Surviving the First Trimester with a Toddler (or Two) at Home

When you find out that you’re pregnant with baby number two (or three, or four…) it’s a different experience than it was with the first. Gone are the days of peacefully lying on the couch all afternoon when you feel sick, or napping whenever you feel tired (at least on the weekends). Now you have a little one outside the womb who needs you 24/7 and it can be an exhausting, trying time for the Mama who had to give herself a pep talk just to climb out of bed in the morning.

This first trimester—at home with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old—was definitely a “valley of darkness” time for me. Here are a few tips I pick up along the way that helped me to survive.

  1. Sleep whenever you can, as in whenever your child(ren) are in their beds. The one thing I’ve learned from my many first trimesters is that sleep is a sure way to make myself feel better. It even helps decrease my nausea.
  2. After sleep, this is my cure for all ailments. Specifically, sleep routines. We keep a strict sleep schedule in our house, that way everyone (including the exhausted Mama who is desperately counting down the seconds to bedtime) knows what to expect, and there is minimal resistance at bedtime. It’s also great to establish these routines now so when baby comes you can have everyone on a predictable schedule, and you can incorporate baby into the family’s routine.
  3. Community support. This comes in many different forms, from babysitters to Mommy friends to family and your hubby. You will likely need a break from your kid(s) at some point in order to recharge, so family or babysitters are very helpful. Having Mommy friends to vent to or commiserate with, to set up play dates with, etc. has also been lifesaving for me as I tend to get down when I’ve been feeling sick and exhausted for so long. I recently joined MOPS, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you’re not already a member!!
  4. Yes, I’m recommending screen time (shame on me). But for real, for those days when you didn’t sleep the night before and your head is hanging over the wastebasket and you have no babysitting help, give yourself a break and turn the telly on. Try to nap on the couch even, while your kiddos watch their show. (Helpful tip: Daniel Tiger has some great episodes about bringing a new baby sibling home. And an episode about how to take care of Mom when she’s sick—those are my personal favorites ;)).
  5. Reading and quiet activities. When the kids get bored of TV but you still can’t move from the couch, have them fetch books for you to read to them. Or pull out some crayons and coloring books. Then collapse back on the couch.
  6. Encourage independent play. When the TV is done and you’ve read all the Fancy Nancy books you can handle, tell them “Mama isn’t feeling well, I need to rest.” Depending on their age and how well they communicate, you can be specific and, for example, tell them that you feel sick to your stomach and ask them to recall a time when they were sick and what that was like for them. There may be some resistance at first, but keep persisting. They will respect you when they see that you’re serious.
  7. Candy & Gum. And a plastic trash bag. When we had to leave the house, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy (Werther’s hard caramel) really help with my stomach problems and made me feel well enough to schlep us out to story time and back home again (or to the park, etc.).
  8. Learn to say “no” to outside activities and prioritize your rest. This is a hard one, but for this season in life you need to take care of yourself and your family before anything/anyone else.
  9. Positive attitude – “this too shall pass”. Frankly, when you’re in the middle of the first trimester it feels like it will never end. Even if you “only” have three weeks left or whatever, the time that stretches out between you and relief of your symptoms seems daunting. But try to remember that there is noting more creative and miraculous than bringing a new life into the world and try to keep your eye on the prize.
  10. Pray. Really, I probably should have listed this first–it was in prayer that I found all of my hope and inspiration for the difficult days. I kept Philippians 4:13 as the background on my phone: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If you look up this verse on Pinterest you’ll find some cute phone wallpapers.

Finally, thank you for your selfless dedication to that baby and that family of yours, Mama. You are a rock star—really and truly—so keep on rockin’ & rollin’. I’ll be praying for you.

A Prayer for the Mama with Two Under Two

DD turns two today. It’s a bittersweet thing to be leaving the two-under-two club, though I think that it’s a club where once you’re a member, you’re always a member. For all those Mama’s who still have days or months left with two under two, you are in my prayers. You have a special place in my heart because I feel your joy and know so well the challenges you face day in and day out. I’ve been there and the struggle is real; but it’s also a beautiful place. This is my prayer for you:

~*~

Lord, please bless this Mama who is raising two, beautiful babies for You.

You have deemed her worthy of such a role; You have gifted her these two blessings and therefore You will also give her the grace necessary to face each waking moment.

