A study released by the CDC last week looked at the spacing between pregnancies in America. The recommended time between pregnancies is at least 18 months. This gives your body a chance to recover, and offers the best chance the pregnancy will end in a healthy, full-term birth. While the median interpregnancy interval (time between a live birth and a subsequent conception) is about 2 1/2 years, about a third of women are waiting less than 18 months after giving birth to conceive. Research shows the second pregnancy has an increased risk of complications, and the child has an increased risk of prematurity, autism, being born small for gestational age, and developmental disorders.
I found out I was pregnant with my second child about 7 months after I gave birth to my first. Oops … seriously, oops. It all turned out o.k., but I wouldn’t have planned it this way. Not only did I have to give up drinking for two summers in a row, I felt rundown and beaten up. After Serena (#2) was born, I struggled with constant guilt over the lack of attention I could give Madelyn (#1). I was exhausted, frazzled, resembled a pack mule on my ventures out of my apartment in NYC, and didn’t enjoy my first experience as a mom as I could have if I had had more time with just one child. (Just in case you are reading this, Serena, best mistake ever, of course.)
I see the appeal of having kids quickly. It is a kind of “bang it out all at once” mentality. You’re already knee deep in diapers and spit up, you might as well stay there. For moms and dads who start having kids a little later in life, it might seem like the only option if you want a bigger family. But, before you jump back on that horse — bad analogy — consider the research behind the more prudent decision to wait. Complications and risks aside, I can personally attest to the joy of watching older kids with younger siblings, the comforting perspective a little spacing offers, and the ability to better appreciate your children and your life when you don’t feel like a day care worker.