I had always planned to have two kids, spaced three years apart. So, when my daughter was 2, her father and I decided to try to get pregnant. We learned pretty quickly that TTC when you already have one kid is the worst, and trying to have another baby can, in more ways than one, be much more challenging than it ever was the first time around.
First, there was the question of when to start. We wanted to be sure that we timed our child spacing just right so our kids could inevitably become BFFs, but we also didn't want to have two kids in diapers simultaneously. And deciding when to try to conceive is just half the battle. We actually had to find time to have sex, which is a challenge when your toddler suddenly stops napping and refuses to sleep in her "big girl bed." And, of course, just because you're trying to get pregnant doesn't mean it will automatically happen. I had no idea if I should tell my daughter what we were planning to have another child, or if I should wait to break the news until I was holding a positive pregnancy test in my hot little hands. (And, for the uninitiated, trying to take a pregnancy test on the sly when your toddler insists on accompanying you to the bathroom every damn time is no easy task.)
In my experience, trying to conceive is complex and complicated no matter when you're attempting to start or expand your family, but it’s definitely harder when you have an older kid, and for the following reasons:
You Stress About Child Spacing
For me, the decision to have another baby was among the most complex decisions I could make. I mean, is there really a perfect time to have a baby? Honestly, I don't think so.
I stressed about whether or not it was the right time to get pregnant and add another baby to our family. I worried about whether or not our kids would be close, or if our daughter was ready for a sibling. I worried about the challenges of parenting two kids, and if I was up to the task.
You Have No Time For Sex
When we decided to try for a second child, finding time to actually do the "trying" was the biggest struggle. Our daughter co-slept with us half the time, woke up many times a night, and we both worked full-time. I honestly can't remember when or how we actually conceived our second baby. I do remember the many interrupted attempts, though.
You May Get Emotional
The decision to have a baby is emotional on its own. When you are trying to conceive it's like you are on a roller-coaster that leads you through every emotion in the human experience — excitement, joy, and anticipation, but also anxiety, disappointment, and grief. It's hard enough to experience these things alone, but when you have a kid you find yourself trying to explain why mommy suddenly wants to be alone, or is crying in the bathroom.
You Doubt Yourself
I spent the entire time trying to conceive my second child doubting myself and my decisions. I worried about whether or not I was making the right choice, especially since, in so many ways, my family already felt perfect. I wondered if it would be better to stick with an only child, and the life I knew and could already handle. In fact, I ended up calling it all off, and decided to stop trying... then I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. Luckily, I made peace with the idea of having another baby before I found out I was pregnant.
You Are So Tired
Parenting is exhausting. It can be hard to have enough energy to stay upright, let alone find enough energy to get it on after chasing around your toddler all day. Trying to conceive baby number two was an endurance challenge.
You Have No Privacy
When you are trying to conceive the "old fashioned" way, you have to find privacy to have sex with my partner. In my experience, that's completely impossible when you have a toddler who loves to walk in on you when you're having sex.
But it wasn't just privacy at night that was the issue. I needed to be left alone long enough to take ovulation and pregnancy tests, which isn't easy when you have a child permanently attached to your leg. Considering she had just completed potty training, mommy going to the bathroom alone was not something she expected or allowed.
Things Might Not Work Out As Planned
Of course, just because you are trying to conceive a second baby doesn't mean that you'll succeed. When my period showed up I wanted to be left alone to cry my eyes out, and without having to explain why mommy was sad. I didn't want to put my toddler in a position where she felt she had to comfort me through my disappointment; a disappointment she couldn't understand, or even know where it was coming from.
You Have No Idea What Or When To Tell Your Kid
When we decided to try to have baby number two, our older child wasn't old enough to fully understand "where babies come from." We didn't know how to explain the process to her in a way she understood. When I asked her if she wanted a baby sibling, she said, "Sure," as if you could just pick one up from Target.
If you have a loss, this becomes even more complicated. How do you explain a miscarriage to a child? Do you even explain? Do you tell your child you're pregnant early on? Or do you wait until you're in the second trimester?
All these questions are personal, and answers will vary, but they're not really questions someone who is trying to conceive for the first time have to ask themselves. When you're already caring for one child, having another one means taking your first child into account... in more ways than one.