|Dreaming of a sibling|
Just as soon as you can get home from the hospital with a new baby in your arms, the questions start to surface from friends and family, "When will you have another?" And if your social circle has enough common sense to postpone that question long enough for the baby to learn to roll over, you'll hardly make it past the baby's first birthday without incessant questions of "Are you ready for another?" And, sometimes, it isn't just family and friends that quickly become interested in the growth rate of your family. Sometimes, it's your own biological clock.
At about nine months old, when Jr. started to walk and become more independent, I began to feel the urge to have another baby. I missed holding him, carrying him, rocking him, and all the other special mommy-infant bonding moments that seemed to be slipping through my fingers. Although my uterus and my heart wanted a baby, my very rational mind knew the timing was ridiculous. My hubby reminded me that we should take the time to enjoy Jr. before having another baby (and that our pocketbook couldn't afford paying for two kids in daycare.) We discussed a very rational and logical plan for when to conceive our second baby, considering finances, the necessary time needed to accumulate more personal days at work, timing for maternity leave, and anything else under the sun.
I've felt very comfortable and peaceful with the plan we created. Until last week. Hubby came home one evening and announced, "Maybe Jr. needs a sibling." I panicked, "What? What about our plan?! Stick to the plan!" It seems that he wasn't really listening during our "plan" discussion. The next morning I went to work and discovered one of my new-mommy friends with a baby just two months older than Jr. is now pregnant with their second. Her excitement was contagious. "Maybe we need to revisit our plan," I thought.
Instead of rushing into a baby hysteria, I pleaded with my rational mind. My estrogen-filled mind said to throw away the "plan" and get going on family growing. My mom had my sister and I just 13 months apart and we are the best of friends. Plus, I'm not getting any younger. Do I really want to be having babies into my 40's? If I wait too long, will Jr. be more resentful and jealous of his sibling? If I "get out of the groove" of early morning rising and nursing, will I have more difficulty getting back into it with a new baby?
I started doing what social scientists do best . . . look at the research. What does research show about baby spacing? I quickly found a fairly recent study out of Notre Dame that suggests close spacing of children (less than two years) is associated with lower academic achievement scores in reading and math. Another interesting study suggests that babies born less than two years following a sibling are more likely to be diagnosed with Autism (ok, there are many alternative explanations for this other than birth spacing.) I'm not so interested in these studies. In the grand scheme of things, I'm not looking for how to have the "smartest" child. I just want a well-adjusted, psychologically healthy child.
An article in the November 1997 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family examined the impact of a new baby on the mother's relationship with her first child. They found,
"The birth of a sibling results in significant changes in the family environment. At the same time, positive interactions with the older child diminish, especially if the birth interval is short (emphasis mine), and the mother increasingly adopts controlling parenting styles. These changes result in lower levels of verbal development. About 2.5 years after the sibling birth, negative effects are detected on achievement and on socio-emotional adjustment. Some positive effects of sibling birth also are noted on verbal ability and peer relations."The average older sibling in this study was 14.2 months of age when their sibling was born. Another article in the Journal of Marriage and Family by the same authors (Bayder, Hyle, and Brooks) found that "younger children received substantially less developmental resources following the birth of a sibling. It was found that the birth of a sibling is associated with a significant increase in the behavior problems of the children, but these increases are temporary."
I even began to read some of the psychoanalytic literature on siblinghood, which is really out of my regular scope of literature review. Although these followers of Freud and Klein have some questionable theories on sibling rivalry, they also note the likelihood for sibling affection and relationship.
Overall, it seems that research would indicate that sibling spacing should be greater than two years. So, that fits nicely with "the plan." I feel relaxed again. It could just be that I'm overthinking this whole thing! I have to remember, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8).
Indeed, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Even new babies.