’s quite awkward. And while I can babysit her and help my parents, and we are close, we aren’t as close as some sisters are. I can’t really tell her secrets (she wouldn’t really understand them. Plus, she tells my mom EVERYTHING, even when I make her promise not to tell) or have deep conversations with each other. In some ways, having such a big age difference is good, but in other ways, it’s not so fun.

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