The exciting and terrifying news that you are expecting another child is often quickly followed by the extreme fatigue, nausea, and other unpleasant but reassuring signs that there is indeed new life growing within you.
If you’re like me and this is your second pregnancy, you may be surprised to find just how vastly more difficult that first trimester can be when you have a toddler.
In my first pregnancy, I would begin to feel nauseated, get sick, feel a little less nauseated and then feel fine, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Around 13wks I started to feel completely back to normal and didn’t have extreme fatigue or nausea again. Now admittedly a lot of circumstances in my second pregnancy are different. The first time around I was working from home so if I really needed to take a nap on my lunch break I could do so easily, and I could wear comfy pjs and no bra all day if that’s what I wanted. And I didn’t have a toddler or a husband in nursing school. But beyond the extreme fatigue I’ve been struggling with, I’ve had low blood pressure and hormone-induced vertigo, frequent headaches, near-constant nausea (but no vomiting!) and horrible food aversions. Blech.
I honestly think out of all these things, having a toddler has been the biggest contributor to the difference. Coming home from a long day at work, all V wants to do is nurse, cuddle, play and chat. All I want to do is get in bed until the sun comes back up. This leads to so much mom-guilt and frustration, even exasperation as I try to explain just how bone-deep exhausted I am.
I’ve learned a ton over the past few months, as a mother, wife, employee and woman. Here are my 7 tips to surviving the first trimester with a toddler.
Lower those expectations.
I knew I would probably get sick. I was anticipating this pregnancy to be very similar to my first and so I was ready to explain throwing up to V, reassure her everything is okay, but still go on making dinner after a long day at work and doing a full bedtime routine. I didn’t expect basically everything to have to come to a screeching halt. Dealing with mom-guilt on top of feeling sick and miserable is just awful. Lower those expectations and remember, even if you are one of the unlucky women who end up with “morning sickness” for the entire pregnancy, it will eventually be over and you will find a new normal.
Embrace healthy ready-made meals.
I thought for sure I would still be able to at least prep some crockpot meals in the morning a few times a week. I was soooooo wrong. For the first few days after my sickness started to kick in, V and I ate sad hodgepodge meals with whatever meat, fruit and veg we had left in the fridge. After a week of that I wised up and started searching for healthier frozen meals and browsed Pinterest for super simple healthy meals. And we indulged in more than one last-minute Panera run (and Arby’s fish sandwiches). Do what you have to do to keep your family fed. As long as you aren’t feeding them food they’re allergic to, a fast food burger here and there or frozen chicken strips are not going to ruin your family’s health. You know what will? Stress and starvation.
Go to bed when your toddler does.
Now I know not everyone’s life looks like this and obviously if you have more than one child you may not be able to, but going to bed when V does is the only way I function. This usually means 5:30-6 p.m. It means I don’t get to watch TV or destress on Pinterest or chat with my husband, but it does mean I can make it through the work day without falling asleep on my desk (some days) and I know sleep is incredibly important for my growing baby so it’s a priority. I usually end up needing to pee a few times each night anyway and lately I’ve been sleeping until 10:30-11ish and then waking up for an hour or two for a snack (and I’ve been sneaking in the new seasons of “The Great British Baking Show” on Netflix when I can’t fall back to sleep).
Lose the mom-guilt about screen time.
Yes, I believe our children and youth have too much screen time. Yes, we tried to avoid any screen time for V before one. Yes, we still try to limit it to no more than one 20-30 minute episode per day. But when you come home from work or you hit that pre-bedtime witching hour and you are both exhausted, I promise you will not give your child ADHD because of a little extra screen time for this short period of your lives. Know a few shows or movies your child enjoys; try to go for educational shows that are slow moving graphics-wise, and use them as needed. In our house, V loves Curious George and Daniel Tiger the most. She also really likes music so we will often watch/listen to Disney classic songs on YouTube. I haven’t been able to actually nap during TV time but I can at least be not moving and just relax with her. We can talk about what’s going on in the show and snuggle which is really nice after a long day apart from each other. Daniel Tiger has a few great episodes about welcoming a new baby that we’ve really enjoyed watching together and discussing, especially as my belly has started to grow.
Start working on boundaries if you are nursing
Extremely sore nipples was the first sign I was pregnant this time around. Sore as in raw-feeling. Not a good combination for toddler nurse-gymnastics. Early on, V was still waking up to dream feed several times each night. When she would wake up to nurse, instead of just rolling over and usually falling right back to sleep, the pain was waking me up and I was not sleeping well at all. I decided I wanted to give night weaning a try and see how V did with it. I’m working on another post about that but in short, she blew my expectations out of the water and night weaned immediately. This was extremely fortunate as about two weeks later the nursing aversions started in, and now, my milk is drying up. At 14wks pregnant, I’m still letting her nurse several times a day, but she’s only allowed once on each side and if I start getting the creepy-crawly-punch-a-wall feeling, I cut her off. It’s definitely been a learning process, but setting boundaries in a compassionate way (when we finish singing Itsy-Bitsy Spider/count to 10 we’ll be done nursing or I need a break to make more milk, we can nurse more later) will help you both in the long run. Some women do not want to attempt tandem nursing their toddler and newborn, in which case total weaning would be desired. I’d advise you at least start that process before 20wks so your toddler doesn’t associate losing nursies with the baby.
Let the housework go.
When Husband started nursing school, we agreed that his priorities were going to have to be school, then V, then himself and us. That meant I would have to shoulder the vast majority of the cooking and cleaning (we’d been pretty evenly split previously). Now this was before I became pregnant and neither of us were expecting it to be like it is. It became very clear that I had no ability to clean during the week. I used to do the previous day’s dishes every morning but just figuring out something for breakfast was enough work to exhaust me. Our sink/kitchen was a pretty big disaster for weeks. But we all survived. I ended up spending about $10 on some paper plates and bowls and we had leftover plastic silverware from V’s birthday so we used those up. I managed to get 2-3 loads of laundry done each weekend and usually even managed to put everything but the hang-ups away. We kept our hair and bodies clean and our teeth brushed. Everything else got done when we had the time and energy for it on the weekend but other than that, we just had to accept that for this period of time our house was going to be more messy (I’m also anticipating this to be the case in the early post-partum weeks).
Remember the time is short.
This can be so hard when your misery seems to be stretching on and you are only at 6wks, but try to think back on your pregnancy with your toddler and how quickly he/she has become the walking, talking little person they are today. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting 20, 30, then 40 weeks and be this close to meeting your new family member. It’s also a great time to remind yourself that these are the last months you’ll have with your toddler as your only child. That’s a really heavy thing to delve into and it makes my extremely hormonal self get teary-eyed just typing that. Your toddler’s life is about to be massively rocked. Even if it means laying on the couch watching Daniel Tiger for the thousandth time, try to bond with your toddler as much as possible and savor the time alone you have left.
Do you have any tips for second-time moms struggling through the first trimester? How did you make it through those rough days?