Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Not to over-hype this topic, but I've been thinking about and gathering information for this post for months. Actually, it's been more like years. Ever since I started thinking about have a second baby, I was asking every person I knew with more than one child the same question:

"Which transition was the most difficult for you? Zero to one child? One to two children? Two to three? Etc, if applicable?"

If I were being completely honest with myself, what I really wanted to know was, "Please tell me that nothing will ever be as difficult for me as the first few months of Katy's life."

And some people did tell me that. But some didn't. I've continued to ask this question of every mom with whom I come into contact, especially now that I'm interested in the transition to three, and I am continuously blown away by the variety of answers. So, I have a conclusion from my statistically unscientific study:

Transitions are different for every family, and there isn't a consistent answer about which is most difficult.

HOWEVER! I have noticed several factors that influence experiences that I'd like to list here. Mostly because I find it fascinating. You may read this and have more to add or disagree with one of these statements based on your own experience. Please chime in!

Here's what I've noticed:

*It seems that for every mom, there is one child that sticks out at "the one that was difficult." Sometimes it's just because of a baby's temperament. One baby might be more intense than another, and it might be the first, second, third, etc.

*I've noticed that if a mom felt overwhelmed by the first baby, then the second almost always goes more smoothly. On the flip side, if the mom seemed to take the first baby in stride, smooth transition, then she is often more overwhelmed by the addition of a second.

*Obviously stressful life situations close to the time of birth play a big role. If someone moves across state lines with a 2 week old, for example, or is having significant health issues in the family around the time of the birth, then of course that transition is going to be more stressful.

*The age spacing of the kids plays a role, of course. Having kids 15 months apart is a different experience than having them 4 or 5 years apart. I don't think you can always say that closer is more difficult, because there are so many factors to consider, but I've had a lot of moms express to me the challenges of having an infant and a small toddler at the same time.

*I've also had some moms share about the time of anticipation for a baby's birth making a difference. For example, if a couple has had a long road and has wanted to be parents for a long time, their thankfulness at the baby's arrival can make the demands easier to carry. On the other hand, an unplanned pregnancy, while of course may still be welcomed and appreciated, might be more stressful just because it wasn't anticipated for as long.

*Family support is also huge. One mom I talked to said that she was living with her in-laws when their first baby was born. She said she took naps whenever she wanted because there were always extra hands to hold the baby, and she was never lonely. Then when their second was born, they were hours from any family, and she suffered from significant Postpartum Depression. For her, it made a big difference.

So what about you? Is this consistent with your experience? Any other thoughts? I feel a little nervous about sharing this, because I don't want people to think: "What?!? That is SO NOT TRUE! How dare you say that having kids 5 years apart is any easier?!?" And please know that that is not my intention. The whole point I'm trying to make is that it's different for everyone. These are just some of my observations from talking to other parents.

Also, I hope that this isn't all too negative. Obviously having a baby is a huge blessing and and it isn't all stress and emotional turmoil. This is just one aspect in which I am interested in because of my own experiences. You can tell that the sacrifice is worth it to me because I keep having babies. Enough disclaimers!


Giselle said...

I agree with everything you've said here. And I think that parenting stories are like birth stories...no two people will ever experience the same thing. So no matter how many horror stories you hear, no matter how many reassuring stories you hear...you just can't know your own story until it happens.

Just know that the best thing about it NOT being your first baby is that you KNOW you can handle anything. You are a parenting pro...and no matter whether this is your hardest baby or your easiest, you're going to do great!

Charity said...

I agree that each situation and child makes it different for everyone!
Kid's personalities and ages play a big role, that's for sure.
One thing that does interest me is that most everyone I know that has four or more agrees that once you make it to three, you're set after that.
Of course, since a much smaller group of families have four kids or more, it's a little harder to do your research... ;-)

Oma Froehle said...

My babies were 8 years apart because of fertility problems. Both of you were relatively good babies, and I had lots of experience caring for infants because as a teenager I babysat regularly for a woman who kept foster babies. I absolutely love kids . . . especially birth to age 2.

My biggest challenges were always about my emotions and feeling overwhelmed by other things in my life at the time you were born. I wanted lots more kids, and I wanted to stay home with them. Neither of those things happened, but I still got the best two babies on the planet . . . at least until my grandchildren were born. :-)


Allecia said...

Super interesting topic. I so wish there was a book published with this type of study done. Just fasinating to me. When I worked in the Jewish community (and many families were quite large), I heard the same thing as Charity...one to two is hard, two to three is hard, after that it's all the same. I think you're going to do great. Two was a huge transition for me, but, like all things, eventually it becomes "old hat".

bluedaisy said...

I LOVE that you posted about this. And I think what you said about each family being different is very true and I love Giselle's comment that you "can't really know your own story until it happens"...SO true. For me, going from 1 to 2 was my hardest transition. I think it was because I was outnumbered!! Now with 3, I was already somewhat prepared to feel that way so it doesn't seem like as big of deal. But I don't think I will be testing the above theories about the transitions to more than 3!!

Pam said...

Jack was such an easy baby that having one baby seemed not easy, but more enjoyable than hard work. Having two just 2.5 years apart can sometimes be so stresful - especially when they are both demanding attention (and so is the dog and the phoen rings. UGH. You get the picture). I am happy with 2 - I definitely do not have the personality for 3! Maybe because I am 40 now and just don't have the energy?

Weed said...

So interesting, and so true that it's different for everyone. My pregnancies have been so difficult that motherhood feels like a walk in the park in comparison, sometimes. I'm nervous about going from 1 to 2 in a few months, but I also know that the big age difference between my two will likely help some (but also could be a negative thing, since Rachel is so used to being an only child now--I really don't know how she's going to react to having to share Mommy!) The 4+ year age difference isn't what I would have liked, but obviously what God wanted for us. I'm excited to see how it all plays out for us. (Mostly I'm just really, REALLY ready to be done being pregnant and to meet this new little girl! I just wasn't made to be a glowing, happy pregnant woman....)