How to Survive Being Pregnant With a Toddler
Pregnancy can be hard.
Pregnancy while caring for a toddler can be downright miserable. The nausea, the exhaustion -- it's hard enough to take care of yourself, let alone a little one.
I'm here to tell you: You're going to be OK.
In the first trimester of my second pregnancy, my daughter had just turned one. I was feeling so tired that I could barely move and too nauseous to eat much of anything. I had to learn to give myself (lots of) grace and, honestly, lower some of the high standards I had set for myself as a parent and primary caregiver.
The first thing I did was wean Everly from breastfeeding. While it certainly is possible to continue breastfeeding throughout pregnancy and to tandem nurse with a newborn, I knew it wasn't going to be right for me. My body was already so depleted of its resources, trying to grow a new baby in my womb while also keeping myself alive. I felt better (relatively speaking) right away, and Everly transitioned away from nursing seamlessly.
Here's what else helped get us through those challenging early months...
THE TWO KEY QUESTIONS:
Even before I was pregnant, a close friend shared with me some wisdom she had received when she was a new mom.
"It's OK to be an 'OK' mom," she said. "Some days I feel like I'm crushing it as the best mom ever -- and other days I just have to put them in front of the TV and call it a day. On those days when I feel like a failure for phoning it in, I ask myself two questions...
"Are my kids fed?"
"Do they know that they're loved?"
...If both answers are 'Yes,' you're doing great."
SCREEN TIME IS NOT THE ENEMY:
...In fact, it can be a savior.
Before becoming pregnant again, Everly hardly ever had any time with screens. mostly just because I just preferred to keep her busy all day with whatever enriching activities I could find.
Most research that I'd come across indicated that screen time wasn't beneficial for development in children under two -- but what is mom's sanity worth?!
There were mornings that my nausea was so bad, I could barely move off the couch. It was all I could do to just keep my eyes half open to make sure she didn't go flying out of the living room unattended. A newly mobile toddler does not stay in one place for long...
So, after breakfast, I would throw on some Netflix kids. The songs of "Little Baby Bum" and "Loo Loo Kids" would keep her fascinated for at least 30 minutes, during which time I could rest and attempt to regain some of my strength.
But days are long when you're home with a little one... and 30 minutes doesn't always cut it.
THE GATED COMMUNITY:
Or, as it's commonly called, "Baby Jail."
Hopefully your home is relatively well baby proofed by now. Or, if you're like me, you half assed it because your kid is so rarely unattended. Whoops.
Investing in a baby play yard or enclosed gate can be incredibly helpful when you don't have the strength to chase the toddler around. Fill it up with toys and books and lay inside the area with babe or somewhere more comfortable nearby.
Since Everly's nursery is the most baby proofed room in our home, we also have a baby gate on her doorway. I spent many afternoons laying on her daybed reading or dozing while she played, knowing that she wouldn't be able to leave the safe area.
FORGET THE CHORES:
I had just gotten into a groove of doing dishes, laundry or even writing while Everly would nap -- only to have my productive world crumble around me.
My body needed sleep and lots of it. While I couldn't get nearly as much as I craved, I needed to nap when Everly did. It was my only option for pure survival.
The naps were never long enough, but we made it through. Needless to say, my home was a mess for quite a while and I relied heavily on help from my husband when he came home from work.
We ordered takeout more nights than not, minimized the use of pots, pans and dishes, and my husband had to clean up the wreckage from whatever toddler meals I had scraped together that day.
Did I feel lame about it? Absolutely. Did I have another option? Not really. Am I doing more important work in the meantime? You better f**king believe it.
It's easy to be hard on ourselves, especially when "Mom-ing" is our primary day-to-day occupation. But I try to remind myself that everything comes and goes in seasons, and this is just one of them.
During my second trimester, I found myself able to be more productive at home. I enjoyed cooking again and was able to brave more excursions outside the house with Ev.
Heading into trimester three presents an entirely new set of challenges. I'm less mobile and have trouble lifting and chasing Everly around. The way I see it, this is her time to practice independence and patience before her baby brother arrives in a few short months.
As her demands grow louder, we count to 10 (sometimes more than once) to learn about waiting patiently for what she needs. She doesn't really realize what's happening, but the counting seems to be a good distraction.
DO WHAT FEELS GOOD:
Walking was my saving grace.
I didn't always walk far, or fast, but getting Everly out in her stroller not only kept my blood moving and gave me a little bit of energy. Having a designated amount of time outside in her stroller also helped keep Everly entertained and occupied without requiring much from me -- just putting one foot in front of the other.
We still walk together as much as possible -- even if it's just a slow stroll outside our house while Everly investigates rocks and flowers along the way.
Find whatever works for you and be kind to yourself. Maybe it's at-home yoga or meditation during nap time, or taking the little one to a playground where you can just sit and watch. Your body and the little one growing inside it need TLC (REST!), too.
Mom Needs Merlot