There's really no clear, tell-tale sign that anyone is "ready" for a first baby, let alone a second, third, or fourth. As cliché as the saying is, "when you know you know" is pretty accurate, and everyone has a different idea of what "ready" even looks like. But if you're on the fence about adding another human to your fam, there are a few signs it's too early to have another baby that you should probably pay attention to. Are they an exact science? Nope. But they can help you pause, assess your current situation, and prepare for the future to the best of your ability. You know, adult stuff.
Around the time our daughter turned 2, my partner and I decided it might be time to try and give her a sibling. Notice I said might, because it felt too scary to fully commit to the idea. I figured if a pregnancy happened as a consequence of unprotected sex, then great, but I wasn't ready to chart ovulation cycles and schedule sex. Our daughter took up all of our time and attention already, but I knew I'd want to give her a sibling at some point.
I didn't give birth to our son until two full years later, and when he finally arrived it felt like it was the perfect moment to expand our family. So the whole "knowing for sure" thing is more of a wishful concept than a realistic goal and, just to hit you with another cliché, things really do have a way for working themselves out. But if you're particularly stressed about whether or not it's time to add baby number two to your brood, here are some signs it might be a tad too early:
You're Not Ready To Split Your Time
If the thought of dividing the time you have with your existing child and a brand new baby gives you anxiety, it's OK. Honestly, it's a totally normal feeling to have. Even when I finally had my second child, I stressed over how to give equal amounts of me to each of my kids.
There secret is, of course, that there's no right answer. Eventually, you learn how to delegate, how to reprioritize, and how to schedule your time so that each one of your children are receiving an adequate amount of your time and attention.
Money Is Extra Tight
Raising kids is expensive. According to CBS News, parents will spend an estimated $233,610 on their child from the time their born to their 17th birthday.
If you're struggling to pay for one child, it's probably best to wait until you're financially able to care for another. My partner and I were in a financially difficult position for many years. Making ends meet on a car salesman's commissioned pay was very, very challenging. We still wanted another baby, but I definitely didn't want to sell my jewelry in order to pay our rent.
You're Career Just Got Back On Track
I've worked from home for many years, taking freelance jobs wherever possible. Just before I became pregnant with my son and I'd all but given up on the idea of having a second child, I landed a few semi-lucrative career opportunities. It was the first time, after many years of hustle, I saw my career path paved in a way that seemed manageable. While plenty of moms balance the mom-work life, I wasn't sure I could start a new job and take care of a new baby.
An estimated 43 percent of women with children leave their jobs, and according to a study published in The US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, "Women who, as a result of having or planning to have children, either cut short their education, drop out of the labor force for an extended period, cut back to part-time employment, choose occupations that are more family friendly, devote less effort on the job, or pass up promotions because of time or locational constraints, end up achieving less than childless women who stay on track with full-time employment and take advantage of opportunities for training and career advancement."
Considering how another child will impact your career isn't selfish... it's smart.
You Don't Have Adequate Support
My family lived a state away when my partner and I considered having another child. Could we handle two kids without any help? Could I handle two kids at home, alone, while my partner was at work and while I tried to work from home?
Those are questions only I could answer for myself and only my partner and I could answer for our relationship and our family dynamic. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that in homes where two parents work, 31 percent of mother does more in handling chores, and 47 of moms take care of their kids when they're sick, versus just six percent of dads. The same study found that 86 percent of moms always feel rushed, 6 in 10 don't have time away from their kids to see friends or explore other hobbies, and 4 in 10 said it was harder to advance at work.
Having help is a vital part of having a healthy work-life balance, so make sure you're surrounded by support before you have another little one.
Your Last Pregnancy/Childbirth Was Difficult
Pregnancy with my daughter was challenging, especially once I was diagnosed with hypertension. I had to stay off my feet while my partner worked full-time, so was miserable and lonely. My labor lasted nearly three days and, afterwards, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. I knew I needed to cope with my depression, pregnancy, and difficult delivery before I even considered having another child.
Sheila Marcus, MD, psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, tells Everyday Health that if you had postpartum depression after your first child, you have a 30 percent chance you will have postpartum depression again. But that shouldn't deter parents, who are ready, from having another child. Once you've had PPD you're able to recognize the signs easier, ask for help sooner, and your physician can keep an eye out on you and even prescribe you medication if necessary, to treat your symptoms.
Your & Your Partner Aren't On The Same Page
According to About Kids Health, "mothers and fathers respond and adjust to their newborn baby in different ways, and sometimes this can cause misunderstandings and conflicts." Are those misunderstandings and conflicts manageable? Of course. Do couples have babies every single day? Absolutely. But only you and your partner know the status of your relationship and how another baby might impact it.
According to Psychology Today, "40 percent of children born to two parents can expect to live in a single-parent family by the time they are 18." Having a baby will not "save a relationship," and after a 10-year study a 10-year study following 72 expectant couples and 24 couples without children, researchers found that new parent's relationship problems begin way before their babies are in the picture.
Your Baby Is Still A Baby
According to the University of Utah's Office of Public Affairs, women aren't waiting long enough before having a second baby. While health experts advise women to wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that "early 30 percent of women who’ve given birth were pregnant again within 18 months."
It's important to let your body heal, rest, and get back to neutral before putting it through another pregnancy, labor, and delivery. According to Erin Clark, M.D., an Ob-Gyn at University of Utah Health Care, "Waiting 18 months before you get pregnant again allows time for your body to heal and reduces your risk of pregnancy complications."
But again, the only person who knows when you're truly ready for baby number two, is you.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.