Alex Vance with daughter

Surviving First Trimester Symptoms with a Toddler Means Doing Whatever It Takes

Endless nausea. Fatigue. Headaches. My toddler shrieking like a velociraptor. The first trimester with my second baby was a handful! Being able to stay home certainly helped, but unlike my first pregnancy, I couldn't just glue myself to the couch. After all, I couldn't chase my toddler lying down, and my toddler needed a lot of chasing. (Don't they all, though?)

One of the most difficult parts of my second pregnancy was the internal tug-of-war between wanting to rest and the need to entertain my 2-year-old. I knew I was in no position to run after her at the playground or carry her around the zoo. It sounded miserable, but I didn't know what else I was supposed to do.

My fatigue sat on one shoulder, and my desire to be a good mom on the other—both of them pleading their case into my ears. I wasn't sure how I was going to get through nine months of feeling both physical and moral discomfort.

But there was a silver lining. During my first pregnancy, I investigated every tiny symptom like a seasoned detective. At one point, I'm pretty sure Google let out a sigh when I opened the search bar. I wouldn't be surprised if my doctor received more calls from me than from telemarketers. I was nervous! It was my first baby, and I had to make sure all of my worrying was just first-time-mom paranoia.

Pregnancy stress takes on a whole new level when you already have a kid, but the good news is that it's mostly centered around dealing with your firstborn, not around your pregnancy symptoms.

And then came baby number two. I knew those abdominal cramps I had in the first few weeks were normal. The heart murmurs were a little scary, but I knew they weren't anything to worry about. As for crying at a commercial about Cheerios? Yep, still normal (but also embarrassing).

Pregnancy stress takes on a whole new level when you already have a kid, but the good news is that it's mostly centered around dealing with your firstborn, not around your pregnancy symptoms.

As for my toddler, I adjusted our routine on the fly whenever I needed to. If she fought her nap, I'd let her lay there for a while so I could rest. When my nausea reared its ugly head, I encouraged activities like reading books, doing puzzles, or coloring. And I'll be the first to admit that her screen time became my own personal happy time.

During the afternoon, I tried my best to take her for a walk, since a little movement and some fresh air seemed to relieve some of my overall achiness. If I had lower back pain, I'd keep her in the stroller or wagon instead of picking her up. I did whatever I could to keep myself comfortable while still being available to my daughter.

I did whatever I could to keep myself comfortable while still being available to my daughter.

That said, carrying a tiny human while taking care of another one—while amazing—can be totally overwhelming. There were days when I held back tears trying to battle tantrums with the energy of a garden snail. I gagged through my aversion to scrambled eggs and cooked them when my daughter asked. I tried my hardest to spend alone time with my husband after she went to bed, but my exhaustion often forced me to fall asleep before the sun went down.

There are going to be feelings of guilt. You might even feel a little selfish from time to time. But the only person those feelings will affect is you. The unconditional love from your firstborn should be a reminder that no matter what, you can do no wrong in their eyes! You can still take time for yourself and be a good parent.

There are going to be feelings of guilt...The unconditional love from your firstborn should be a reminder that no matter what, you can do no wrong in their eyes! You can still take time for yourself and be a good parent.

You're still rocking parenthood even if you rely on microwavable meals for lunch or constantly skip the playground. Prioritizing your own needs ensures you'll be the best parent possible to your firstborn and your unborn child.

"Pregnant moms deserve and need to practice self-care," explains Carly Snyder, MD, a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist and member of the Verywell Family Review Board. "Each pregnancy is unique and takes a toll on [a] mom’s body—but our kids won’t appreciate or understand that mom needs to rest or may have less energy than normal. It is incumbent on moms to protect themselves from getting too overwhelmed or exhausted by letting go of guilt and cutting little corners as needed."

Balancing pregnancy, another kid, and your own sanity is tough, but at the end of the day, you're resilient! (You are a parent, after all.) When things get hard, remember that you're not alone.

Going through your second pregnancy is bound to be different than your first, so take a deep breath, give your firstborn a hug, and let their little smiles be the motivation you need to power through. The first trimester will be over before you know it!