with Kate McReynolds, Mental Health Counselor
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- Emotion vs. Logic When Deciding If You Should Have Another Baby
- Big Emotional Factors that Lead Many People to Want Another Baby
- Finding the Balance Between Emotion and Logic
- Why It’s Okay to Not Make a Choice Right Now
- How Your Identity as a Mom Plays Into the Decision
- Making the Decision: Should You Have Another Baby?
Should I have another baby? Is my family complete? How will I know I’m done? For many of us, these questions begin soon after a baby is born. It can be hard to know if you want to add another baby to your family. While the decision is unique to every person and every family, there are some ways to make the decision easier.
Today, I’m joined by mental health counselor Kate McReynolds, founder of The Mom Therapist, to discuss how to use both your emotions and logic to answer the burning question, “Should I have another baby?”
Deciding If I Should Have Another Baby?
After I had my second son, I soon started hearing, “Are you going to try for a girl?” While I didn’t always appreciate the prying, I was asking myself the same question.
I’d always envisioned myself having multiple genders in the home. So the possibility of a girl did drive me to want another baby.
But there were a lot of other considerations. By that point, I’d already taken two consecutive maternity leaves—both of which were hard on me. There was part of me that was ready to be done with sleep deprivation and breastfeeding and the overwhelm of the postpartum period.
Like many couples, we had many conversations about whether or not we should have another baby. We just weren’t sure how to make the decision. I ended up with a surprise pregnancy, while we were trying to decide.
When we found out I was having a boy, I knew I would be done after that. I grieved the fact that I would never have a daughter, but I was ready to make the choice to stop having children.
So many of my clients grapple with these same questions. It’s common for me to hear mom clients asking, “Should I have another baby? How do I know my family is complete?”
There are so many factors that go into making such a big choice. We’re told to listen to our gut or just think about how we feel.
But many of us don’t have a “gut feeling” to guide us in this decision…and even if we do, we still need to consider logical factors along with the emotional ones.
I knew I wanted to cover this topic on the podcast, so I was excited to chat with Kate about how to decide if you should have another baby!
Emotion vs. Logic When Deciding If You Should Have Another Baby
For some couples, the answer is apparent. They know that they want another baby and are happy to grow their family sooner rather than later. But for many, the decision is more complex.
Perhaps you thought you would have multiple children, but are now considering staying a one-and-done family. Or you imagined having two but are now wondering if you should have more.
The decision isn’t always clear. When we look for that “gut feeling,” we might find ourselves feeling more lost than ever.
Many of us are used to relying primarily either on our emotions or on our logic to make decisions. With some decisions in our lives, it is okay to lean on one or the other. But Kate pointed out that when it comes to big, life-changing decisions like adding another baby to the family, we need to check in with both emotions and logic.
This can sometimes be uncomfortable if we are fueled by either logic or emotions. But it’s important to find a way to lean into both and make a decision we are comfortable with.
We don’t want the choice to be purely logical, because there are so many emotional factors involved. But we also don’t want to choose based on “gut instinct” or feelings, because when you make decisions that way you aren’t employing critical thinking.
If you are on the fence about whether or not you should have another baby, there are many factors that need to be considered—from finances to trauma, and everything in between.
Big Emotional Factors that Lead Many People to Want Another Baby
There are endless reasons why you might be considering growing your family. But there are a few common emotional reasons that drive many families to want more:
Gender disappointment is a common reason people feel pulled to have more children. Many moms envision their family a certain way and have difficulty reconciling that ideal if it doesn’t turn out that way.
Birth or Postpartum Trauma
Sometimes when moms go through a traumatic or distressing birth, they grieve the experience itself. They might feel as if they want a redo.
Kate pointed out that some moms might feel ashamed of wanting that—as if they are saying their babies or their birth were not enough. But she encourages people to be open to their feelings. She herself went through a difficult first birth and wanted to reclaim the experience with her second.
Even after you have worked through birth trauma or trauma in the postpartum period, you might have mixed feelings going into another, including fear and hope. All of these feelings are valid and can be part of your decision on whether you should have another baby.
Your Ideal Family
Many of us have a picture in mind of what our families might look like before we have kids. We might have wanted a big family or just one child, a combination of boys and girls or just one gender.
Kate pointed out that it’s important to remember these are just ideals—they are not guaranteed, and they might not actually be what’s best for us.
Our needs, wants, and desires change, and they might not always align with what we once wanted. For example, perhaps you always wanted a big family, but you encountered physical, mental, or medical circumstances that changed your mind.
It can be confusing when our ideal doesn’t match up with reality. But it’s okay to change, grow, and let go of what we once wanted if it feels right.
Finding the Balance Between Emotion and Logic
It’s sometimes hard to find the balance between emotion and logic when it comes to the decision to have another baby.
Trauma, engrained romanticized ideals, or gender disappointment are all emotional factors that come into play—but those emotions can feel very motivating.
