I never thought I would be that mum — the vastly pregnant, frantic, wild-eyed one waddling after her active toddler. And yet, there I was, explaining to my 2.5 year old daughter why I’ve been a little slower these days.
If there’s one lesson motherhood has taught me, it’s this — never say never.
For months, my mother-in-law and my husband have been explaining to my daughter that some of her favourite activities — jumping on my back, being carried by me and general roughhousing — are off-limits now, because of my growing baby bump and sore back. As I got heavier, she got clingier. We’ve read “Za-Za’s Baby Brother” to her countless times in an attempt to help explain the life-changing event that lies around the corner.
There have been so many other changes in her short life. In my first trimester, she started going to preschool for two mornings a week. In my second trimester, I finally successfully weaned her. By my third trimester, she was more or less potty-trained.
Imagine potty training a toddler while pregnant. Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds. (Apparently, it’s common for toddlers to regress into diapers upon the arrival of their newborn siblings. I choose to ignore this.)
And course, in my third trimester, this had to happen:
One afternoon, my toddler started her tell-tale toilet dance then announced, “Mummy, poo poo!” I stopped eating, grabbed her and raced up the stairs. She was going through a phase where she didn’t want to use the downstairs toilet (you try forcing a toddler onto a toilet she doesn’t want to use) so I had a few minutes before dealing with a literally sticky situation.
As I raced up the stairs, she asked me, with this classic expression of puzzlement, “Why you carry me, mummy?” I strove to keep calm and said, “Because I don’t want you to have a poo poo accident.” And then she beamed at me and said, “I love you, mummy.” I melted, smiled back, and we made it to the upstairs toilet in time. Hurrah.
There are other beautiful moments,, like when my daughter hugs my baby bump and plants soft kisses. I loved her detailed descriptions of what she’ll do for her younger sibling: “I give adik (little sibling) chocolate milk, wash bum bum, change diaper.” And there are the painful moments, when she glared at my growing bump and says “I don’t want adik!” There are the heartbreaking moments, when she sobbed, “I’m not a big girl! I still want momom (milk).” This pregnancy has been a journey for all three of us. My growing fetus, my growing toddler, and my own self.
If you’re a pregnant mama with a toddler, here are some tips for survival:
1) Ask for help.
Really. I know it’s hard to reach out for help, but if there’s any time will you need it it’s while you’re pregnant with a toddler. Be specific — ask for potluck meals when friends visit, or for a sibling to play with your toddler so you can nap, and so on.
2) Try to nap
Does your toddler still nap? If she does, then please, for the sake of your fetus and your sanity, please rest too, even if it’s for 10–15 minutes.. If your toddler has outgrown naps, then I feel your pain. When my toddler gave up naps near the end of my pregnancy, I improvised. I made sure the room was safe, locked her in with me, left some toys and books for her, and made sure I slept. The worst that happened was waking up with blue marker scribbles on my face.
3) Encourage independent play
First children have a monopoly over our time. So, encourage independent play with books, art supplies, building blocks, and any other toys.. And when you do, please tell me how you do it.
4) Bond with baby bump
Remember those luxurious days from your first pregnancy, where you could lounge around and snack as you wished, rub beautiful oils on your belly and so on? Yup, that’s all gone. After an exhausting day, try to make it a point to connect with your growing baby when your toddler is asleep.
5) Practice self-compassion.
A lot of it — Every day. Motherhood can be such a hard gig. Yes, it’s rewarding. Yes, our child/children are wonderful. But it’s also exhausting beyond words.
6) Find a listening partner
The actually helpful ones. The friend who listens, without judgement. The friend who is able to witness how hard it is.
7) Practice mindfulness
Whether it be deep breathing, meditation, mindful yoga, colouring, or gardening — carve out a few minutes every day to slow things down. I know first-hand how frantic days can be with preschool drop offs, playdates and doctor’s appointments.. Ironically, wanting to rush my pregnant self and my toddler out the door ends up in tears, tantrums, and more time wasted. When I slow down, remember to breathe and connect with her, then our mornings flow so much smoother.
8) Reduce expectations
This is probably not the time to be writing your epic novel. If you’ve managed to — please tell me how. One day, with enough babysitting/childcare support, that time will come. Especially towards the end of your pregnancy, when everything feels so uncomfortable,, congratulate yourself for getting through each day in one piece.
9) Celebrate small successes
You’re growing a human being inside of you! You’re helping to nourish a little person outside of you! You are amazing!
10) Introvert mamas
A special note to my fellow introvert mamas — you need your solo downtime. Even if you feel guilty about it, make that time for yourself anyway. Nobody else is going to give it to you. By the end of the day, your introvert batteries have been tapped out by your toddler, especially if she is extroverted. I know that when I get grizzly, it’s because I haven’t had enough time alone. Even a few minutes a day can make the difference between a more-or-less-functioning mama, and a ready-to-explode mama.