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.

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