My Pregnancy: 38 Weeks

The waiting game and why your water breaks

Treat yourself
Use these last weeks (days?) before your baby arrives to do some things for yourself:
• Get a pedicure. It’s too hard to cut your own toenails now anyway.
• Read a novel or go to the movies — these are two things you won’t have time for after your baby’s born.
• Go out for a leisurely dinner with your honey. Chances are you’ll be eating take-out and quick home-cooked meals for a while after your baby’s born.

The next couple of weeks are a waiting game. Use this time to prepare your baby’s nursery or to take care of tasks you may not get around to for a while after your baby’s born. Take naps and catch up on your reading while you can. Some swelling in your feet and ankles is normal in these last weeks, but call your practitioner without delay if you notice excessive or sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, more than slight swelling of your hands, any swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, or have a sudden weight gain. Also let her know immediately if you have severe or persistent headaches; visual changes (such as double or blurred vision, seeing spots or flashing lights, light sensitivity, or a temporary loss of vision), intense upper abdominal pain or tenderness, or nausea and vomiting because these are symptoms of a serious condition called preeclampsia.

Why does my water break?The membrane that holds your amniotic fluid is made up of a matrix of bar-shaped collagen cells that can be weakened by hormones, the pressure of your uterus, or the force of labor contractions, says Dr. Mark Taslimi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. When the matrix breaks down completely, the result is your water breaking.

Couples Corner:

The best ways for your partner to help during labor and birth

Even though you’ll be the star on labor day (a role your baby will quickly take when she makes her entrance), your partner is a key player, too. Here are some ways he can stay involved and be helpful on the big day:
• While you’ve probably had your hospital bag packed for weeks, it’s a good idea for him to bring a few things of his own. Comfortable shoes, a clean shirt, and snacks are essential.
•  Give your partner responsibility for insurance cards and any other paperwork you’re supposed to bring, so he can deal with it if there are any questions at the hospital.
•  Once you’re in labor, your partner’s primary job will be to help you stay focused and relaxed — labor and childbirth can stretch into the 48-hour zone. He may be able to help you use the relaxation techniques from your childbirth education class. Or, if you think it will help, ask him to massage your feet, brush your hair, or just hold your hand.
•  Have him run interference for you. For example, if something’s bothering you — from too many people in the room to an abrasive staff person — ask him to take care of the problem.
•  Let your partner be your emotional support person. It can be very reassuring to have someone you trust there to tell you: “You’re doing great!”
•  Find out whether he wants to cut the umbilical cord and then make arrangements with your caregiver. Many dads leap at the chance to handle this last step in welcoming their baby into the world.
•  These days, most dads choose to be present for the birth — but not all. Where will he be when your child is born?

What’s the best way to prepare for life with a baby?

Erica Breneman
Obstetrician in Oakland, California, and mother of one
I think the key thing is to be flexible. Don’t get caught up in a plan for how your life will be after the baby comes. In my experience, babies are very good at challenging the inner control freak in all of us. Develop a good social network and connect with other parents, both with kids the same age and with older kids since they’ve likely been through what you’ll go through. I’d really encourage you to go on dates with your partner or friends. It’s restorative to have some adult time and also to get some time for yourself. Find some friends, family, or sitters whom you trust with your child so you can have a few hours out. Besides that, put dimmer switches in the baby’s room and God help you if you don’t have a washing machine nearby.
MaryJane Lewitt
Certified Nurse-Midwife in Atlanta, Georgia, and mother of two
The best preparation for life with a child is learning from your pregnancy that you’re not always in control of every aspect of your life. Learn to be flexible and listen to your instincts. Babies don’t expect us to know everything all at once. They grow up over time so we can learn as we go. Do enjoy the moments with your baby — they go so quickly. With my first child I was so scared all the time that I wasn’t perfect, but I learned that perfection is not what our kids want from us. It’s much more important to just be there to hold them, laugh with them, cry with them. They grow so quickly, but those moments are the ones you’ll both remember for a lifetime.


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