As I write this, I am 8.5 months pregnant and being punched from the inside by my fetus as our toddler runs down the hallway dragging a tin of olive oil he stole from the grocery bag, chased in hot pursuit by my husband.
I always knew I’d need to write this article because I always wondered: What is it like to be pregnant AND have a toddler, both at home and during travel? Your experience may vary, but perhaps the following trimester-by-trimester tips I’m excited to share with you can help put strategies in place to ease your journey.
To accompany this article, I’ve decided to accompany it with soothing photos from our family travels through beautiful Quebec City, our favorite destination of the year. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy when we traveled there, so it’s rather fitting. Lest you forget what we look like, however, here’s a double selfie of me with our sweet, goofball toddler, Devi.
Ahem — back to business. Let us start with what it’s like to pregnant and have a toddler during your…
Positives: In the first three months of pregnancy, you are still fully mobile and able to bend to scoop up your toddler. For travel, this means it’s easier to contort in order to sleep on an airplane, even with a squirmy 2-year-old on your lap. (See “Toddler Travel” for a comprehensive guide on toddler travel tips!)
Challenges: First trimester nausea and fatigue are NO JOKE. Paired with the fact that many people don’t reveal their pregnancy this early, it becomes harder to obtain any help you need unless you really make a plan and advocate for yourself. Further, many alluring foods and beverages may suddenly now be off limits, which can be a bummer during travel especially, as I so wanted that famous Montreal smoked salmon during our Quebec travels!
First Trimester Solutions:
- Line up partners, family, and friends to help with your toddler as much as possible. For much of the summer, Colin, Devi, and I camped out at my in-laws’ house and I sprawled on their couch while they blessedly helped chase Devi around. If family and friends aren’t reliably available, it’s worth any money you can spare to hire support in the form of daycare, an inexpensive mother’s helper (high school students are great options), or babysitters.
- Though your pregnancy may not be visibly showing, advocate strongly for your partner, friends, and family to understand they need to support you in self-care. This includes combatting nausea by always having snacks nearby (crackers, pita chips, cheese, etc.) and eating steadily, plus going to sleep as early and often as needed.
- Because this is your second pregnancy, your belly will likely poof out earlier (though it may not be visible to everyday acquaintances), so don’t forget to dust off those maternity clothes soon, and pack them for any trips you’ll take during this time! You’ll be a lot more comfortable with elastic waist pants, even in the second month.
- Modify any travel and home plans to account for sudden explosions of nausea-starvation. While in Seattle visiting my brother during my first trimester, I foolishly let an hour go by without eating, and found myself in the middle of a cab ride, about to hurl all over my sibling and the driver. I yelled at them to pull over, sprinted into an ice cream store, and stuffed a dry ice cream cone into my mouth until my stomach settled. Do not leave home or your hotel without a stash of snacks!
- Modify any travel and home plans to account for sudden attacks of fatigue. In Montreal, Devi, Colin and I found ourselves miles from our hotel at mid-day when an exhaustion wave hit me, and I literally had to lie down on my jacket in the middle of a park to pass out right then. Luckily, toddlers also need a mid-day nap, so Devi fell asleep in his stroller at this point. Come to think of it, this need for naps as well as constant snacks is one way that a pregnant mother is actually in perfect sync with her toddler!
- Be aware that if you have constant nausea (as I did), it may sour your mood and negatively impact your view of a place. Given this, you may want to hold off on dream destinations until your second trimester to prevent your main memory of it from being, “It made me want to throw up.” That said, if a place is beautiful and relaxing enough (are your ears burning, Quebec City?) it can shine through the stress of the first trimester.
Positives: The second trimester is known as the most comfortable third of pregnancy. Nausea and fatigue have usually subsided, and you have a cute little belly that still allows you to more or less bend, while silently proclaiming to the world that you’re a woman who should be given special treatment. I really enjoyed getting the Pregnant Princess experience from strangers during the second trimester after being invisibly pregnant and thus un-helped during the first three months!
Challenges: Despite being easier than the first or third trimester, I experienced some really weird random pains during the second trimester of both my pregnancies that my doctor explains is quite common. One example is Round Ligament Pain, which means the bottom of your belly suddenly really hurts as that whole region loosens up to make room for the baby. Further, parts of my body would just stop working, like my inner thigh muscles became intermittently so weak that walking was difficult, or my upper foot suddenly had shooting pain for 6 hours. Again, this is apparently normal, as the hormones that help your frame adjust to the pregnancy sometimes have unintended consequences.
Second Trimester Solutions:
- Take advantage of this relatively easy portion of your pregnancy to travel, and consider both family travel and solo travel. While five months pregnant, I traveled to Dubai alone for 9 days, and it was the most rejuvenating, fabulous experience imaginable to regain my individual identity after balancing parenting a toddler and growing a fetus for months on end. Just make sure you consult with your doctor and take all necessary precautions before embarking on any pregnant trip (including getting a letter stating your due date so airlines will allow you to fly).
- Use your pregnant belly to your advantage by dressing in cute maternity clothes that accentuate the bump, and pointing to the belly while asking for assistance. In my case, this allowed me to get an entire ROW of airplane seats free on all four flights to and from Dubai, meaning I could fully recline and actually sleep each time!
