Your first-born has become a cute little toddler in need of a sibling and you and your partner have settled into a nice routine. It’s usually round about now that the idea of conceiving baby number 2 seems appealing.
Don’t be fooled. Falling pregnant when your first-born is just out of nappies and only beginning to negotiate life on chubby, ill-coordinated legs is tantamount to fighting a hurricane with extreme nausea and severe lower-back pains.
First off, you don’t have time to take those luxurious little naps that helped to power you through the first pregnancy – toddlers are needy little things and when they sense their future competition growing in your womb (and they’re smart so you’d better believe they know) they take demanding to a whole new level.
Not only are you negotiating your much-needed rest time with an insistent 2-year old but you’re also beginning to realise, as you hit your second trimester, that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to cuddle your toddler as there’s a rather large bump in the way (you’ll begin to show much quicker the second time around)!
And just imagine how your precious 2-year-old must feel knowing that the “thing” taking up most of mommy’s lap space is her future sibling... it does not bode well for the little green-eyed monster!
Aside from feeling tired and overwrought, it may also appear as if you’re gaining more weight this time. But take into account that you are still carrying unshed kilos from your first pregnancy, coupled with the weight you’re gaining this time, and you’re bound to feel more ungainly.
Add to that your stomach muscles are just not as firm as they used to be before you decided to have children and so you tend to carry lower in your second pregnancy, which ultimately puts more pressure on your bladder and back much earlier on.
With all that said and done, falling pregnant while bringing up a toddler can become a wonderful adventure. Involving her in the progress – how her unborn sibling is developing and allowing her to contribute to choosing a name – will turn a potentially overwhelming experience into an endearing and memorable one.
During your second pregnancy you’ll also find yourself connecting sooner with your unborn child as you begin to feel little flutters much earlier on. While it’s common to only start feeling movement in the fifth month during your first pregnancy, the second time around you can feel movement as early as the fourth month.
When you begin to feel the little flutters, explain to your toddler how it feels – tickle her tummy lightly and let her know that her brother or sister is tickling mommy’s tummy from the inside.
When the movements become bigger and more definite, make sure your toddler is the first to experience the kicks and turns. Allow this to become an open invitation for her to connect with her future sibling by suggesting that whenever she feels like talking to her unborn brother or sister, all she needs to do is place her hands on mom’s big tummy.
You can say goodbye to indulgent naps but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge at all. Simply putting your feet up and taking time out while cherishing the moment with your toddler will help you get through your second pregnancy and, at the same time, breed a happy, confident first child who now looks forward to welcoming her little brother or sister into the world.
Tips for a happy sibling
Don't tell your toddler that you're pregnant too early on
Don’t tell your toddler that you’re pregnant too early on – 9 months is light years away for a 2- or 3-year old. A good time is when your stomach starts expanding and your astute little one starts noticing. Tell her there’s a new baby growing inside and that she is going to be a big sister. Let her pat your tummy gently and speak to the baby if she wants to.
Invite your toddler to a few antenatal appointments
Invite her to 1 or 2 antenatal appointments – the best time to do this is when the unborn baby can be seen clearly on the scans and the heartbeat is loud and clear, around 20 weeks.
Remind your child that they are important
Turn the pregnancy into a great big adventure and let your toddler know that she’s an important person on this exciting 9-month journey.
Read your toddler books about being a big sister or big brother
Prepare her for the shift in dynamics by reading books to her about children going through the same experience as she is, such as I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole and Maxi Chambliss
Let her know she is special and loved
Let her know that no matter how different it may feel, she will always be the family’s special first-born child.
Give her a little independence and help
Spend quality time with your little one but also allow her independence and get her used to spending time with the people that will care for her when you’re in hospital.
Talk about the new baby
Talk consistently about the new baby but don’t go into too much detail – your little toddler cannot take it all in and won’t be able to grasp the real implications until after the baby is born. Only paint the big picture and do it frequently.
There’s no hard and fast rule to whether your toddler should be toilet trained or not, but it may be wise to start encouraging her independence especially if she’s sleeping in your bedroom.
Take the 9 month period to gently ease her into her new independent role but, whatever you do, don’t leave it too late as it will place far too much pressure on her. Don’t be surprised if your toddler’s potty training regresses during this time either.
Tips for mom to cope
Ask for help
If you need some time off, send your toddler to her grandparents or other relatives for a weekend. After all, she is going to need to get used to being shipped off when you’re in hospital. Also, it’s important for her to know that she has a support network too.
Be creative with your time out
Either include your toddler by suggesting that rest time becomes reading time or create a toy box for her that she gets to dig around in and play with only when mommy’s resting.
Lower your expectations
It seriously doesn’t matter if the house is a mess, what does matter is your sanity and general health.
Boost your immunity
Eat healthily and since your toddler is bound to pick up a cold or two, it’s important for you to build your immunity by taking supplements that help protect you from getting viruses – there is nothing worse than being pregnant, tired and sick.
You’re so busy dealing with your toddler, life and everything else that the second pregnancy tends to take a back seat – try to spend some time simply enjoying the experience and bonding with your unborn child.
Take it easy
Get used to modern conveniences such as shopping online.
After the baby arrives, allow someone else to hold it when the siblings are introduced.
Give your toddler a little present from the baby.
Keep the rituals
Even though it might be difficult, make sure that the important rituals you’ve always maintained with your toddler stay in tact, for instance reading a story every night
Let your toddler help
Let your toddler help with looking after the baby.