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Spacing Out

Twelve years after back-to-back pregnancies, I found myself recently sitting in a high school magnet program orientation realizing what a stroke of good fortune our little oops turned out to be.

I know some parents give a lot of thought to the timing of their pregnancies, spacing their children's births down to the month, but the extent of family planning in my household went pretty much like this:

Me: "Do you think we should have a baby?"

Him: "Yeah."

Nine months later, we had our first daughter. There was even less conversation about the next child. (Let's just say that you should never believe anyone who tells you that breastfeeding your newborn is a natural form of birth control.) Our second daughter arrived 15 months after our firstborn.

Our timing (or lack of it) had its pros and cons. The first three years were essentially a blur of exhaustion and elation. Since then, the physical fatigue has given way to mental weariness as I try to stay alert into the teen years. But there have been some positives along the way.

Ready-made playmates, my daughters have joined the same athletic teams, made friends with a lot of the same kids and – this is the best part – followed each other into one of Miami-Dade County Public Schools' best magnet middle schools.

Under the school system's magnet policy, if one sibling qualifies and gets into a magnet school or program, his or her sibling has priority to get in, as long as the second sibling meets the qualifications and the older sibling currently attends the magnet.

That means I only had to do one year of nail-biting to see if my oldest got into our middle school of choice because her sister automatically followed her. If she keeps her grades and behavior up, she'll also be able to follow her older sibling into the high school magnet program we're considering. (The rule applies for all magnets, except the arts programs, which require kids to audition or submit portfolios.)

If we had waited another two years, which many believe is the ideal spacing between kids, Miami-Dade's "Sibling Status" rule wouldn't apply.

There's been a lot of research lately about the significance of birth spacing. Some studies have shown that spacing siblings more than two years apart means better scores on reading and math tests for the older children. Others have shown that spacing pregnancies too close together can pose health risks for the mother and baby.

It's too late for me to worry about that now. But it's good to know that leaving some things to chance still has its rewards.

How much thought did you give to the timing of your children's births? And would you space them differently if you had another shot at it?