- Though you may feel stronger than your first trimester, remember to build in more rest time and self-care than your pre-pregnant self usually needed, and put plans in place if you suddenly find yourself struck with ligament pain and have trouble walking. Consider buying an inexpensive pregnancy support band (like this link) which really eased my belly muscle discomfort as the trimester wore on.
- This is an ideal time to budget for and set up time-saving automated services that will boost your sanity. Examples include: weekly home grocery delivery or dinner preparation kits, monthly housecleaning services, a subscription to Amazon Prime (free 2-day shipping — even on giant items like our crib, plus free movies, TV, and photo storage), Audible (audio books so you can actually keep reading despite fatigue), and Amazon Family, which offers major discounts on subscriptions like monthly diaper shipments. (Note: Those are affiliate links, so if you sign up for a free trial, I get a small commission to support this website, at no cost to you. I promise, however, that the reason I’m recommending these services is that they’ve really saved us!)
- Though you should keep exercising in moderation (walking, swimming, yoga) if approved by your doctor, make every effort to NOT make sudden bursts of movement such as running for the bus or sprinting after your toddler. I had been foolishly doing this sprinting, and when I mentioned to my prenatal yoga instructor that when I ran, my hip bones felt weird, she screamed at me to never do bursts of running while pregnant, because your pelvis can actually SPLIT in half, forcing bedrest or an early delivery. Yipes!
Positives: By the beginning of month six of pregnancy, you are officially Super Pregnant. You have permission to waddle, wear sweatpants beyond the bounds of ordinary comfort-wear hours, be grumpy, and take full advantage of being huge. You are creating human life!
Challenges: Ahh, where to begin… First, it is physically insane to be Super Pregnant. I have currently gained 36 pounds (imagine carrying a 36-pound weight around all day), truly cannot bend (there’s essentially a beach ball blocking such action), am kicked awake at 4am, and waddle like Daffy. I can’t chase my toddler when he sprints away, and when I try to read books to him, he has to sort of curl around the belly situation. Though some women do travel in their third trimester, many do not. I chose to take a road trip to New York and DC during month 7, but spent much of the time napping.
Third Trimester Solutions:
- LINE UP HELP. Without the ability to run or bend, and with fatigue hitting hard, parenting a toddler becomes madness. Partners really need to step up at this point (bless my husband for becoming such a housework and toddler-watching champ!), but you’ll also need to line up layers of back-up help, as we painfully learned when Colin got Strep Throat and both of us were sprawled on the couch while Devi ran amok until we were able to find family and friends to come help. I wish we’d started using babysitters earlier in my pregnancy, because at this point, Devi isn’t used to many people besides family and daycare, so I’d suggest you learn from our mistakes and start integrating helpers earlier.
- Do what you can to train your toddler to do things on his or her own, from playing independently, to climbing up into the car seat with just Mommy’s hand to help versus lifting. I confess I am terrible at this rule, but I have heard repeatedly that every time a very pregnant gal carries something heavy like our little man, it increases the chance of early labor, not to mention pulled muscles.
- Speaking of muscles, I’ve found something odd in my third trimester: Though it’s hard to do previously easy things like stand for more than a few minutes, get off a couch, or walk down the hall at work, I am still able to take extremely long walks if I take it slowly and keep the pace even… and every time I do take long, steady walks, I feel massively better. I’ve started to walk the three miles home from work twice a week instead of driving, and suggest integrating “useful exercise” like this into your routine if you think it will help, and your doctor approves. Another incentive is to go for a walk to obtain ice cream. Win-win!
- Make delivery plans for all scenarios. Part of the stress of being in one’s third trimester and having a toddler is that you could go into labor at any time, and the plan for who will care for your toddler (and how) is likely different depending on the day of the week or the time. Happily, with regard to gear, you likely don’t need to buy many new baby items, so just wash and prepare clothes, car seat, changing table, crib, and hospital bag at some point during these months.
- I learned this one the hard way: If you’re feeling extremely uncomfortable, make sure your doctor checks the position of the baby in your womb. I just found out that my fetus was SIDEWAYS (“Transverse”) for weeks without me realizing! An ultrasound in the 8th month finally confirmed it. Happily, once we figured out what was going on, I was able to encourage the baby to turn into the correct head-down position through a variety of fun Internet suggestions, from crawling on all fours, to lying on my back on an ironing board facing 45 degrees downward, to prenatal yoga, to putting a cold pack of peas at the top of my belly, and loud music on the bottom!
- Allow for some level of chaos and non-perfection. If you need to sleep at 5:30pm and the house is a mess, who cares? If you are a teacher and cannot teach standing up any more (yay for my rolling chair!), so it goes. If you are “playing” with your toddler by lying on the floor while he throws puzzle pieces at you, great! All’s fair in the miraculous path to creating life, Mama.
There you have my tips for being pregnant and having a toddler, both at home and during travel. I hope this advice helps! Do chime in with any additions, revisions, or questions you have. I look forward to reading your comments.