Picture of Stephen and Erin Mitchell

Stephen and Erin Mitchell

Founders of Couples Counseling For Parents

Should We (Try to) Have Another Baby?*

This is a big decision and can easily overwhelm a couple even if they feel like they are on the same page.

Whew!  This is a big question for anyone and one that for many couples is quite a loaded question.  As a couple with advanced degrees in counseling psychology and who work couple to couple with parenting partners everyday, this is a topic we hear about, a lot.  I want to be clear from the outset, of course we can’t answer this question for anyone but ourselves.  What I do believe we can do is help you have this conversation the best way possible for your couple relationship. This is a big decision and can easily overwhelm a couple even if they feel like they are on the same page.  But so often a couple does not find themselves on the same page, and that can be a very lonely place indeed. 

Whether you are on the same page or not, the big questions to guide in this conversation are: Can we afford another baby? Does our current lifestyle lend itself to being able to nurture another baby?  Do we have a good handle on our work/life balance? Is our couple relationship in a good place to be able to take on added stress together?  What will it be like for each of us having to divide our attention with our already existing kid(s)? 

People respond to serious conversations with all sorts of protective strategies

These questions are best explored in calm moments where there is openness, willingness, and kindness to be curious and vulnerable.  We and our partner both need to feel safe to be able to wonder about the full spectrum of our feelings about this topic without worrying something we said we fear or hope will come back and be used against us later.  These conversations have forever implications, so it is really important they feel not only safe, but also like there is space to have depth and levity about such heavy things. 

People respond to serious conversations with all sorts of protective strategies

People respond to serious conversations with all sorts of protective strategies and it’s best to go into these conversations knowing what our own and our partner’s strategies tend to be.  Not to stop them but to acknowledge when they are present and feel free to interact with them to assess if we need a pause or a break or if we just needed a little levity to break up the seriousness. 

Having a baby takes planning

The reality of this major life decision is that it usually comes with some sort of timeline in mind.  Like it or not, for many coupes having a baby takes planning.  Whether that means ovulation calendars, reaching out to adoption agencies, talking with a fertility specialist, or even because you have a certain gap that feels ideal between your kids.  Whatever your reasons, many couples have an expectation for when this conversation was supposed to happen or they just wanted it to happen.  And sometimes this timeline changes for one partner and not the other.  Or, like what happened for us, one partner (me) wants to feel like there is a decision but the other partner (Stephen) would say, “If you need me to make a decision today my answer is I feel finished having kids.  But I am not sure that has to be my decision forever, I just know right now I don’t have the capacity for what all comes with adding a kid to our family.”  Ugh!  I never liked hearing that answer but also, I understood and respected it.  

There must be some agreed to boundaries about when and how to talk about it

So for the couple not on the same page about kids, the conversation still needs to be had. There is one partner who feels unresolved about not having the answer they are wanting. This can leave them feeling like they will never be able to address and soothe a decision about something that feels so important. The result of this limbo can begin to activate their nervous system (the nervous system will begin to associate the lack of conversation as a threat and respond accordingly with that partner’s stress response [fight, flight, freeze, or fawn]).  But it also can’t happen every single day because that begins to become even more of a closed place for the person who is not ready for another baby at the time (the nervous system will begin to associate the conversation as a threat and respond accordingly to that partner’s stress response [fight, flight, freeze, or fawn]).  So there must be some agreed to boundaries about when and how to talk about it.  There also has to be a very gentle approach for both partners keeping in mind how important it is to both of them.  

Agreement is not the only way to measure success in a conversation like this one

The contents of what each needs to share is very important and a partner needs to know their hopes, dreams, desires, fears, insecurities, stressors will be respected and listened to.  This likely means it is a conversation that needs a good slow, steady pace to it.  

Partners very often do not end these conversations feeling in agreement with one another (that happens to though and if that happens for you then amazing!) but agreement is not the only way to measure success in a conversation like this one.  Couples may never agree on this, but that doesn’t mean they are doomed to a lifetime of mutual resentment.  Instead, couples can find alignment and a sincere feeling of not agreeing but of understanding what the conversation means to each partner.  When we and our partner feel like we each see, feel, and are actively working to know the depths of how we feel about this decision we can feel like we know the stakes.  When there is not agreement, but a couple has worked towards alignment, that also means there will be grief and a couple has to allow the other partner the space and support they need to feel the weight of the decision made.  Meaning, if you really do not want another kid and that feels like the decision you need to make for the health of your family, you have to support your partner in grief that will accompany that decision for them.  That means supporting them in an active and ongoing way, because again that decision has forever implications- meaning it will come back up and you will need to support them in  grief then too (this is not a one and done kind of grief).  

This conversation is a big and important one

This conversation is a big and important one!  You can have it and have it feel connective and productive!  If you are currently having it in a way that feels stuck and pointless, reach out, we would be happy to help guide you and your partner as you work towards a decision.  

*I also need to say, this topic is painful for many couples because for some couples it really is just as easy as ‘should we have another baby?” For others, having a baby has been touched by infertility, pregnancy loss, and other barriers. So, even the conversation of, “Should we have another baby?” is filled with grief and pain. It is not ‘easy.’ We want to acknowledge this is a privileged conversation to get to have.   

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