COPING WITH A TODDLER WHILE PREGNANT
Guest contributor blog by Lauren Mann
When I was asked to write a little piece about coping with a toddler while pregnant, I immediately started to reminisce about the start of my maternity leave when I was pregnant with Martha. I’ve recently embarked on my maternity leave in preparation for the arrival of my second child and, let’s just say, there are a few contrasts I can draw between these two experiences now as a pregnant mum of a toddler.
First Time Pregnancy Frustrations
Martha was a week late so I had around five weeks to myself before she took her sweet time entering this world. I remember how frustrated I was at the time. I felt like I’d been pregnant for an eternity. I’d had my hospital bag packed since 22 weeks on my husband’s orders – just in case, you know. We had bought every possible ‘must-have’ baby item that had been mentioned to us and well, we were ready and raring to go! Fast-forward to now; we lay in bed at night in a cold sweat thinking how am I already 35 weeks pregnant; where did that time go? What haven’t we organised? What is lurking in the loft, long since forgotten, that we are going to need to look after this small person who is just about ready to unleash a very welcome chaos into our world.
Keeping Occupied In My First Pregnancy
I look back on those first five weeks of maternity leave two years ago fondly…now. At the time I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was bored. Bored! I spent my days baking brownies, watching thought-provoking films “Have you seen the Reluctant Fundamentalist? You simply must!” I went for reflexology for ‘something to pass the time’, I had pedicures because ‘my feet would be the first thing the baby sees’. I ate. A lot. That’s what you do when you’re pregnant right? I’d wait for my husband to arrive home from work with an eager anticipation – we were going on ANOTHER long walk along the seafront. Surely this would be the night. We strolled hand in hand by the water, at our own pace, and talked excitedly about life with our little bundle.
Managing my Toddler while Pregnant
So what’s changed? Well, let’s start with baking. My husband doesn’t come home to the smell of lemon drizzle that Mary Berry would be proud of. He does arrive home to a kitchen covered in the detritus of another toddler cooking session. Just try these delicious chocolate squares with only a pinch of sugar…they are simply…tasteless. Made with your own child’s hands no less, licking handfuls as she went. Since Martha turned one I’ve become a bit of a slave to the world of ‘sensory play’ as they call it. This was borne out of necessity – it was becoming impossible to cook dinner, put washing on, clean (little bit of an embellishment here – those who know me know I rarely clean). I found that when Martha was pouring water or playing with the recycling, she was engaged for a significant length of time – a whole twenty minutes. I started to look for more ideas of how to keep her entertained and found that I too enjoyed watching her explore new sensations and play ideas – ones that toys just couldn’t provide. A great way of coping with a toddler while pregnant.
Sensory Play with a Toddler
As Martha hit 18 months these sensory activities really came into their own – my weapons of mass distraction. I found a tantrum could be avoided (delayed) or stopped in its tracks by something as simple as ice cubes in water, post-it notes, a baking tray full of rice and different spoons and containers. These little beauties have never been more a part of our daily life than they are now. If my lower back is determined to remind me that I am in fact nearly 40 weeks pregnant and should be ‘putting my feet up’ or I want to indulge my pregnancy right of devouring a piece of cake, I set up one of these sensory activities for Martha. That gives me a welcome five minutes to shovel that cake in (usually hiding behind a door so I don’t have to share – yes I know bloody selfish) and sit down so my back can stop complaining.
Differences between First and Second Pregnancy
This maternity leave is not full of stimulating and topical films but more Peppa Pig. Cue the sheer panic when you realise you generally find Daddy Pig pretty funny and hear yourself say ‘Oh I really like this one’. There’s little time for pedicures but there is time to have your feet painted by your toddler. I’m not spending every other day at the swimming pool deliberating over my ‘birth plan’ but I might be found wrestling with a toddler IN a swimming pool in a vain attempt to prevent her from injuries related to steps, water and running at a speed similar to that of Usain Bolt. We won’t be taking long-labour inducing walks this time unless we are carrying our own body weight in raisins and other associated snacks to get said toddler to walk in the required direction.
Yes, this pregnancy has been rather different I guess. I just feel incredibly lucky to be blessed with another one of these little explorers and I’m looking forward to coming up with yet more play ideas to satisfy a lively toddler with little patience for those new-born feeds or the fact that last night’s sleep totalled 2.5 hours. Bring it on.
Lauren is a primary school teacher and lives with her husband, Martha and second bump in Southend-on-Sea. You can follow Lauren’s sensory play with Martha on Instagram by following: www.instagram.com/montessori_times