First of all, be absolutely certain she IS pregnant, so you can avoid that awkward moment when asking a woman when she is due and she just gives you a look of complete loathing because a) she might have given birth already or b) she’s carrying nothing more than a food baby.
Different women feel differently about their pregnancies. Some bask in the glow of impending motherhood and love sharing every detail from their gestational diaries, while others never really become fully comfortable with it and get weary of people asking the same, albeit well-intentioned, questions over and over. Some are quite conscious of the pounds they’ve packed, others are lucky enough to resemble a little marshmallow on toothpicks.
We realize that men will never be able to share or completely understand the intense biological marvel that is carrying a fetus for nine months and then birthing it in a primordial mess of blood and fluids, and so we forgive occasional lapses of considerate behavior, even if you are the father of said child. We can break it down into three trimesters, each of which demands special treatment.
First Trimester, The First 12 Weeks
Most people will not realize a woman is pregnant at this stage unless she tells them, yet this is her most hormonally driven period. She will be weepy and emotional, extremely tired, distracted and forgetful, nauseated, and possibly vomitty, but always, always hungry. Hungry with an A, defined by a maniacal need to eat and eat now, and having adobo will only make her hurl and rage if what she wants is sinigang.
If it’s her first child, she might also still be in shock, and dutifully concerned about the food and chemicals she’s putting in her body or whether she’ll be a good enough mother. She may still be ambivalent about the whole thing—especially if she’s still dealing with her own mommy issues, or is a career-centric individual—so don’t be surprised if she seems less than excited about reproducing.
How to treat her: With extreme caution. Like the proverbial customer, the pregnant woman is always right. Building a new human being from scratch is a taxing activity, so let her sleep at 8 p.m., allow her the frequent snack breaks and trips to the bathroom, and indulge in her behavioral highs and lows, which for some can be like PMS on steroids. If you’re an experienced father, words of advice and comfort are welcome, but not scare stories like, “I have three kids and I never changed a single diaper.”
Second Trimester, Weeks 13 to 28
Fatigue wears off and she’s feeling like a normal person again—except for the growing baby bump, which to her will look and feel alien at times. She will be enjoying the instant boob job, however. Again if it’s her first, she’s going to throw herself into nursery planning, researching baby gear, and reading up on everything on the Internet (which will ultimately freak her out), but this is just her way of exerting control over the unknown. This period is also the short window of time she can take out-of-town trips and have a late, but wholesome, night out with friends.
How to treat her: Compliment her on how pregnancy suits her. Don’t be shy to remark upon her fertility goddess-like radiance and sexy new curves. Try not to ask if she’s been having any weird cravings, because she’ll probably be craving all the food she’s not allowed to eat. That said, don’t offer her sushi, rare steak or vodka tonics. Men today should be aware of what pregnant women aren’t “allowed,” which includes runny eggs, soft cheeses and cold cuts (sigh!). And never smoke in front of her. On the other hand, as her mood has stabilized a bit, this is probably the best time to break any bad news you have.
Third Trimester, Weeks 29 to 40
She’s feeling large, unwieldly and swollen, and will thus be having self-esteem-destroying wardrobe problems which she can’t easily remedy by wearing a lot of black. She will definitely be having trouble sleeping with her wider girth; if she does manage to sneak in a few zzzs in, it will likely be filled with vivid, disturbing dreams of deformed babies and cheating husbands. It’s the final stretch, and whether she’s prepared or not, she’s tired of being pregnant and just wants to squeeze that puppy out.
How to treat her: Try to make things as easy for her as possible—offer a chair, a pillow, fetch her slippers. Depending on how strict she is or how European her leanings are, she may be open to having a glass of wine or a beer at this time—a relaxed mama equals a happy baby, they say. Do not judge her for it. Do not pressure her to drink either. And unless you are the baby daddy or a girl friend, you shouldn’t be touching her belly without permission,—it is not suddenly public property like a Buddha statue in a Chinese restaurant. Most importantly, insist she is not fat.
This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.