One of the hardest things about the later stages of pregnancy is being tired. I don’t mean any kind of tired, I mean “oh my gosh it feels like my legs are going to drop off” kind of tired. A woman’s first pregnancy is difficult, don’t get me wrong. For many women the first pregnancy is so much harder than they bargained for. Which is why, if they’re smart/lucky (depends on your vantage point) they take a month off before baby is due to rest those weary legs and prepare for the new arrival.
The second pregnancy is also hard. In many ways it’s easier because you know what to expect. In many ways knowing what to expect makes things harder too. There’s also the little factor of every baby being different and thus every pregnancy being different so even if you think you know what to expect you can never be fully prepared.
I’m now 36 weeks pregnant. At this stage of my first pregnancy I stopped work, settled down in the air conditioning and scrapbooked wedding photos, for a month. Sure, people dragged me to the shops or out for lunch, I cooked dinner for my husband, I moved things around the house a bit, and I read about how to care for a baby, but mostly my time was my own. This time, I’m a mum already. I’m a full-time stay at home mum to a gorgeous but very busy little girl, my 18 month old Alexis.
Now there are times when I call for back-up and get somebody else to tire Alexis out and let me rest my weary legs. There are also times when I rely on a few close friends of ours: Anthony, Murray, Jeff, and Sam (who sometimes is actually Greg). The vast majority of the time though, it is me and my little angel, on our own (with Wormy too I know but it’s not the same).
I LOVE playing with Alexis. I love everything about her most of the time. She is fun. She is kind. She is cute. She has the greatest laugh. She is compassionate and usually she goes easy on me because she seems to sense what is going on. Sometimes though I do not think I can stand up anymore. Sometimes even sitting is a chore. Sometimes I have to lie down. Sometimes I can’t even be bothered getting up to put a movie on for her in order to do that. Sometimes there’s no way in God’s green earth she’s going to have a sleep or sit and read a story.
These moments don’t have to suck. They don’t have to be filled with Alexis crying and me feeling guilty. They can actually be the funnest moments of the day. We had such a moment on Monday afternoon and it was such a bonding experience. It is so refreshing, every now and then, to get back to basics, to simplify life, and simply spend time together. Here are some tips that I’ve worked out as we’ve gone along. I must say though, this is only possible because Alexis knows not to jump on my belly or be rough with me/”the baby” in any way. If I couldn’t trust her to be gentle I wouldn’t attempt to lie down where she can reach me.
- Pick a good spot to base yourself – somewhere comfortable and safe with plenty of room for your toddler to explore but also with room for your toddler to cuddle up to you. It’s best if toys are handy but as long as it’s safe (because if you have to go to damage control then there’s no point).
- We have a mattress on the floor of Alexis’ room (so if she falls off the bed it doesn’t hurt but also because it’s convenient).
- It’s somewhere where I can lie down while she amuses herself if she wants to.
- She has a bookshelf full of books, a toy box full of dolls and bears and various stuffed animals (things that don’t hurt if she whacks me with them!) and a chest of drawers of clothes we can dress the toys in if she wants to.
- She seems to have fun emptying her drawers of all her clothes, which I don’t mind as long as they go back in when we’re done.
- She often has fun exploring the wardrobe which is fine because it is clean and safe for her and the sliding doors don’t jam her fingers (it’s a special wardrobe, it’s pretty awesome actually).
- Read stories – Alexis is more than capable of bringing me a book to read her.
- Sing – I sung songs she knew and liked. Some wiggles, some nursery rhymes, some play school. Her favourite of the day was “I’ll take you riding in my car”. The horn first went “beep beep” gently on her nose but then it went “BEEP BEEP” very loud and low on her tummy. She thought it was hilarious.
- Tickle – Never underestimate the power of a good tickle fight!
- “This little piggy”
- “Round and round the garden”
- Odd noises and sound effects – I’m so glad she’s young enough to still think I’m funny. Things like fake burps and fake sirens and high pitched squeals and random shouting are still humorous to her. It’s very convenient.
- Make the most of the fact that repetition is funny – the coolest thing about Alexis still being quite young is that repetition is funny. This is an invaluable tool. If something gets a chuckle the first time it will get an uproar of laughter by the fourth or fifth time. It can be annoying for me at times (like when she wants to play “Row row row your boat” five hundred times in a row) but there’s times when it saves my bacon. On Monday arvo Alexis brought over a toy aeroplane. She spent a huge amount of time giggling her little head off at the plane “bump bump bump”ing in to bop her on the nose.
- Just hold her close – Physical contact is undervalued in this day and age. So is saying, “I love you”. Alexis loves cuddles from her mummy. She loves to be told she is loved. She loves to be held, kissed, massaged. She won’t sit still for very long, but if you sneak in some cuddle time in between random outbursts of giggles it slows things down nicely and is precious for all involved.
- Laugh, even when you don’t feel like it – Alexis is a very clever girl but she’s still a toddler. I think it’s pretty much universal for toddlers to laugh when someone is laughing even if they don’t understand the joke themselves. Likewise, her laugh is so infectious that when she finds something amusing anyone within earshot can’t help but laugh too. The best way to cheer myself up when I’m feeling down or worn out is to look at her and laugh and watch and listen to her laugh back. It does not take long before we’re both legitimately laughing.
- “Help me up” – We have a game where Alexis tries to pull me up. She isn’t really strong enough to pull me up but she doesn’t really know that. It’s fun and it usually buys me a bit of extra down time.
- Peekaboo – I didn’t need peekaboo this time around but it’s a very valuable tool to have up your sleeve for emergencies. I have no idea why young kids find peekaboo so amusing but gee it’s convenient. She doesn’t fall for behind your hands peekaboo anymore, but there’s always an opportunity for a variation, such as through the bed rails or around a wall or her personal favourite is when she does it herself with whatever she can get her hands on or peeps out from the wardrobe.
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