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.

SELF-CARE SELF-ASSESSMENT FOR BUSY MOMS

Before becoming a mom of two under two, I had never even heard of the term “self-care.”

Before babies, I also never had to be intentional about looking after my own needs—I just got around to them when I got around to them.  No big deal. But when you have a baby (or two) it’s easy to keep putting your needs aside over and over again…and never getting around to addressing them. This became a serious problem for me when I had two back-to-back babies, especially because I suffered from postpartum depression. For me self-care has become an essential part of being a good mom—it’s what’s keeps me energized and happy.

In Matthew Kelly’s book Building Better Families(pg. 77), Kelly addresses four legitimate needs that we all have.  These needs are essential to any person being able to thrive in life. I have used these needs as a roadmap to assess and address my wellbeing each day.

Your turn for a self-assessment. For each of the categories below, ask yourself: “Am I getting…?

Physical Needs

√ Regular Exercise

√ Balanced Diet

√ Sufficient Sleep

Emotional Needs

√ Opportunities to love and be loved

√ Carefree time with children and spouse (playtime)

Intellectual Needs

√ Opportunities to stimulate and nourish your mind

Spiritual Needs

√ Silence and Solitude

The way you meet these needs might be slightly different from the way I meet my needs.  For example, to meet my Spiritual Needs I make time to read the Bible and my daily devotional every morning before the kiddos wake up.

My husband and I have also had to work together to find ways for me to have my Intellectual Needs met. In this season, unless I make time to read and write (which often is only possible when someone else is babysitting) it doesn’t happen.

How are you doing? In which areas are you struggling? Is there a way you can be more intentional with your time, so that you can be sure these essential needs of yours are being met?

How to find your Mommy Tribe

finding-your-mommy-tribeI strongly encourage any mama with two under two (any mama, really—both SAH and working) to find a mommy group. It makes a world of difference to have a network of other mamas who are going through similar things, and from whom you can draw strength and support to overcome your own struggles (and share your joys!). Particularly as someone suffering with PPD, I have found mama friends to be vital. They get you out of the house, and it’s so nice to have social interaction with someone your own age! I had a great group of mommy friends before we moved cross-country this past summer, and I have been working hard to find my new mommy tribe in our new home. Here are some tips for finding your mommy tribe:

Check your local hospital. This is where I met my first mommy group, after DD was born. The hospital sponsored a ‘Mommy & Me’ postpartum group for new mothers, and after we had all been going for a while we started getting together outside the formal group. This is the best option for first time mamas with infants.

Meetup.com. This is where I found one of my new mommy groups (after we moved cross-country). Just search for mommy and me groups in your area.

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).  There are groups everywhere! The trouble I’ve found with MOPS is that the groups are often full and so you get put on a waitlist until spots open up. I have yet to be able to go to a meeting, but I look forward to the day when I do!

Check out your church or place of worship. The cathedral in the city where we used to live had a mommy group, as did many of the smaller neighboring churches. The church we’re planning to attend next year (when we move BACK across the country) also has a mommy group.

Library story times & the park. If you go during the week, there are often many SAHMs to meet!  Be brave and strike up a conversation.  Talk about your kids; there’s an endless amount of conversations to be had!

Google. I literally Googled “Mommy Groups in [insert your city or town]”, and this is how I found the other group I am a current member of. You can also use Google to find mommy and me classes in your area (music classes, swimming lessons, etc.).

Sometimes (if you’re an introvert like me) joining new groups–often ones that are already well established–can be daunting. I always feel super awkward the first few times I go (heck, it’s the end of November and I STILL feel awkward going to the mommy groups I’ve joined in our new town). But when you keep showing up and making small talk, over time IT DOES GET BETTER. Even though I feel awkward when I arrive, I always leave happy with at least one fun conversation I had with another mom. You will slowly find your place in the group and start to feel like one of them. Just be friendly, smile and ask the veteran group members questions (this takes the heat off you!).

Did I miss anything? Let me know where you found your mommy tribe!peace-be-with-youlove