Fill her with your joy.

Fill her with your peace.

Fill her with your patience.

Grant her the love, kindness, gentleness and understanding she needs, both for her babies and also for herself.

Strengthen her, energize her and help her see the beauty in each day with her little ones.

Bless her with the sleep she needs.

Bless her with quiet waking moments to rest, to care for herself and to recharge.

Bless her and her family with good health always, but especially during this season.

Even though her life is moving so fast and is passing in a blur, help her to slow down and notice each baby smile, to appreciate each little giggle because as hard as it might be to remember in this season, babies don’t keep.

Help her to enjoy her two under two; if that is hard for her, teach her how to enjoy this season.

You are her help, Lord.  Send her family, friends and babysitters to support her and encourage her.

Bless her marriage and her spouse; help them to cleave to one another during this time, to support one another and to meet each others needs.  Protect them from evil influences and temptations always, but especially during this season.

Pour out Your love and help on this Mama, Lord, so that she is full of every necessary grace and can therefore turn and pour out all good things on her family.  Amen.

~*~

Mama, this prayer is my parting gift to you. May it bless you and strengthen you. You are in my heart, you are in God’s heart and you are fulfilling His divine work. I marvel at the generous love you pour out on your family each day. You are a true warrior, a hero to your babies. And don’t you ever forget that.

What to Expect when you’re expecting 2 Under 2

My kiddos are 10.5 months apart, basically as close in age as you can get to your sibling without being a multiple. When I was preparing to give birth to DS, I remember trying to research what life was like for other moms with two under two. I hope this post gives expectant moms some insight into what life is really like with two BABIES who are different ages…it’s a longer post, but I wanted to include as much as possible.

Expect to feel like you’re running a marathon at a sprinters pace.  Lets dive right in to the reality: two under two is HARD. It’s hard because you are EXHAUSTED and someone CONSTANTLY needs you. Literally, every waking minute someone needs you—a dirty diaper, someone is hungry, someone needs some love & attention, etc…—especially early on. When you have two under two, your days (and nights) are non-stop. It is hard to come up with healthy, well-balanced meals for your oldest when you’re dead tired they are being a picky eater. It is hard to get out of the house and take the kids for a walk when your body aches from exhaustion and all you want to do is sleep (but the kids are getting cabin fever). The list of things that is hard goes on and on, therefore…

Plan to MAKE “me time” in the car and on stroller walks (encourage your kids to like the stroller!) and prepare for these times with your favorite music, podcasts or audiobooks.  Listening to my favorite podcast and taking a walk is often the only “me time” I get during the day, and that was especially the case early on. This time is really important for recharging your battery.

Expect to need help, to ask for help and to be sooooo thankful for any help you’re given.  We had a lot of family help in the early weeks, and honestly I don’t know how we would have done it otherwise. My Mom/MIL cleaned, cooked and took DD on walks so I could take time to bond with DS (and sleep whenever possible). When DS was 7 months old we hired our first babysitter and haven’t looked back. I am able to get out of the house for a few hours a week now, go to the gym and read/write at Starbucks. My husband and I are able to go on dates every so often, which helps us keep our relationship healthy and a priority. I am a MUCH happier, MUCH more energized and organized Mama.

Expect to NEED to go to bed early (even if you don’t want to) for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to want to go to bed—instead of playing on your phone, watching a show, reading, etc.—when you’ve spent all day pouring your time and energy into little needy babies. But trust me, make yourself do it—you’ll enjoy those little ones SO much more tomorrow if you go to bed ASAP tonight, and all you do for them tomorrow will feel less like work & more like joy if you are well-rested.

Expect strangers to ask if they’re twins. Every. Time. You. Go. Out.  And expect said strangers to act awkward & embarrassed when you tell them no, they’re not twins.

 Expect rude comments and questions. Was [your youngest] planned? Did you want them to be born so close in age? How does that even happen? [OR] You know how that happens, right? What birth control did/do you use? I have been asked all of the above and more.

