Each menstrual cycle a woman’s body prepares for a possible conception. If she conceives, her childbearing year has begun! Each phase of pregnancy, and the postpartum period, is characterized by individual and specific physical, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects that eventually birth the baby, the mother, and the family into be-ing.
The first three months is characterized by ‘adjustment’ to physical changes: hormonal levels rise dramatically, the embryo develops into a fetus, a placenta is grown; and to psychosocial-emotional changes: from uncertainty (even in a much desired and planned pregnancy, there can be anxiety as we intuit how many unknown changes having a baby can bring) to great joy. A woman begins to imagine her mothering identity, and seeks out the story of her own birth, and other pregnant women and mamas for their stories.
The first phase ends and smoothly moves into the next three months of radiantly ‘blossoming and blooming’ with great growth and many changes. The baby grows from a fetus to ‘all senses operational’ at 28 weeks! She/he is easy to feel and hear abdominally. The woman’s social contacts shift to moms and babies learning, growing together. Prenatal care begins, and the woman and her family are guided through monitoring the various aspects of pregnancy as it progresses. It is typically the easy time of pregnancy, a time to enjoy, maybe travel, remodel or move, or simply do things you might not get to for awhile after baby is born!
Slowly but surely as the abdomen grows is the shift into the final phase of pregnancy: three months of ‘active preparation’ for birth. The baby ‘fills out’ and gets into position, the woman and her family have much thought about the coming baby. The woman plans and prepares as she anticipates her time coming… she begins to stay closer to home, adjusting physically to the challenges of growing a healthy baby to term.
Labor and birth is the arduous, glorious outcome at 40 weeks, more or less, and the ‘in the nest’ postpartum period begins! This next three months is a time of recovery, healing internally, establishing breastfeeding, and simultaneously and continuing, the woman and family are bonding, learning about each other, finding rhythms, and growing into family. Typically all have usually successfully navigated through the portal of parenting as the childbearing year comes to completion.