Friday, August 22, 2008

Pregnancy scare & child spacing

So, last cycle I had a little scare. Well, more like a panic. I was 5 days late. I'm regularly 29 days like clockwork, and have been since my cycles returned, so I spent 5 days dithering and obsessing and wondering and avoiding taking a pregnancy test.

But, then, there she was, and I had those mixed feelings of relief and disappointment that always come at the end of a pregnancy scare when a new baby wouldn't be so bad a thing -- but mostly relief.

Along with a determination to buy some spermicide.

This is veering into a tangent, and might be tmi, but I think it's good to talk breastfeeding and birth control. Sam & I use condoms, which I think is a good choice for a breastfeeding mama -- no effect on milk production or the nursling. We can't use the spermicidal kind because of sensitivity issues to nonoxynol-9, but I found out there's another form, oxtoxynol-9, that might work for us, if only I could find any! If anyone has an idea, please let me know.

Anyway, as so often happens, coincidences occurred. Just around the time I was panicking, several online friends found out they were unexpectedly expecting another round (one was having unplanned twins!), and I had come across this Baby Center article "Are You Ready for Another One?" just before I was late. My answer was a resounding "no" and smug satisfaction that I was holding out so intelligently, and then...I was reminded that accidents do happen.

From what I've read in Our Babies, Ourselves and other anthropological studies that I can't seem to reference right now, I think 3 years or so between births is the historical human norm. Most people around me, though, seem to space their children no more than 2 years apart, which would mean -- gulp -- I'd be pregnant right now. Maybe it's Mikko, maybe it's me, but I am so not ready for another one right now.

many babiesFrom the Baby Center article:

Here's a rundown of the research on ideal baby spacing:

• Timing pregnancies less than 18 months or more than five years apart could raise the odds of the second baby being born prematurely, at low birth weight, or small for gestational age, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. With too short an interval, researchers theorize, the problem may be that a mother's body needs more time to recover from the stress and depleted nutrients of the first pregnancy; with longer spacing, the problem could be that fertility gradually declines after a woman delivers.

• Waiting 18 to 23 months after the birth of your last child before conceiving another seems best for the new baby's health, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Doctors found that babies conceived less than six months after the birth of a previous child are 40 percent more apt to be born prematurely or underweight. And those conceived more than ten years after the prior sibling face about double the risk of preterm birth.

• A similar study at the University of California in San Francisco found that the ideal interval between babies is 24 to 35 months. Babies conceived sooner had a higher incidence of low birth weight.

• The best time is either when your first is under 1 year or over 4 years, in terms of the children's relationships with their parents, sibling rivalry, and their own self-esteem, according to Jeannie Kidwell, a professor of family studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Children under 1 don't have a sense of their exclusive status yet so they're less apt to resent a newcomer, she says, and those over 4 have had time to enjoy attention from Mommy and Daddy — plus, they now have a life of their own.

Sam & I are planning on waiting at least 4 years between babies, although this week we were thinking having an only child is a valid choice. Or, you know, being child-free. Sigh. More on that later.

In the reader comments to the above article and on The Continuum Concept listserv, when the subject of ideal child spacing was gently raised, parents who have chosen closely spaced children adamantly defend their position, and I can see the potential benefits. Theoretically, the children might be friends, you get childrearing "over with" (something that, again, sounds like a benefit this week), and for women like me who are on the mature side, reproductively speaking, spacing children out too far might run someone into fertility issues.

That said, immediately after I witnessed the blessed start of a new cycle, I read the anguished emails of several mothers of two under two who were at the end of their ropes and feeling overwhelmed by trying to care for two babies. So any disappointment that remained from "losing" that pregnancy evaporated.

My reasons for spacing on the long side are both for Sam & me and for Mikko and the presumptive second child.

  • I want my body to have recovered fully from a somewhat painful pregnancy, anemia, and blood loss during the birth. I still have residual back and joint issues from carrying a 12-pound baby, and I want to make sure I'm back in fighting form when I put myself through that physical endurance fest again. I loved being pregnant, but I'm enjoying not being pregnant right now -- not having all those health constraints on me and being able to ride roller coasters. Ok, just joking on that last one, but that's an example of the rules and restrictions that come along with pregnancy -- fine if you're choosing it, a little obnoxious if it's unplanned.

  • I enjoy each new step toward independence that Mikko is taking, and I don't feel like starting all over again just now. I want to wait until the idea of a newborn sounds fun again!

  • We're not sure if our landlady will let us stay in our one-bedroom apartment if we have four inhabitants. It's not against the housing codes specifically, but she could argue it either way. I hate moving, and I really hate moving when I'm pregnant. Been there, done that.

  • This is a stupid reason, but Sam & I thought it would be fun(ish?) to try for a girl using one of those disputed conception methods. Worth a shot!

  • But, most importantly, I want Mikko to have his babyhood in full. I don't want him to have to wean before he's ready because of low milk supply issues in pregnancy. I want him to be able to co-sleep as long as he needs to instead of being kicked out or over due to safety concerns of a toddler and infant sleeping in the same bed. I want Sam and me to be available to him in these early years and (try to) enjoy each stage.

  • I like the idea of siblings playing together, but I don't place too much importance on it, from my own experience. My brothers and I are spaced far apart, as are Sam and his siblings, but we both feel that we would not likely have been best friends with our siblings regardless of spacing -- growing up, we were just too different in terms of temperament and interests and, perhaps, because of gender. Now that we're grown, we feel close to them all.

So, that's the plan. Now we'll see if I'm on time this month...


Wilderness Mama said...

Ah, it's really not that bad! Once you find out you are pregnant, you still have 7-8 months to prepare. By the time baby comes, you will be completely ready to hold and care for your new little one. :) And it *will* be fun!

And by that time, your first will be older and into toddler/preschool years. He can still cosleep with all of you. If you have safety concernes, make a pallet or something beside you!

Don't worry about moving. If it is not against any codes, no one can make you as long as you are paying your rent.

I don't think spacing really matters in regards to sibling relationships. It could go either way whether they are a year apart or 5 years apart. Each individual is unique with different personalities and interests, and some people "click" together better than others.

We don't use any form of BC at all. I worried at first that I would end up with 15 kids all 18 months apart! LOL! God has a perfect plan though. Some families have smaller gaps, some bigger. The older kids can always help with the younger ones though, so it's really not as hard as it seems from the outside looking in. (I was actually about to comment about that on my next entry.)

Just trust that whatever happens is what God wants for you. He'll take care of you whatever your circumstances. :)

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