Question:
Hi Gabrielle! Could you please give me some advice? My baby is turning 3 this year and I’m thinking about getting pregnant again. How did you decide to space your kids? How do you know it’s time to have another one or if you’re done? I appreciate your thoughts. — Thanks, Jeannie.

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Answer:
Wow. That’s a big question, Jeannie! But I’m game. As far as spacing goes, in my head, I always thought I’d have babies about two years apart until I was done. But that never happened. Here’s what did happen:

Ralph and Maude are 18 months apart.
Maude and Olive are 2 1/2 years apart.
Olive and Oscar are 3 1/2 years apart.
Oscar and Betty are 16 months apart.
Betty and June are 4 years apart.

It turns out, not everyone has control of when and if they’ll conceive (or adopt). Me included. So first off, even if you make a plan, know that you may or may not be able to stick with it. And that it will all work out either way.

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Here are my thoughts on what I experienced. Sixteen months apart was definitely the trickiest. It’s not twins, but it’s still two babies. I won’t lie, it can be rough. But the nice thing is, if you have a hard time enjoying a certain stage — say the diaper years, or the preschool phase —  you move on to the next part of life really fast. Having kids close in age is efficient! Another nice thing is a built in playmate. Oscar and Betty have been inseparable for years. I’m sure that will change at some point, but it’s been wonderful as we’ve moved from New York to Colorado to France.

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In contrast, 4 years apart was by far the easiest on me as a mother. By the time June was born, Betty could get herself dressed, get herself a snack and entertain herself pretty well. She was old enough to be comfortable at preschool and was good company when I was hanging out nursing Baby June — Betty was even old enough to be able to get me a drink of water. : ) But four years is a lot. Two years in and Betty and June definitely don’t have a buddy relationship. It’s much more of a big sister/baby sister thing. Who knows if they’ll ever be close friends. I hope so. But who knows?

And really, some of this is just luck of the draw. I’m sure we all know plenty of siblings who are close in age, but not close emotionally. Or the opposite. In our family, Ralph and Olive are 4 years apart but they’ve turned out to be great friends. They really enjoy hanging out together! So it seems like sibling spacing is really one of those no one-can-predict sort of things.

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My advice: listen to those instincts of yours. If you feel like you would be completely overwhelmed to find yourself morning sick or caring for a newborn, perhaps it’s still time to wait. On the other hand, if you’re obsessed with babies and find yourself staring dreamily at maternity clothes, maybe it’s time for the next baby. And for those of you who pray (I’m one of you), this is the perfect sort of thing to pray about.

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I’ll end with the “how do you know when you’re done” part. I’ve probably had this exact conversation with at least 100 women — and some men too! People approach the decision so differently. We knew we were done at 6. Earlier in our marriage, I might have guessed that we’d have 7 or 8 or even 9. But by the time we actually got to 6 we knew it was enough. Six just felt like our max.

But again, everyone approaches it differently. In Nie Nie’s book, she mentioned that she purchased a kitchen table that would seat 8 people — and she intended to fill it. Others assume they’ll have a certain number of children but then find they can’t conceive again after the first baby. Or they can’t conceive at all. Some people have a plan from the beginning, others kind of wing it and see what happens. And still others find themselves on the adoption trail and are bound by budgets and other people’s decisions. It’s tricky stuff!

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Dear Readers, I know you have lots of great experience in this area. Please share! How did you decide to space your kids? When/how did you know you were done growing your family? How close in age are you to your own brothers and sisters?

P.S. — Want more? Here’s an earlier related post called Having Another Child.

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