Three months after I returned back to work I found out I was pregnant. Baby number three was on the way and it took my husband and I by complete surprise. All precautions had been taken to ensure we wouldn’t fall pregnant, but it turns out I’m as fertile as a rabbit and my husband aims on target.
I remember counting my fingers to work out how many months would be between my second child and our now growing third. Seventeen months.
I headed to my doctor to do the usual blood and urine tests. It was confirmed. I was pregnant and I was going to be a mum to three kids under 4.
As I got my head around the small age gap, my doctor didn’t seem concerned by the time between my pregnancies. His wife had 11 months between pregnancies and she coped fine. My eyes popped out of my head when I quickly worked out the maths on that one.
My concerns were initially based on having a small time frame between caesarean sections. I was assured that I would be fine and a caesarean would be the recommended way to have my third baby.
I know there are mums who have had their babies closer together than me, so I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. But I have experienced a close age gap between my youngest two children and thought I’d share the pros and cons of having children close together.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Big Age Gaps
Lets get the cons out of the way first!
The cons of having small age gaps between kids
1. The ‘hilarious’ comments. You will get comments from family, friends and even strangers asking if you know what causes pregnancy yet. They will look at your not yet one-year old baby and your growing belly and try to work out the maths on conception. I smiled at the comments and refrained from explaining our contraception failure as clearly my growing belly revealed enough.
2. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation. There will be no end. My second daughter was 8 months old when I fell pregnant with my third. Dealing with the exhaustion that comes with a pregnancy, while still raising a baby who relies on you for their every need is… well exhausting. The only pro is that by the third trimester when you don’t sleep due to insomnia, you’re awake to take the three-year-old back to bed for the third time that night because they’ve had a nightmare. Or console the 8-month-old because their older sister’s cries woke them up.
3. Everything will hit at once. You’ll be toilet training one child while introducing solids to another while throwing up because of morning sickness. Once the baby is born the days will be busy meeting each need. There is no downtime and getting your kids to nap at the same time is a rare occurrence (although I’d like to add that I finally got this down pat when my youngest was around 8 months which is a pro!). You might have one babe on the boob while trying to toilet train your toddler. Or the toddler will busy themselves with some sort of mess while you’re focused on feeding the baby.
4. The nappy situation is terrifying. I was buying newborn nappies alongside the toddler/walker size nappies. A tip here is to save up to buy your nappies in bulk when they’re on sale, because $60 added to your grocery bill will make a massive dent in your budget.
5. You will need muscles and stamina. Your one-year-old may not be walking by the time their younger sibling is born. Why is this a con? Because carrying a newborn and a one-year-old at the same time is the stuff Ironwomen are made of. And if you have a c-section, like I did, you will want them to be walking so they are a little more independent. My middle daughter started walking three weeks before I had her baby sister. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when she started to walk. Especially when her older sister was a late walker and didn’t start walking until she was 20 months old.
6. You will feel guilty. Your one-year-old won’t get the attention they might have if you had allowed for a bigger age gap. In some ways I feel like I missed seeing my middle child grow from being a baby into a toddler. The time between 17 months and 2 years are a little blurry to me because I was quite focused on the baby.
So, that’s the negatives out of the way first… so on to the positives. Because, there are lots and lots of those.
The pros of having small age gaps between kids
1. The early years are swift. The early years are tackled in close succession which means they are over sooner than if you had your children further apart. This was one pro I really liked. I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, so for me it was good to get them over with as soon as possible. Also, as much as I love having a newborn, it’s busy and full on, so to get those first 12 months of your child’s life done one after the other meant I didn’t live in fear of having to face the newborn years again after getting comfortable with older, independent kids.
2. The relationship between siblings. Close age gaps can foster close relationships between siblings. In the early years, they fought like cats and dogs over the same toys (heck, they still do this), but as my girls have grown older, I can see them getting closer and closer and my 5 year old now says her younger sisters are her best friends.
3. Clothes storage is as easy as swapping drawers. The close age gap between my youngest two means the clothes my middle daughter has grown out of are simply placed in the chest of drawers for her younger sister. There is no need to store them.
4. Baby items are good for two. I didn’t need to replace baby items as they were used in such close succession.
5. You can go back to work sooner – if you plan to. This really only works once the youngest is in kinder or school. Childcare costs for multiple young children is expensive and even with the rebates, it may not be feasible to go back to work. Yet having the children close together means they will get to school sooner and you will be able to go to work or study earlier, than if you had a larger age gap between your children.
Having gone through the last couple of years with my children close in age, I can honestly say that while there have been challenging times, I wouldn’t change it. We’re still laughing and we are a very close-knit family. I hope this continues all my children’s days.
What is the age gap between your kids? Do you have any pros or cons that you can add to my list?
More on raising kids:
- Should We, or Shouldn’t We, Have Baby #3?
- Dirt, Boogers and Other Favourite Toddler Foods
- Conversations I Don’t Want to Have With My Kids
Images: Feature – Getty / other images Rebecca Seynard