Kate pointed out that when we are hoping to recreate good feelings or avoid bad ones, we can get flooded with emotions. But we should also consider the rational factors, such as sleep deprivation, daycare costs, or adjustments in vehicle or house size. These factors likely won’t be the ultimate decision-makers, but they need to play into the decision.
Kate recommended thinking about the emotions that come up when you think about having another baby. Then, reflect back on your past experience.
What did you like? What did you dislike? What seems realistic and doable? And are the things that you liked worth the things that you disliked?
For Kate, she had always wanted three children. But the newborn stage was not something she wanted to repeat after two. Even though she would sometimes see a baby and think about how nice it would be to have another to hold and cuddle with, it didn’t outweigh the difficulty enough for her to want more.
It’s also important to think about what having another child would look like at each developmental stage. Think beyond the stage you miss the most and consider the stages you found more difficult.
Why It’s Okay to Not Make a Choice Right Now
Sometimes there are reasons why a family needs to make an ultimate decision on whether they should have another baby sooner rather than later, due to medical or financial circumstances.
But often, we don’t actually have to make a permanent decision right away. We can often choose to revisit the decision later down the line. If you’re able to delay the conversation until a few years down the road, you can take some of the pressure off of yourself to make a certain decision now.
Delaying the choice can also help you avoid making a decision in the highest peaks or lowest lows. When we are experiencing big emotions, it can be tempting to make big, life-altering decisions. But it’s usually not the best time to do so.
It’s harder to access the rational decision-making part of our brains when we’re in those mental spaces. For example, we can feel cloudy and unable to see things as clearly if we’re struggling.
If you are ready to make a decision, it’s also okay to feel conflicted about it. Kate also said that just as no stage in motherhood was 100% hard or easy, we don’t have to be 100% comfortable with our decision. Mixed feelings might come up.
For me, I was completely happy to make the choice to not continue after having three boys. But I did have to find acceptance over not having a girl. I was able to hold space for both feelings.
Kate pointed out that you can grieve a missed opportunity and still feel happy with what you have.
How Your Identity as a Mom Plays Into the Decision
With many of my clients, I have noticed that when they start to gain some capacity as their children start to grow, they wonder if they should fill it with having another baby. There can be excitement and grief as our children get older. It can feel like a natural decision to want another at that point.
But I would urge you to take a step back and make sure that you truly want to fill that capacity with another baby. Perhaps you do—and that’s great. But perhaps you want to consider filling that capacity in a different way.
There was a moment when I wondered if I should have a fourth baby. My boys started getting older and going to daycare, and I had the time and mental space to consider it. But I also wanted to grow my business and pursue creative outlets. Ultimately, I decided to use my capacity for that.
Sometimes we lose our identities in motherhood. It can be hard to imagine finding fulfillment in anything other than our children. But we should be able to do so, if it’s what feels right to us.
For many moms, it can almost feel scary or foreign to rediscover who they are outside of motherhood. Some people might not want to do that until their children are older. But others might not think they can or should.
Maybe instead of asking moms if their family feels complete, we should ask them what would make them as individuals feel complete. (Or maybe instead of asking boy moms if they are going to try for a girl, we should ask them what their personal goals and creative outlets are.)
We can shift the focus to moms and give them space and permission to find fulfillment in different ways.
Ultimately, the decision has to come down to your values, your needs, and what you truly want for your family—not outside pressure or expectations.
Making the Decision: Should You Have Another Baby?
While only you and your partner can make the choice, it’s helpful to approach the decision with a framework with all of the pieces Kate and I discussed:
- Consider the emotional and logical factors at hand, and question where they came from.
- Reflect on your ideal expectations of a family and whether they still match your reality.
- Think about your values and what you truly want.
- Ask yourself if you need to make the decision now or simply delay it.
- Question whether there is something else you would rather do with your time and mental space, or if you are ready to fill that capacity with another baby.
- Remember that we rarely make decisions with 100% certainty–decide which way you are leaning toward and embrace that direction for now, holding space to change your mind later if possible.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is embrace your values and use them as your north star to guide you in your decision-making process with your partner.
Kate also said it’s important to honor the uncertainty and be comfortable with not knowing 100% what the “right” choice is. Sometimes we search so hard for an answer that we forget that there might be some internal conflict either way.
It’s okay to sit in a gray area as you and your partner ask yourselves if you should have another baby or if you’re ready to close the door on more.
When you are ready to make a decision, embrace your feelings and allow yourself to acknowledge whatever comes up—grief, uncertainty, hope, or any other emotions in the process. That will help you on your path to accepting the decision you make.
If you’re processing trauma, uncertain about your decision-making, or feeling vulnerable, talking to a mom therapist can help. Book a free 15 minute consult through our Wellness Center today!
Kate McReynolds is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and mom of two. She is Perinatal Mental Health-Certified, specializing in Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), prenatal and postpartum support, pregnancy loss, birth trauma, and general maternal mental health. She also manages @The.Mom.Therapist on Instagram, where she normalizes being in the throes of new motherhood. Kate works to support the mother during every experience – through pregnancy, loss, birth, the postpartum period, and beyond.