Phases of Pregnancy

Not that you'll ever need to know this, but there are 3 phases of pregnancy: mine, ours, and baby's.

Phase 1: it just feels surreal - you can't see anything, feel kinda crappy, but can't tell anyone yet. It's all about becoming psychologically pregnant (note that this is impaired in women who suffered previous infertility, which has knock-on effects to child bonding). Inordinate amounts of money and time are spent on cutesy baby things by parents-to-be and their childless friends as an expression of preparation for that which cannot be prepared for. Pregnancy loss is rather common, and makes a woman feel like she doesn't know if she's coming or going - am I or aren't I, and - either way - why? Food is anything you can face eating, usually with a side of guilt about it not being what you "should" be eating - whichever advisor you may be following. Slightly later, bitter or strong foods such as citrus, rhubarb, ginger and dark chocolate often appeal and may be a mechanism for your body to compensate for reduced digestive fire-power.

Phase 2: the baby starts to "show" and move, and the relationship between mom and baby starts to grow too - this is social pregnancy. Baby's temperament starts to make itself known based on regularity and degree of gymnastic activities. Baby starts to feature in conversations and decisions. Shallow as it sounds, finding clothing that fits but isn't a tent is a high priority at this stage; the psyche has not surrendered the body entirely to gestating and seeks a balance between 'not fat: pregnant' and 'still have attractive features'. (Which is logically ridiculous because of course the features were meant to lead to the waistless state.) Pregnancy loss at this point involves mourning a person as well as your dreams of and for them, while recovering from a significant physical trauma. Weight gain picks up, insulin resistance makes sweet things taste fantastic but fats actually hit the spot much better, and juicy yellow foods are appealing - think peach tart with mascarpone.

Phase 3: official pregnancy! That's the end-stage when, as a friend of a pregnant person, you write her due date down so you never have to ask her "how much longer now?" because she's asking that herself every ten minutes, and answering it to every random stranger on the street who thinks that reproduction is a public event. Mom is well aware that she's hosting a parasitic passenger and the idea of maternal/fetal conflict for resources is not a theory. The baby is often talked about as a family member who has not yet arrived, "we" becomes a more common and inclusive word, and stillbirth (were the unthinkable to occur) is a death in the family and should be acknowledged as such. Physical limitations become inevitable, though they can vary greatly in degree - some women ride bicycles up to the 37th week, I can't get my own socks and underwear on because sharing my ribcage with another whole human is like wearing an internal girdle. Discomforts, though common, are not inevitable, so it's worth entertaining some of the outlier suggestions (AKA old wive's tales) you may encounter long enough to decide if they're worth a shot. Food becomes an exercise in grazing with a focus on nutrient density to compensate for the quantity that you neither want nor have space for. Insulin sensitivity starts to return as Baby starts stealing your fat for themselves. Open-roasted fish with crispy skin, crunchy carrot and celery sticks or apple slices, crackers and pate give the satisfaction of eating, in small doses.

Between each of these phases a physical and psychological shift needs to take place. The woman may feel ill, or more tired than usual, or engage in slightly manic behaviours. I find it helpful to know this so I'll watch for them come and go - there's no sense in thinking you've lost your mind for the rest of your pregnancy! The nesting frenzy one often hears is a signal of impending birth is an example of this. Making deals with the baby about coming 'once I've finished X', unspecific aches that send you to the bath again, researching parenting techniques for teens, getting a runny nose, trying every method you've ever heard of to get labour started (and then being relieved when they don't work) are all signs of the transition from pregnant to parent. There is another transfer point somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months postpartum too, when you move from laying in to being a parent, but that's another post.

These phases are clear and real to me, and backed up by various schools of thought and research but never together like this. What do you think - are these accurate to your experience?