ONE BUMP OR TWO?

Is your fam­ily com­plete or are you broody for an­other baby? Here’s how to work out what’s right for you

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - Pro­fes­sor Melinda Mills is head of so­ci­ol­ogy at Ox­ford Univer­sity and has led re­search into re­pro­duc­tive be­hav­iour and fam­ily so­ci­ol­ogy.

Un­der­stand what’s right for you if you are plan­ning a sec­ond child

Years ago you prob­a­bly had your fu­ture all mapped out: per­haps you al­ways imag­ined your­self as a par­ent of four, or pre­sumed you’d be con­tent with one child? But now you’re a mum and im­mersed in your very own baby bub­ble, chances are you’re think­ing dif­fer­ently. You might think it’s the prac­ti­cal fac­tors such as money, child­care and health that are in­flu­enc­ing your op­tions, but all sorts of other el­e­ments are at play too. Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Melinda Mills, feel­ing broody is not an ex­act science, and there are a whole heap of fac­tors that could be sway­ing you to­wards or away from want­ing an­other baby. “It’s best to see it like a puzzle made up of in­di­vid­ual pieces,” says Melinda. “These in­clude ge­net­ics, hor­mones, your per­son­al­ity traits, and the fam­ily you grew up in.” So what’s your magic num­ber when it comes to plan­ning a fam­ily? Let’s find out!

It’s in the genes

The de­sire to have an­other baby could be some­thing that is out

of your hands. If you have lots of broth­ers and sis­ters, the urge to con­tinue grow­ing your own fam­ily could be in your genes. “Chil­dren of large fam­i­lies of­ten repli­cate that and have big fam­i­lies too,” says Melinda. “Some peo­ple are bi­o­log­i­cally pro­grammed to have more chil­dren and have that ge­netic drive. And for these peo­ple, a higher rate of fer­til­ity, cou­pled with the de­sire to have more chil­dren, means they can eas­ily act upon their im­pulse to have an­other baby.” So if you’re part of a big fam­ily your­self, your ge­netic make-up could mean his­tory is about to re­peat it­self. Your bi­o­log­i­cal make-up could also be be­hind whether, or how strongly, you feel broody for more ba­bies. Sci­en­tists are still strug­gling to pin­point ex­actly why some of us crave hav­ing more ba­bies, while oth­ers don’t. “While we haven’t seen many stud­ies into brood­i­ness, we have stud­ied how some women are more moth­erly than oth­ers,” says Melinda. “This means that some women are nat­u­rally more in­clined—due to their bi­ol­ogy—to have chil­dren and have a big­ger fam­ily.” Melinda ex­plains that whether or not you have the ‘moth­erly’ trait isn’t al­to­gether some­thing you can choose: “Want­ing more chil­dren can be a per­son­al­ity trait that is out of your con­trol. Some women are more prone to want­ing the role of a mother be­cause of their ge­netic make-up and per­son­al­ity.” If you have a strong moth­erly trait, then you’ll feel more broody. And this is a nat­u­ral feel­ing that comes and goes while you are ca­pa­ble of hav­ing more ba­bies. “Mother­li­ness is con­nected to the re­pro­duc­tive clock,” ex­plains Melinda, “so it’s a feel­ing that will wear off as you get older and go through hor­monal changes.”

End of an era

Could it be that, rather than want­ing to have an­other baby, you’re feel­ing nostal­gic about what you might be leav­ing be­hind if you don’t? If fold­ing tiny baby­gros are now a dis­tant mem­ory, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing that you might sim­ply be yearn­ing for that emo­tional new­born stage. While it’s hugely re­ward­ing to watch your tod­dler wob­bling off to gain more in­de­pen­dence, the feel­ing is bit­ter­sweet as you re­alise he doesn’t need you in the same way he did as a baby. It could be that the thought of not feel­ing an­other lit­tle

baby kick in­side you, of never feed­ing a tiny new­born again, or not be­ing at the cen­tre of a young­ster’s world also makes you con­sider hav­ing an­other baby. The ex­pe­ri­ence and emo­tions of preg­nancy and mother­hood are unique, and al­most im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate. So if you rel­ished ev­ery mo­ment of be­ing preg­nant, then clos­ing this par­tic­u­lar chapter in your life could cre­ate feel­ings of sad­ness. And thoughts of hav­ing an­other baby are what lift this cloud of emo­tion. To work out if a yearn­ing for the past, rather than a wish for the fu­ture, is be­hind your brood­i­ness, make a list of all the spe­cial mo­ments to come that you might share with your lit­tle one—his first morn­ing at school, his last day at col­lege, the time he brings his part­ner home to meet you, the mo­ment he tells you he’s go­ing to be a dad. This can help you to see that you’re still at the start of your par­ent­ing jour­ney and, while there’ll be changes, your bond will re­main.

Work mat­ters

For many mums, mak­ing the de­ci­sion to have a sec­ond, third or fourth child of­ten depends on how fam­ily life can be bal­anced with work. “We’ve seen there’s a tip­ping point in the work­force,” says Melinda. “One or two chil­dren seems man­age­able, but with three or more, we see women leav­ing the labour mar­ket.” How strongly you feel about your ca­reer and your fam­ily will pull you in one di­rec­tion or the other, but con­sider too that neg­a­tive feel­ings to­wards work might be at play. Per­haps you’re not over the moon with your cur­rent work sit­u­a­tion, and a baby brings the wel­come thought of an­other ma­ter­nity-leave break on the hori­zon. Or per­haps, like many of us mums, you’ve lost a lit­tle of your con­fi­dence dur­ing this big life change, and your sense of who you are, and who you were pre-baby, has be­come clouded. These sit­u­a­tions are best solved not with an­other baby, but with pro-ac­tive change. By all means have an­other baby, if that’s what you want, but think about whether a change of role or com­pany, or a course to ac­quire new skills, would be a good so­lu­tion right now too.

It takes two

Un­der­stand­ing that feel­ing broody can be down to fac­tors such as your genes, per­son­al­ity, nos­tal­gia and your re­pro­duc­tive cy­cle, as well as these other fac­tors in your life, can help you make an in­formed de­ci­sion about whether to have an­other baby. And don’t for­get that Daddy may be un­der the in­flu­ence too. Less re­search has been done into the re­pro­duc­tive urges for men, but Melinda is adamant that feel­ing broody isn’t just a fe­male trait. “There is cur­rently hor­mone re­search be­ing done to look at whether men have re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles like women,” she ex­plains. “Men can feel de­sire to have an­other child too, and this of­ten stems from him com­ing from a large fam­ily and want­ing to sub­con­sciously repli­cate that sit­u­a­tion.” So is it time to have an­other baby? “Think with your head and your heart,” says Melinda. “There is no right or wrong way to make the de­ci­sion, but know­ing all the fac­tors at play will mean you’re armed with all the right knowl­edge to make it well.”

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