At times I look at my 15-year-old son and think to myself, “Is it too late to have another child?” As a woman slowly approaching 40, I can hear my reproduction clock slowly ticking in the distance. It seems as though every year I age, it gets a few decibels louder. But then I remember what I told myself when I had my son—once he turns 18 and graduates from high school, I’ll still be in my “prime.” I would be 41 years old and child free; that was the plan.
Last year my second niece was born, and for the past several months, seeing her grow in front of my eyes has brought back all the nurturing feelings I thought were buried deep in a pile of my teenage son’s dirty laundry. Playing with my niece brought back memories of how much I enjoyed my son at that age.
The laughter, the kisses and the baby smells reminded me of a time when my son wasn’t taller or weighed more than me. My son is at that age where he’s independent, doesn’t want to be seen with his mommy, and occasionally smells like armpits and sweat. His voice is deeper, and his peach-fuzz mustache is getting more noticeable every day. But is the transition from having a teenager to raising a newborn ever easy?
After 15 years of not changing dirty diapers, dealing with whether to breast-feed or not and those pesky diaper rashes, having another child could be a chance to do things I didn’t do the first time. But it could also end up shattering the idea that I had it easy with my first son.
Midnight feedings? I have no idea what that feels like. From the first day coming home, my son slept through the night. I even thought something was wrong with him. His pediatrician would look at me like I was crazy when I would complain that he wasn’t waking up at night.
Then there’s day care. As a working mother, even though I work from home, it would be virtually impossible for me to handle taking care of an infant and doing my daily work. So either it’s day care or an au pair. Either way, it’s not cheap.
One woman knows exactly how it feels to have a baby in the house again many years after her first. Blair L.M. Kelley, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University (and contributor to The Root), recently had a baby nine years after her first child.
“My second baby was a big surprise. We had tried briefly a few years earlier, then stopped when we got busy; I think I thought I had aged out of motherhood in my late 30s,” Kelley said.
Kelley stated that one of the biggest readjustments was becoming a homebody again and starting child care for the little one: “I'm so lucky to have the support of family and an amazing child care provider.”
Financially, a new addition to a family is definitely not cheap. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Expenditures on Children by Families 2012 Annual Report (pdf), for a child in a two-child, two-parent family, annual expenses ranged from $8,990 to $10,230, on average, for households with before-tax income less than $60,640. In 1998, just a year before my son was born (pdf), that range was a lot less, at $5,950 to $7,020.
After talking to Kelley about her recent pregnancy, I asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking about having another child many years after the first.
“There is no perfect time to have a child, early or late, so do what works best for you. Make the family that fits your needs and expectations, not anyone else’s standard,” Kelley said.
In a month, I’ll be a year older and two years closer to the big 4-0, and my son is slated to graduate from high school in 2017. In the faint distance, I still hear the clock ticking, so who knows, maybe he’ll have a little brother or sister to wave to as he picks up his diploma. But for now, my 1-year-old niece will have to do.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.