Parenting a toddler while I was pregnant was not as simple as I thought it would be.
I imagined in that last trimester as my stomach housed a whole human, that I'd be able to sit on the couch and rest while instructing my two-year-old how to engineer towers with blocks.
That child wanted me to be on the floor helping him: feet up was not an option.
Then he demanded to be fed and selfishly, would not prepare his own meals. He wasn't quite toilet trained so wrangling him down to change a poo was an extreme physical challenge.
I was carrying more weight than my first pregnancy so the whole up and down, bending thing involved a lot of heaving and moaning, which I only realised when my son started grabbing his back and imitating my noises every time he stood up. Thanks for nothing.
My second son was born a week late. It felt like a dragged out season of The Bachelor, given my first baby was two weeks' early. I was so over pregnancy, I was ready to stick my hand up the birth canal and pull him out myself.
The memory of hardship didn't last long though. At some fleeting moment I thought going back for a third child was doable. My oldest son was almost five, second son was on the brink of three. It'd be smooth sailing because they were both house-trained: they slept all night, they pooed where they were supposed to and they generally followed instructions.
How hard could pregnancy be again?
Harder was the answer.
I had two young children to look after and they couldn't have shown less concern about the unwashed floor, rising laundry pile, or my elephant-man feet. They wanted to play! And go to the park. And fight. And cry. And whinge. And tantrum (well, mainly the toddler).
I felt huge, uncomfortable, swollen and tired. I wasn't sleeping because nobody had invented a crane that lifts pregnant women up and rolls them over in bed (have they yet?).
The last trimester of pregnancy is a strain, even if you're super fit and healthy and have no medical issues. Just carrying around an extra 12kg (or for me, who decided chocolate was the answer to all of life's problems, an extra 25kg), can mean some physical impairment. You cannot move fast enough to chase a wayward toddler, and you can't bend over to pick things up off the floor.
House cleaning is effort enough with a toddler underfoot, but when you are heaving a sumo body around, mopping and vacuuming become close to impossible.
By the time I lost my mind and had a fourth pregnancy, my house was being used as a lab for the CSIRO. My older children figured out what was good for them and were meal planning, online shopping and preparing nightly dinners. Okay, wishful thinking.
So, how do you survive pregnancy when you have a toddler?
- Be kind to yourself – the house will be cleaned, eventually. The kids will not die if they sit on the couch and watch a movie. Their health will not be compromised if you give them cereal for dinner.
- Enlist help – if you have the resources to pay someone, get a cleaner to give the house a solid once-over. If not, perhaps a kind mum or sibling will help you get on top of things. Then you maintain the clean state with some minimalist tidying.
- Wipe down a bench, and a child, occasionally. And you can get that guy who put you in this state of physical impairment to help with the heftier jobs like changing sheets and scrubbing the bathroom grout with a toothbrush (milk it, I say!).
- Know that it's not forever – like all things in life, this is a phase. It, too, shall pass. So, ride the wave, do the basics and remind yourself that in not too long there will be a squirming baby on the outside of your body instead of the inside.
- Give your toddler a credit card and teach them to online shop. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Groceries delivered to the door sure beat pushing a toddler around in a trolley (while housing a belly the size of a small nation).
If all else fails, tell your toddler that they are the doctor, and you are the patient and you have to lie down while they check your vitals. A five-minute power nap while you are being poked and prodded can do wonders.