My son was 15 months old when I found out I was pregnant with my second child. Although my husband and I were surprised to be pregnant again so soon, we were ecstatic to have our children so close in age.
The first few weeks of the pregnancy were blissful — we were coming up with baby names, getting the newborn clothes out of storage, and figuring out where to put a second crib. I had a healthy pregnancy with my son, and I knew what to expect as the months progressed. Surely, I thought, being pregnant with a child under two years old wouldn’t be so hard. I was active, productive, keeping up with my freelance work, and my son’s daily schedule. I had everything under control.
Then, things started to change.
By week 12, nausea and fatigue started to set in, and day-to-day tasks became increasingly harder for me. By mid-morning, I was so exhausted, and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day. The faintest smells would make me throw-up, so changing diapers or prepping meals was extremely hard. I was constantly sick and tired, and this new reality was making me fall into a state of depression. I was not enjoying being pregnant and having to care for a small child at the same time. It was hard work and it was only going to get harder once the baby came.
I reached out to various older moms that I knew to ask for advice. They all responded that they didn’t remember how they managed it all but that “things got better.” This was not the advice I wanted to hear. I need to know exactly how to make it all work. I needed to know that it was OK to take a nap in the middle of the day while my son watched TV or that it was OK to feed him cereal when I couldn’t muster up a proper meal.
As I look back on my difficult pregnancy while raising a child under two, I’m rounding up some advice that I wish I would have gotten. Yes, it does get better, but until they do, hopefully, these six things will help.
1. Let the TV help
Look, we all know that excessive screen time is not good for young kids. But, you know what? When you’re fatigued and overwhelmed, let the TV help you entertain your child for a while. It’s absolutely OK.
My son loved Curious George when he was little, so whenever I needed to rest, I put on the show and laid next to my son on the couch. Did he watch just one episode? No, of course not. He made it through at least four episodes sometimes before I felt like I could get back up again. But you know what? That’s OK.
2. Grocery shop online
Since I would throw up at the slightest smell of food, there was no way I was going grocery shopping. Plus, carrying heavy bags was not an option for me.
I utilized online grocery shopping, and it was a convenience that helped me tremendously. Even after the baby was born, I continued to grocery shop online, as it saved me time and energy.
3. Ask for help
My son was enrolled in pre-school two days a week for three-hour stretches. He spent the rest of his time with me while I freelanced from home. I depended on my husband, mom, and mother-in-law to take over when I couldn’t be fully present for my son. I also hired a babysitter to come over a few times a week to watch my son so I could work, rest, or just lay in bed and read a book.
Being pregnant is a huge undertaking for your body, and you need to be able to rest properly. There is no shame in asking for help.
4. Make breakfast for dinner
As my symptoms got worse, so did my desire to cook full meals. I relied on scrambled eggs, cereal, and other quick meals to serve for dinner. Often times, my parents would come over to cook us large meals to freeze and reheat.
I felt so awful about not providing well-balanced meals three times a day for my son, so we supplemented with Pediasure and gummy vitamins. Around 25 weeks, my nausea lifted, and I was able to make proper meals again, but looking back, I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself.
Things like not making super healthy meals all the time are so guilt-inducing as a parent, but try to remember that it’s temporary and it’s for a good cause.
After all, you are growing another child.
5. Plan quality time with your child
My pregnancy made it hard for me to be fully present with my son the majority of the day. However, I did experience bursts of energy in the early afternoon. It was during this time that I would take him to the park or plan one-on-one activities between us. Even if it was just us cuddling up together to read a book, I made it a point to carve out time during the day to focus on him.
Find times when you are feeling fresh and present, and make time to do something special with your toddler. It’ll be good for both of you.
6. Let go of comparisons and guilt
Growing a tiny human inside your body while caring for another little human is hard work. Don’t let your social media feed fool you into thinking that you’re not doing a great job.
Every mom’s pregnancy journey is different, and if you are having a difficult time in your journey, be gentle with yourself. Yes, my son watched a little too much TV and ate Cheerios for dinner one too many times. But, as my husband pointed out, it’s what you do on a consistent basis that matters, not the exception.
Both parenting and pregnancy are hard work on their own, and when combined, it can feel intense. Adopting a mentality of “whatever works” can bring you some peace while you all adjust. And, after you welcome your newest addition, holding strong to that mentality definitely helps ease the transition.