But expect other moms of kids close in age (especially those with grown children) to show you compassion and offer guidance & encouragement. These women will make your day. They will make you realize that you’re not alone. They will make you value this time with your little ones because they will make you see that it will come to an end and you will miss it. They will give you hope—they have all told me that age 3 is the magic number (when things get “easy”). They will make you feel like you are a part of a special, amazing club. Talk to these women. Encounters with them are like pauses in time—pauses when you are recharged and centered—and you will remember these moms and your conversations.

Expect to grow in character & virtue. Expect to be pushed to your limits (and often beyond) and to find yourself in awe of what you’re capable of doing. For me it has been what I’ve been able to do & who I’ve been able to be in spite of my postpartum depression and extreme exhaustion. I’ve become a much more loving, others-centric, joyful and disciplined person. Right now, I’m working on the virtue of patience.

Expect to live in survival mode more often than you’d like. Again, this is especially true early on, but will get better as you develop routines. This is also the case when you/the babies are sick.

Expect to become obsessed with hand sanitizer and hand washing. Remember when you thought things were hard because you had one sick baby? Multiply that times two, and after one bout of illness you will be a germaphobe.

Expect to feel pulled between two babies, and to feel like you never have enough to give. Again, another major struggle early on that over time you will learn to manage.

Expect to be a constant referee once your littlest starts to move. We are struggling with this one now…I have a 12-month-old who can walk and wants everything that his 23-month-old sister has. DS is always trying to get into DD’s business, and DD hits/pushes DS to keep him out of her business unless I am constantly refereeing. This has been a problem since he started walking THREE MONTHS AGO. It is not developmentally appropriate for a 20/23 month old to share, BUT I’ve found that DD is very receptive and understands how to “take turns”. REMEMBER THESE TWO WORDS, “take turns”, they will save you and your children during this phase. I also talk to DD about how it makes DS feel when she pushes him away, and we have been seeing an improvement! There is a lot of talk about feelings in our house.

Expect to be on a different schedule from other moms with (one) kid your kids’ age. My number one priority lately—after months of staggered naps—has been to get DS and DD on the same sleep schedule. Well, I am proud to say we are there. They both sleep roughly 7p-7a overnight, and go down for a 2-hour (or so) nap at 11a. The 11a nap is something we’re working on pushing back right now, as all story time & playgroup activities seem to always happen at 10:30a/11a where we live. Those social activities are really important to the three of us, but naps are most important. So for now we can’t make it, but I hope to get the kids on a more accommodating routine soon.

Expect to value schedules and routines, but at the same time to become a very “go with the flow” person. I have found that keeping a daily schedule is so helpful to both the kids and to me. They know what to expect and at what time to expect it (no one fights bedtimes) and I know what I need to do and at what time (empty the dishwasher, fold the clothes, give the kids my undivided attention, etc.) to stay on top of everything that needs to happen for the day.

Expect to forget a lot (thanks to sleep deprivation); expect to take lots of videos and pictures to counter this forgetfulness. I remember right before DS was born, another mom who had two under two told me that the first few months would be a blur. This is true, but in my experience the blur has lasted all year. You will feel like you miss out on a fair amount of milestones. Or you’ll be there but sadly have no memory of it. Right now I’m sitting here trying to remember DD’s first steps, and the only thing that I can easily recall is video on my phone of her pushing her toy cart around.

Expect to feel like a baller, because you are. Perhaps you’ll feel it at the end of the first day that you’re home alone with TWO babies—you will want to (and should) give yourself a pat on the back. Or perhaps it will be the first time you leave the house with both babies by yourself. Or perhaps it will be the night you successfully bathe both kids at the same time by yourself, and you’ll be like, “Dang, I just did that.” On DS’ first birthday, I had one of those moments when I looked back on the year and felt proud, because I have worked freakin’ hard this past year.

Expect your love to double. Before DS was born, I remember sharing with one of my playgroup mommy friends how I was worried about having another baby so close in age to DD. I felt like she and I hadn’t had enough time together just the two of us, and I was worried about sharing my time and energy with another little one—I felt like DD was going to lose out. I also wondered how I could ever love another baby as much as I loved her. My mommy friend told me how she and her brother were close in age, and how her mother had said that when her brother was born, her love doubled. This happened to me, and it will happen to you too. And this love will make all the other things possible; this love is how you will “do it”, how you will navigate these early years.

If you have two under two, do you have anything else to add?  If you’re expecting, what are your biggest concerns or questions before baby arrives?