This one won’t be as easy as your first — not that the first was easy (and if it was, you are a mythical creature and I covet your genetic good fortune). The first time around, all you had to think about was yourself, and your misery. You wallowed in the despair of the relentless and cruel life of morning sickness. You hauled your tired self to work, armed with snacks and constantly on the lookout for a place to throw up. You slept when you got home. Took it easy on the weekends. Prepared your own food. And you certainly didn’t prepare food for any little hungry people just moments after throwing up.
This time will be different.
The second time around, you know what to expect, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. When you’re inside the first trimester, and you already have a child to care for (or in my case, twins), you will be challenged in every sense of the word.
Here are a few things that I learned during the first (worst) trimester of my second pregnancy, and some tips for surviving with small children:
1. THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you. Although I told myself this over and over throughout the worst trimester, I sometimes didn’t believe myself. When you’re in the heart of your morning sickness, you quickly forget what it felt like to feel healthy, and you quickly forget that sometime in the near future you will feel healthy again. Feeling sick while taking care of small children can feel unbearable. Relentless. Cruel. But remember, THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY. This too shall pass.
2. Pass the time however you can. If you find that your kids are playing nicely on their own, grab a good book and distract yourself while they play. There’s nothing better than escaping your misery and landing yourself into another world - if only for a few moments. If you’re not into books, try TV (see number 6). If you feel up to having visitors, invite someone over. If you feel well enough to go on playdates, plan something calm and easy. Whatever it is, pass the time. Before you know it, these days will be behind you and you’ll be feeling much better. This too shall pass.
3. Find someone to vent to. Growing a human being is really hard. It makes you feel sick, hungry, tired, exhausted, crabby, sad, achy, short of breath, hormonal, and swollen. And you have to go on living your normal life like none of this is happening. It helps if you find a friend you can vent to. Even better, a pregnant friend. Misery loves company, and nobody understands sudden food aversions, mood changes, and horrific heartburn like a pregnant friend. Also, you can feel like you’re in it together, and remind each other that this too shall pass.
4. You might feel regret. Once the morning sickness takes up what feels like a permanent residence in your life, you might feel regret. Like, what the hell was I thinking?? type of regret. You might wonder how you can handle another child if you can barely handle your current situation. You might feel overwhelmed and anxious. And then you might feel shame for even feeling any of these feelings. Don’t! It’s the hormones and the nausea and the fatigue. It’s the pressure of parenting. It’s the daunting idea of altering and changing the dynamics of your life and your family. But mostly it’s the stupid nausea. This too shall pass — and once you feel better, excitement will creep its way back in. You’ll quickly remember why you wanted to have another baby in the first place.
5. Snacks. Always have lots of snacks accessible. I don’t care if that means eating carrots or making an emergency trip to taco bell. Whatever your body needs during this time, oblige. They say that snacking often can help stave off morning sickness — so do whatever you have to do. You can worry about eating healthier when you start to feel better. This too shall pass.
6. TV is your friend (and your new babysitter). I don’t care if you were a “no screen time” or “limited screen time” type of parent before your pregnancy. Nausea and fatigue happens, things change, and TV helps. When you’re feeling nauseas and on the verge of throwing up, TV. When you’re so tired you can hardly keep your eyelids open, TV. When you’re bone tired and all you can handle is “horizontal parenting,” TV. When you’re little ones are wild and you can’t cope, TV. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and hormonal, TV. TV is your friend, and your new babysitter. Embrace it. Your kid’s brains will not turn to mush, and when you’re feeling better again you can cut back on this awesome babysitter — or even fire her completely. It’s up to you. But for now, TV. This too shall pass.
7. If your doctor offers you medications to treat nausea, take it. I was so desperate to feel better that I didn’t hesitate to fill my prescription for Diclegis. Once I adjusted to the medication and it kicked in, it was a true lifesaver. I slowly headed back to my life as a functioning person, and a much better mother. You don’t need to be a hero and suffer through the sickness. Take the medicine! You won’t need it forever. This too shall pass.
8. If your friends or family offer to help, take it. I’m not the kind of person that likes to accept help from others. But after feeling sick and desperate for weeks on end, I said yes to whoever offered to help me out. And if nobody is offering, reach out and ask. Have people come babysit, drop off food, or help out around the house. Any little bit will help you to keep your head above water. You won’t need help forever, this too shall pass.
9. Your parenting game will be off, and that’s okay. Your patience will be ebb and flow. You’re tired. Like really tired. And sick. And you have hormones — lots of them. It’s okay if you have off days. It’s okay if you lose your cool. It’s okay if you yell. It’s okay if you don’t entertain your kids and provide them with educational and stimulating activities. It’s okay if they don’t get any sunshine today. It’s okay if they eat some junk food. It’s okay if they don’t get a bath today, or tomorrow. It’s okay if you feel like you literally cannot parent after 6pm. It’s okay if you cry when your toddler(s) gang up on you and throw food all over the floor while your cleaning lady is literally slamming her car door and peeling away from your messy crazy house (wait, that might just be me). It’s okay. This too shall pass, and things will get better.
10. You might feel fat. The first trimester is often that really awkward stage where you feel pregnant internally (and by internally I mean the vomit that constantly erupts from your body), but don’t necessarily look pregnant externally. Maybe you look like you’ve had a few too many Taco Tuesdays, or like you had an entire large pizza for lunch. People take a second glance at you, silently wondering what’s going on and why you have a sudden beer belly. It’s probably too early to scream out, It’s okay, I’m just pregnant! So you just keep quiet and wait. And wait. Your body is changing, and that can be a difficult adjustment (even if you’ve experienced pregnancy before). Just ride it out, try to embrace the changes, and look for the beauty in it. After a while, you’ll get used to growing and growing and growing. If you feel overwhelmed, refer back to #1. This too shall pass (in 9 months or so).
The first trimester is all about survival. Do whatever you need to do, and just remember, this too shall pass. And in the end, it will all be worth it. And you might even forget about this horrific time in your life. And you might even convince yourself to do it all over again.