When planning for your family, I am sure you have had dreams of the number of children you will have and the spacing between each child. If you are fortunate enough to get pregnant fairly quickly and easily, then you may be able to control that gap. But if you are like me, you might have years of struggles and then years of surprises leading to both small gaps in ages and very large ones. I am here to tell you the sweetness of and the challenges of each way so you can either plan accordingly OR be prepared for what you have been blessed with.
The Close Gap
It took us over two years to get pregnant with our first. Lots of trying and fertility treatments finally ended with the birth of a bouncing baby boy. Annnddd a few weeks before that baby boy’s first birthday, I was shocked to discover that I was pregnant with our second. NEVER would I have thought I would become pregnant so quickly or so easily. But when our son was just 19 months old, along came our sweet baby girl.
Oh, those first few years. To call them a challenge is like calling climbing Mount Everest a challenge. They are rough! Both little people need you all.the.time. There is no break. Neither can do anything on their own. And they both have different demands to get their basic needs met. One needs solid food, the other liquid. One needs to nap once a day at the same time, the other needs to nap intermittently at random times. One is teething and one is colicky. One is in diapers and one is starting to potty train. The list of vast differences despite a small gap is HUGE. Like crazy huge.
Oh, and they are growing so much! And changing so much. So you are constantly buying all the things all the time. Different sized diapers, different sized onesies, different sized shoes, different strollers, car seats, and toys. And all.the.time. AND sometimes overnight. One day they fit into those pants and the next they don’t. A nonstop cycle of buying new and outgrowing soon.
And when they are older…the fighting. Oh my goodness, the fighting. They will fight over what TV show to watch. Where to sit at the dinner table. Who gets the front seat. It is endless. And mind-numbing. And frustrating.
Oh but the rewards are great. AND life long. You see, these close babies will grow to be the best of friends. They will look to each other for support, for a playmate, for a confidant.
And they will share the same phases and stages. You will not have to divide and conquer. They will both believe in Santa at the same time. They will both want to ride the kiddie rides and then the big kid rides and then the thrill rides. They will like the same movies and TV shows. The same foods. The same vacations. The same experiences.
And despite their fighting, they will also defend each other to no end. They will have each other’s back at school events, social gatherings, and out-of-town experiences. They will always have a built-in buddy when trying new church groups, roller coasters, or camps. They won’t travel through life alone.
The Big Gap
So after thinking our little family of four was complete, we were surprised to learn, at 42 years old, that we were expecting a third. At the time of her birth, our firstborn was 10 years old and our second born was 8½ years old. Quite a gap!
Your nice, calm routine will be thrown out the window. Getting the middle to dance will become harder than a trip overseas. Dinner will be eaten in shifts at all different times. You will barely be able to get the baby to bed, let alone yourself, so those in the middle will be left to fend for themselves.
You will feel such guilt at ignoring the olders while you tend to the littlest. Your whole world revolved around theirs. Until the little bundle came along. Then suddenly your whole world revolves around the newest family member. You will miss athletic events, being a room mom, an open house. And you will feel HORRIBLE. I promise no one will ever remember, but you will. And carrying that guilt is hard.
And so much divide and conquer. The baby needs to go to bed early, but the bigs want to go to the Haunted Hay Ride. One parent stays home, the other goes. The baby wants to ride the carousel while the bigs want to tackle the coaster. One parent sits on a horse and another suspended below a scary track. The olders want to watch a horror movie, the youngest a cartoon, so you go to separate rooms. It will tear your heart in two because you want to be in both places simultaneously.
Although these challenges might seem impossible, I have actually most enjoyed the big gap, because…
The Help. Oh, the help. The olders will hold the baby. Play with the baby. Even change the baby’s diaper. And the help will get more and more important and helpful the older they get. You can leave the littlest with the bigs and go on a run, to the grocery store, even a date night! You CAN fold the laundry and do the dishes while the others occupy the littlest. It is glorious.
The Love. The olders will love that little baby in a way that you would never imagine. Their faces will light up when they see her. They will be so proud as she learns new things. They will love relieving their own childhoods through that baby’s eyes. And they will protect that little sibling in all the ways possible and go above and beyond to ensure their safety and well-being. Maybe even more than you!
The Gift. If there is a big space, you, Mama, will have the ability to truly relish each milestone. When babies are close, you are in survival mode. And don’t have time or energy to sit back and relax and relish. But when the older(s) are more self-sufficient, you CAN hold the baby for hours on end, you CAN watch them sleep, you CAN really cherish the learning to walk and talk and play and learn. This gift will be one that you won’t even realize the value of until they get a little older and you realize those memories are priceless.
Bottom line…there is no bad spacing. The pros of either will ALWAYS outweigh the challenges. And you, Mama, will ALWAYS adapt and thrive despite whatever difficulties are sent your way. So whether by choice or by circumstance, there really is no bad spacing. It always works out and becomes something you can’t imagine being any other way, so just know the challenges but cherish the rewards.