What to Expect When You’re Expecting Unexpectedly (And How to Prepare Your Toddler)

preparing when you're expecting a baby unexpectedly

So you have one toddler (or two, or three), you aren’t feeling those ‘new mom’ feelings anymore and have your wings ready for full flight through parenting.

You got this! You’re ready for whatever being a parent throws at you.

You’re feeling pretty good about yourself and then it happens… you find out you’re expecting (unexpectedly).

Maybe you’re feeling like it’s a little soon or just generally caught off guard. Anytime you find out about an unexpected pregnancy it’s a rush of emotions, but when you already have one or more little ones to care for, it’s an entirely different ball game!

What no one tells you is that for your first baby, you get to experience so much maternity bliss and luscious relaxation that you may not even have realized you had until the next one comes along during your first one’s toddlerhood.

Now your days are spent chasing them down – sprint and marathon style – and you’re sitting there wondering “how is this going to work?”

So let’s break it down by trimester.

In the first trimester, your hormones are in overdrive and the thought of cooking, cleaning, etc. sends you to the toilet. Or maybe your morning (or all day) sickness is really not that bad in which case, carry on and enjoy!

My morning sickness with my second was truly nothing in comparison with my first, so I actually appreciated my body helping me out a little bit and every pregnancy is different, so be open to feeling different ways each time, often in beneficial and adaptive ways too.

Two very useful tools for this time are Postmates (or Uber Eats, or Door Dash) for restaurant meals and Amazon delivery or Instacart for groceries/toiletries. (God Bless technology & innovation)

Energy levels tend to be low- you need your sleep mama so nap with your toddler whenever possible, or take advantage of their early bedtime to also catch your zzz’s- and if you have any aversions or the smell of trash or the image of dishes are wholly nauseating, then these delivery services are truly a lifesaver and worth the short term investment.

If these are out of budget, make sure that you prepare the foods you can stand in advance and (my favorite life advice) enlist some help to get your dishes and trash sorted. These are tasks your partner or family can very easily help with that will go a long way toward preserving your sanity.

By the way, you may want to check out Best Foods You Should Eat During Pregnancy

I also found that fueling up on lean meat proteins (a little goes a long way- one or two slices of deli turkey or chicken did the trick) staved off nearly all morning sickness, so I quickly gave up vegetarianism which I had been dedicated to for years in favor of feeling better.

In the first trimester, you can also prepare your other toddler(s) for new baby by spending time with them (nap and bed time were my personal favorites, talk about a win-win), starting to point out little babies you see at the park or other outings and discussing with them, explaining that even though you may have morning sickness or be tired you are ok and getting ready for something exciting, etc.

It’s also a good time to get them going on any routines you may find beneficial for the arrival of new baby! Maybe establishing a more rhythmic nap/bedtime pattern, or going big and trying out potty training (this is not a task for the end of second trimester or third trimester; though if it starts to naturally occur, just be prepared for “regressions” or “delays” to occur with the arrival of the new little one). The other thing that may be useful for working or single parents is to really secure your toddler’s primary caregiver aside from yourself, so that your toddler is comfortable with them while you are in labor and delivery!

In the second trimester, this is an amazing time to get in touch with yourself and in little moments, get to know your new little one. Maybe you felt instantly connected with them and find it very natural to grow that connection; maybe you’re still apprehensive about the unplanned or uncertain nature of their place in your family and life.

Maybe you feel entirely different; I spent most of my second trimester forgetting and re-remembering that I was pregnant because I just get super immersed in my life with my daughter.

Don’t judge yourself for however you feel and experience this pregnancy and don’t compare it to your first (or other) one(s)! Be curious about your own emotions and take delight in the things that you feel good about.

Maintaining a positive and pleasant attitude regardless of outcome is one of the keys to a truly healthful (and blissful) pregnancy; it’s not feeling 100% goddess every second or 100% confident or 100% anything.

Simply let yourself experience your pregnancy as you do and maybe take a minute to marvel at how well you’re doing or how good your body feels or whatever it is that feels best to you- put your focus there as often as you can.

In this time, you’ll want to have some ideas about how/where you’d like to give birth (though as we know, it takes two to tango in this process, so we can have our ideas but remain flexible too), you’ll start collecting the items you know you’ll need, and back to my favorite advice, start planning on postpartum assistance.

If you’re with supportive family and friends, they are the first to call and schedule! My girlfriends love coming over to help make “padsicles” (unwrapped pads prepared with witch hazel and optional lavender essential oil, then re-wrapped and placed in the freezer) and freezer meals, as well as helping with new decor or figuring out how the darn new stroller works- why don’t they ever seem to close properly- and fits in the car.

You may find that this happens more in the third trimester too, but if you’re inspired to do so in the second, you may enjoy the extra time to relax later on! Either way, slow and steady is the trick, one or two little things daily and you’re well on your way.

Preparing your toddler for the new addition..

To prepare your toddler in the second trimester, teaching them to talk and sing to their growing sibling has been a hit (at least with my daughter); as is playing with a baby doll (even better if they get to give the baby doll a bath and help change their diaper or bottle feed).

When my belly would move, I would take opportunities to explain to my daughter about the baby and soon enough she would be pointing that out herself. Toddlers also thrive with books as examples, so purchasing a book about siblings is a small and worthwhile investment! This is the one I used (and we still love).

Riding that roller coaster of emotions..

By the third trimester, the unexpectedness of your pregnancy has certainly worn off and you’ve gone through (you thought) every emotion. You may be feeling slower, and please do slow down when/where you can.

If you are feeling overwhelm, this is the time to bring in the professionals- be open with your doctor or midwife and find a therapist you connect with (many therapies are covered by insurance, just explore it even if you opt out). It is quite literally their job to make sure you are as stress free as possible when you have your next baby; and it is time to take action if you’re still not experiencing much confidence or in any way feeling a lack of support.

As a personal example, I broke up with my children’s father just as I entered my third trimester. I immediately returned to my favorite therapist to take charge of my mental stability during this change. Though I was emotionally confident in my decision as it was made on a basis of safety which, with little ones, is fairly objective (at least in my experience, this is not always the case for everyone), I needed to ensure that going forward I could still trust myself both as a parent and in the rest of the people I surrounded myself/my children with.

In being extremely open and thorough with my therapist, I was able to achieve the therapy goals and stay in a place that was healthy and a net positive. So no matter what it is you’re feeling or going through, aside from plenty of relaxation, this is the time to experience some relief for any lingering or new feelings that aren’t serving you and your family.

Your toddler is just as anxious & excited as you about this, if not more..

To prepare your toddler in the final trimester, the best things we did were finalize the space for new baby brother (as this led to lots of discussions and excitement), and get gifts. I purchased a gift from baby brother to older sister, which she loved receiving; but even more than that, we made and bought things from her to give to him. When she saw him for the first time and had gifts to bring, she felt (and rightly so) that she had a place in the new baby rush.

Congratulations on your new baby and congratulations for your continued (and likely renewed) commitment to your toddler(s).

Be easy on yourself in this amazing time of growth- if you thought you grew with the first, the next one(s) show you again and again how much capacity you truly have.

Your toddler will go through their own emotions, and you can be their perfect guide- it’s okay to laugh, cry, and remind them (or are you reminding yourself?) to take pleasure in putting one foot in front of the other, to walk and then run- because you lead by example.

Cherish what you can in your pregnancy, and try your best to take the pressure off of yourself to have answers for every “how”- because just like you navigated your first, you will navigate this one too. Also just like your first, it’s true what they say, it gets better and better.