Being the mother of a toddler, I appreciate having a full toolbox of parenting resources available. Some of them I don’t use for philosophical or ethical reasons, such as spanking. But until my pregnancy, I always felt like what I did or didn’t do was my choice. That immediately changed when a case of placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix) caused some very scary heavy bleeding at the end of the first trimester into the second one. In my follow up appointment, my doctor informed me that among my many other restrictions, I couldn’t pick up Sprout until any risk of bleeding was past. Suddenly, a key piece of my toolkit disappeared, affecting everything from how I hugged my son to bedtime routines. Over the course of the two-and-a-half months of restrictions, I learned some strategies to adapt my parenting to these limitations.
Find alternative ways of showing affection: One of my favorite ways of showing affection to Sprout is picking him up and giving him a big, tight hug. With that no longer an option, I switched to kneeling down and hugging him at his level. Along with being better for my back, it also showed him more respect by me coming down to his level. I would also invite him to hug me while I was sitting down on the couch or a chair. Despite all that, the first thing I did as soon as the doctor lifted my restrictions was swoop him up into my arms.
Practice your best negotiation techniques: Before the restrictions, I seriously overestimated how much I used my physical size against my son. While we use zero corporal punishment or ever have any threat of it, there’s the simple fact that I’m two feet taller than him. So I can pick him up if I need him to move. Losing that advantage was surprisingly hard to get used to. With the restrictions, if he was lying the floor and I needed him to wash his hands, I – gasp – had to talk him into it. Anyone who has ever reasoned with a toddler knows how brain-twisting that can be. Since he doesn’t care much about logic, I often threw in some additional motivation. Instead of bribing him with stickers, food, or toys, I offered more non-materialistic joys. He particularly likes “walking on mommy’s feet,” where he stands on my feet while I walk wherever we need to go. I also leveraged singing and squirting his bath toys on him. Other times I reminded him of future pleasures, like eating pasta for dinner or reading whatever book he’s currently obsessed with at bedtime.
Follow their pace: Much of the time, I would pick up Sprout because I needed to speed up the pace. Whether that was because we needed to get home from our walk to watch trains or avoid being late for church, it simply took less time for me to carry him than for him to walk. Without that option, I was beholden to his pace. I just learned to breath deeper, guide him a bit (there was a lot of hand-holding), and leave a little bit earlier than usual.
Trust in your kid’s abilities and provide support if necessary: One of the standard things I picked Sprout up for was putting him in his car seat. Fortunately around this time, he started being able to climb in by himself. I needed to provide a boost, it took ages, and the seat of the car was always caked in dirt, but it meant that I could bring Sprout places by myself instead of relying on Chris. (Like the nature playground at Constitution Gardens Park).
Be willing to ask for help: Unfortunately, there were some tasks that neither Sprout or I could do, such as putting him in his crib. Here, I just had to suck up my pride and call in Chris. He was always willing to help, knowing that I deeply wished I could do it myself.
Be flexible and creative with routines: The final step of bedtime used to be Sprout’s and my special time together. But because I couldn’t put Sprout in his crib, Chris needed to become part of it. So he joined our little conversation about our favorite parts of the day. As it turned out, he added more than just a strong pair of arms – he contributed a key part of the conversation. Around then, we started reviewing what Sprout did well that day, which Chris can talk about much more comprehensively than I can.
Come to terms with what you can’t do and be honest about it with your kid: While I could maneuver around or adapt to most things, one thing I couldn’t compensate for was the inability to put Sprout in the swing at the park. When I came home from work, we’d go over, leaving Chris at the house to make dinner. So I had to tell Sprout that the doctor wouldn’t let me do it. While he got upset a couple of times, he usually just found something else to do on the playground.
These restrictions sucked, no doubt about it. But you know what? We all got through it together and I may have even grown as a parent.