'My first pregnancy was terrifying. Here's how I decided to have baby number two.'

My first pregnancy didn’t go exactly as planned. 

While everything looked normal to start with, our baby boy started showing signs of restricted growth at our 20 week scan. From there, he dropped percentiles rapidly. By 28 weeks, he was sitting in the 6th percentile, and by 30 weeks, I’d been diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. At 32 weeks and 1.6kg, following a terrifying pre-seizure episode for me and an emergency hospital transfer for both of us, he was delivered, and spent five weeks with the wonderful team in the NICU. 

That story has a happy ending - my son is thriving, an absolute delight - but pregnancy is, frankly, not something I was particularly interested in repeating. 

The only problem was, I definitely wanted another baby. 

When your first pregnancy or birth doesn’t go as planned, there’s so much to process. For most women, though, there’s barely any time to process it, because immediately following that pregnancy and birth is a newborn baby, and they are famously known to take up quite a lot of time. 

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If you’re anything like me, you might suddenly find yourself where I did: sitting in your lounge room with a 13-month-old, counting backwards on your fingers, and realising that the two year age gap you always envisaged between your kids means you needed to start trying for another baby… yesterday. 


The decision to have another baby is always a big one, but when you’re still processing what may have gone wrong in a prior pregnancy, it can feel impossible. Friends of mine have used the word “paralysed” to describe the sensation, and it couldn’t be more accurate - the sense of not wanting to make a move, but knowing that for every month or year that you don’t, the family you might have imagined for yourself slips further away.

The best person to discuss this paralysis with is your doctor (and, if relevant, a mental health professional). The decision will be different for everyone, and I want to acknowledge that I was extremely lucky that my first pregnancy didn’t cause me any lasting physical damage: medically, I am able to bear another child. 

But it might be useful to read how someone else made the decision to have another child, and if that’s the case, here are the factors I considered before deciding I was ready to try again. 

1. What do we now know that we didn’t before?

In my case, my pre-eclampsia came out of nowhere. I didn’t have any of the traditional risk factors, and we still don’t know exactly why it happened. In a second pregnancy, I would have one major risk factor - I’d experienced it in a prior pregnancy. Medically, this would mean more monitoring and earlier intervention, which gave me significant comfort. Emotionally, it also meant I felt far more prepared for the possible outcomes. Whereas last time the diagnosis and premature birth felt like it came out of nowhere, I felt like I had a handle on how I could respond if a similar situation occurred. 


2. How likely is it to happen again?

Every complex birth and pregnancy is different, and only your doctor can answer this question for your particular circumstances. For me, we were looking at a relatively high chance of recurrence, but with interventions (predominantly taking aspirin) that would hopefully reduce the severity. Knowledge is power, and I went into my second pregnancy knowing the odds, even though they aren’t particularly in my favour. 

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3. How would I feel about a repeat?

This is the question that took me longest to grapple with, because sometimes our own response to situations is impossible to predict. I feel like I recovered “well” from my first experience with a child in the NICU, but the thought of returning honestly makes me feel ill. 

After a lot of consideration, my husband and I decided that, if we’ve done it once, we can do it again - especially as we know so much more now about how the systems work and what to expect. We also discussed the practical aspects of how we’d cope with an additional dependant (our toddler), what it would mean if I needed more time off work than expected, and how he’d organise his parental leave if an extended hospital stay was on the cards. 


4. How much did I really want another baby?

Ultimately, for me, this was the deciding factor. We knew, unequivocally, that our family wasn’t finished. If I couldn’t, or decided not to, give our son a sibling, we’d seriously discussed fostering and adopting. When it came down to it, the desire to have another baby outweighed my fear of another complicated pregnancy and birth.

And so we decided to try again. 

In the interests of full transparency, my intention was to wait to write this piece until after my second baby was born. From there, I could finish on a purely positive note: we thought things might go wrong again, but they didn’t, and look at us now!

But that wouldn’t be a fair way to finish, because the truth is that nobody is guaranteed that happy ending. 

Right now, I am 27 weeks pregnant. As far as we can see, things are progressing well. That doesn’t mean that nothing will go “wrong”, but I’m comfortable now that “wrong” in pregnancy is a sliding scale. The closer I can get this baby to full term, the more comfortable I’ll feel, but if our worst-case scenario comes around again, I’m prepared for that too. 

Most importantly, I know that whatever happens, the risk will have been worth it when I meet my second child.      

That won’t be where everyone lands - but I’m happy I did.  

Images: Supplied.

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