When I gave birth to my son—now a full-blown toddler—two years ago, I counted myself lucky to have hit the jackpot when it comes to mom friends. After all, I had met not one, not two, not three, but four cool ladies who lived in my same zip code and were pregnant at the same time. They were also smart, hilarious and willing to text back and forth at all hours of the night about everything from late-night feedings to sleep regressions to whether or not we really were to blame for maternal gatekeeping with our spouses. (Guilty!)
But what started as a middle-of-the-night text chain about mom stuff quickly blossomed into a deep and meaningful group friendship that touched on so much else. There were play dates! And park hangs! And the clichéd but also much-needed moms’ nights out for wine! Still, our most common bond stemmed from the fact that our kids were in sync for every milestone. What they say is true: New parenthood is an identity shift like no other, so finding women you actually like, who “get it” and who are available to commiserate about all the minutiae is a rarity and a gift and a lifeline all in one.
Then it happened: The first of my four mom friends had news. I knew she’d been trying, but it was official: She was pregnant with baby number two. The second friend got pregnant soon after. (And on the first try—whoa.) I felt self-inflicted pressure to have “the talk” with my husband about my own timeline for a second kid. But it hit a fever pitch when friends three and four shared they were also expecting. I was officially the odd mom out.
According to a report by the National Survey of Family Growth, 17 percent of Americans have a gap of 13 to 24 months between their first and second children. But another 17 percent of Americans report a gap of 25 to 36 months between their first and second. Mistiming pregnancy is also a rampant issue for all parents—23 percent reported it as something they experienced. There’s also a kind of poignant data flaw that the NSFG is quick to point out: It’s almost impossible to calculate a “preferred” birth interval since you can’t predict conception or how long parents have been “trying” to conceive.
Still, the pressure to figure out my own timing was real: Was I ready—like everyone in my mom friend group apparently was—to welcome a second kid? And, a scarier thought: If I didn’t announce pregnancy soon-ish, would my now-pregnant friends remove me from the group text chain simply because my single-baby experience was no longer relevant in conversations about the life challenge that is two versus one?
Half joking, I asked one of my mom friends about my fears directly while we strolled through our neighborhood one chilly afternoon. She said no and laughed it off. Another friend (who isn’t part of this particular mom friend group, but has two kids of her own) offered some insight: “The bond that is formed between moms when welcoming their first kid is sacred,” she said one night over wine, something my still non-pregnant self could indulge in. “That’s the life change that your connection is based upon. The arrival of a second kid just isn’t as earth shattering. You don’t need the same level of support.”
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I felt left out. It’s true that my husband and I do plan to have a second kid, but now that our son is 2, I feel like I’m just coming up for air after the life adjustment of having a baby. Adding another would cause a severe uprooting again: A need for a bigger place, perhaps. A pricier childcare game plan. A return to those sleepless nights, in more ways than one. (Let’s not forget pregnancy insomnia.)
Still, could I bear to go through all of that solo without the support of the mom friend group I’d been so lucky to meet and adore? Also, isn’t it better to just dive head-first into the chaos that is baby? And shouldn’t I have a second kid while my brain can still remember where I stashed all the newborn baby clothes and recall the best ways to ease into the complicated world that is stage one, two and three baby foods?
I’m not sure. What I do know is that life—and friendships—are forever evolving. And I’ve never fared well when I prioritized “keeping up” over my inner voice. Right now, I’m counting myself an active member of the 17 percent of the population that prefers to space their kids closer to 36 months apart.
And since “timing” a pregnancy is nearly impossible, I have to lean in to the fact that our first kid is the link that brought my friend group together. Any new arrivals after that are just gravy—the icing on the proverbial smash cake that is motherhood, I think.
But if I do get removed from the late-night baby texting chain, that’s OK too. In a surprisingly beautiful study in The Atlantic on adult friendship, they explain: Friendship is fragile at times, but it’s also flexible. Life circumstances (like new babies) can lead us to travel through it at different speeds, but just because a relationship goes dormant for a bit doesn’t mean it’s gone. Instead, synergy stems from effort and making a choice to be there for each other while not ignoring the realness of changing situations. You can’t stop it, after all.
As for my own decision about baby number two, my husband and I are still in the first stage: talking about it. In the meantime, I’m enjoying where we are and embracing my friend group as they enter—and shed light on—the next phase.