I never thought I’d be a mom of three. Especially given how long it took us to feel ready to handle one baby, let alone be ready for another baby. Before having our first daughter, my husband and I sketched out a roadmap of all the things we wanted to achieve and get in order before expanding our family. Travel, buy a house or rent an apartment in a good school district, and find jobs that we enjoyed were on the list. We truly believed that only after we achieved all those goals would we be “ready” to handle raising kids.
Three kids and two dogs later, and there are times I still don’t feel equipped to handle kids. Despite all our planning, there were so many unforeseen obstacles that we never could have planned for. For instance, we never anticipated a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. Or leaving what I once considered my forever job. Then there was the unexpected move from a city that we loved to another area that took us farther away from my family.
Despite all these unplanned circumstances, it was not until I was in the midst of infertility treatments that I realized the perfect time to start a family was a bogus concept. No matter how much we planned, we were not in control of anything. When I learned I was pregnant with our first daughter after the first intrauterine insemination (IUI), I was beyond thankful that I only had to go through one course of infertility treatments. Because I was ready to undergo as many IUIs as needed to have a baby.
So, when it came time to decide when was the right time to give our daughter a sibling, we decided to just jump in and try for a baby. Even though I had yet to land a dream job or travel to Ireland, we had enough money saved and had stable income. Still, I wondered, were we ready for another baby?
If you’re like I was and want to add another baby to your family, but you’re stressed about the timing and wonder if you're really ready for another child, we can help.
Here are seven signs you can totally handle another baby.
Are you physically and mentally ready?
I only started to label myself a crier after having kids. Before babies I could watch Bambi and not cry. After kids? Forget it. My son smiles and I fall apart! I am like many women whose emotions changed after kids. Now, I’m a mom who cries at everything. Aside from crying more than usual, my feelings were heightened after the birth of my first child. Lack of sleep, caring for a tiny human and recovering from giving birth takes a lot out of you.
For me, it was not feeling like myself those first two months after having the baby that made me question if what I was experiencing was normal. Is it normal to sob when you knock over a bottle of pumped breast milk? Am I the only mom who sleeps with her hand on her baby’s chest while she sleeps because SIDS is terrifying? To stop from self-diagnosing I made an appointment with my doctor to evaluate if I was experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). Eventually, those feelings of stress and anxiety leveled off once I started to get into the flow of taking care of a baby—and began to sleep for more than 10-minute intervals.
Only once you feel mentally and physically ready should you consider adding another baby to the family. Check in with your doctor to discuss your plans to grow your family to ensure your body is ready for another pregnancy. Guidance on the minimum amount of time between pregnancies is changing, however, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests women wait at least six months between pregnancies.
You’ve learned how to accept help
I will never forget how frustrated I felt when I was unable to leave the house. Those early days of taking care of an infant are long, busy and exhausting. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself—and asking for help is challenging when you are trying to be all things to everyone. For this reason, parents need to make sure their relationship is in a good place before trying to add to their family. Being able to ask a significant other or trusted loved one for help is vital when raising more than one child!
Exercise has always been my go-to stress reliever and helped reduce my anxiety. Making time to jump on the treadmill or walk around the neighborhood was one thing I made sure to do every day after work before I had a baby, but I skipped those much-needed walks after having a baby. Instead of packing the baby in the stroller and heading out for fresh air, I’d try to clean up the house or work on her baby book. Rather than take my mom or husband up on handing the baby over for an hour so I could go on a run, I’d decline the help and try to run with my daughter in a BOB stroller. (Too bad she hated stroller rides.) I’d say no to meeting up for a walk in the park with other moms because that required showering, putting on makeup and drying my hair. (Or so I thought.)
I was wrong on all accounts. Getting out of the house and doing something that brought me joy was essential to my overall well-being. No one cares about your nursing top or unwashed hair—and neither should you.
You should be able to take time to go out on walks, drive to the park or meet up with a friend before having another baby. Asking and accepting help from your partner, friends or relatives will help to secure some alone time. Self-care is important for all parents. Taking time to get out of the house and doing activities that you enjoy is an important piece of the self-care puzzle.
You can multitask
Aside from checking your finances and making sure you can afford another child, mastering multitasking is a must before welcoming another baby to your family. There are still days when I’m carrying my 10-month-old son on my right hip and throwing in a load of laundry with my left hand. Other days I’m logging my youngest daughter into Zoom while nursing my son on my left breast. If you are now ambidextrous and able to do two things at the same time, then you may be ready for another baby.
You’ve learned to give yourself grace
Being able to adapt and go with the flow is a must when moving from one child to two, or from two to three—and so on. Nothing will ever go as planned. There will be tantrums, diaper blowouts, clothing mishaps and so much more. No matter how much time you spend preparing for every potential scenario, there will likely be another curve ball thrown your way. Because parenthood is messy.
Forgive yourself for snapping if your partner forgot to pack the baby’s lovey. Do not beat yourself up for mixing up the school picture date and sending your child to school in mismatched clothing. Adding a new baby to your family means more responsibilities and more to balance. Unless you are perfect, there will be times when you forget an important date or show up to a special event covered in spit-up.
I can’t remember how many times I said “I’m so sorry” to my daughters’ camp counselor this summer because I thought camp ended at 2:30 p.m. when it actually concluded at 2:00 p.m. Please make room for laughter and accept your imperfections. You’ll need to practice grace when you are trying to juggle everything while raising children. Be gentle on yourself, mama.
You’ve learned to live on a few hours of sleep
Having a baby means never sleeping the same way again. Or for a very, very long time. Moving from one baby to two was not as difficult in terms of lost sleep for me since my girls are only three years apart. By the time my second daughter was born, I was operating on limited sleep and knew how to get through the day before crashing. By the time I got pregnant with my son, both girls were sleeping in their beds for eight to nine hours. So readjusting to infant sleep (or in my son’s case, non-sleep) has been difficult.
Lack of sleep leaves me impatient and a little cranky by mid to late afternoon. Luckily, afternoons are the perfect time for me to hand over the kids to my husband or send them off to their swim or dance classes to provide some downtime. I also try to sleep in on the weekends to catch up on lost sleep. All these tactics do not make up for quality sleep, but it’s a strategy that works for us. If you have figured out how to function on a few hours of sleep then you may be ready for another baby.
Your relationship is ready for it
Raising kids leaves its mark on relationships. Lack of sleep can cause you to be short tempered with one another, and there may be some jealousy if your partner gets to leave the house to run an errand or go to work while the other stays home. A child shakes up your world—in a good way—but it takes some getting used to. The balance of caring for a child while nurturing a marriage or relationship can feel completely overwhelming.
Personally, I found myself becoming frustrated with my husband after the birth of our first daughter because I felt like I carried more of the burden of parenthood. I was nursing my daughter, which meant I was tied to her in a way that my husband was not. Plus, we were exhausted. Little sleep, some stress and exhaustion resulted in plenty of arguments. While arguing is normal in any relationship, there is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy fighting.
Take time to work on your relationship before welcoming another baby to the family. Couples therapy is one way to prepare your relationship for a baby, or setting time aside to have important discussions on what you both want and need before having another child. You both need to be in a good place before growing your family.
You feel ready to become a mama again
There is no such thing as perfect timing or a checklist to complete before knowing when the time is right to add another child to your family. I believe there’s never a clear sign indicating a woman is “ready” to handle another baby because motherhood is tough and unpredictable. That said, you never know what you’re capable of until you’re in the throes of motherhood—and if you feel up for the task, I bet you are.