They're sometimes referred to as ‘the bonus baby’ – the baby that arrives well after you thought you would never have another child. Sometimes they're well thought out, and sometimes they're not.
When Peace Mitchell found herself pregnant with her fourth child at age 40, she was shocked. The CEO of Connect2Mums had what she considered to be her ideal family when her youngest son was born in 2004, and had no intentions of having another child.
“We had three boys and we were done,” she says.
“I had given away all the baby things and I decided that my body probably couldn't cope with having another baby – my boys were all quite big at birth, so physically I was concerned.
“When I turned 35, I felt like my chances were up and I was a bit sad. But I had my three children, as planned, and resigned to the fact that my baby bearing days were over.”
But nonetheless, Peace found herself with child during an incredibly busy time in the family's life. Her oldest son had just been accepted to a Melbourne school so they were busy planning an interstate move when she learnt she was pregnant again.
“We were so focussed on the move and where life was taking us, and it just happened. I thought, 'what are we going to do now?'” she explains.
Even though a baby wasn’t part of their plan, Peace says they committed to making it work in the most positive way. Her daughter (she wasn't aware of the sex until birth) was born in July 2013, and Peace feels grateful for the blessing bestowed upon her family.
“It's like this was meant to happen. It's the best thing. I couldn't have planned it any better,” she says.
Parenting author and mother of five Pinky McKay had a similar experience when she unexpectedly fell pregnant when her youngest was eight.
“Initially, it was quite a shock. I went through the dilemma stage, but for me, having the baby at nearly 40 was the best thing I ever did,” she says.
“It's a personal decision but you do have nine months to get used to it!”
Pinky says she soon realised that her ‘bonus baby’ would be the one that she could really enjoy, a new and different experience to having the other children closer in age.
“I had more freedom to enjoy the pregnancy and babyhood because the other children were at school and old enough to do things for themselves,” she says.
Of course, not all babies born years after their older siblings’ births are unplanned. Though there will be close to 12 years between her children, Tracey Woodfield has no qualms about rearing another newborn, and has put a lot of thought into the decision.
Tracey had been a single mum for seven years before she met her soul mate, Mick.
Mick soon took on the role of dad to Tracey's now 11-year-old daughter, and the three have been living as a family. But three is about to become four as Tracey is now pregnant.
After their engagement, the couple put much thought and planning into having a child together.
“We talked about it for a long time and weighted up our options. For us, having a child together was going to imbed itself into our lives in such a positive way,” she says.
Tracey says they considered what their lives would look like in 10 years when potentially her daughter would be out on her own and they would have the freedom to explore life as a couple.
“We thought about being as free as fairies and not having to adhere to school hours and a child. We knew we wanted a child together so it came down to timing; we had to take our ages into account.
“At 34, I'm considered to be on the cusp of an older mother. I didn't want to be 45 with a baby. Mick also had it in his head that if he hadn't had a biological child by the time he was 40, he may not. The baby will be born just before his 41st birthday so he's manifested that one quite well,” she says.
After having one baby, you'd think having another infant in the house would be like riding a bike. But not always.
Registered nurse and midwife Lisa Berson says women who return to pregnancy and babyhood after a lapse may need to re-learn some of the basic baby skills.
“I've had a few mums who forgot some of the basic things like how to hold the baby in the bath. It can become a bit of a blur when there's been several years between babies,” she says.
Most hospitals cater for the first-time mum, but some do offer refresher classes or targeted skill sets, says Lisa.
And having older children in the house may be the real bonus when you return to nappy days. Peace says her boys adore their baby sister and they're a great help too.
“They love her so much. They read her stories and play with her,” she says. “They're just beautiful with her."