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The Home Stretch

Let Your Mind Wander, But Reality Register

Let Daydreams Slide

You might be surprised to find your mind wandering from sweet thoughts about whom your baby will look like to acute panic about whether you're ready for so much change in your life. Your moods may shift faster than the weather. A confusing swirl of emotions takes over as D-day grows nearer.

Many moms-to-be report bizarre nighttime dreams about giving birth to frogs or puppies. While admittedly unsettling, these are simply another way your mind works through the immense shifts at hand. I once dreamed about putting my baby in the oven because he wasn't "done" yet.

Try not to get too weirded out by these strange new emotions. "We tend to focus only on how you're supposed to be happy when you're pregnant, but it's okay to sometimes be sad about all the changes too," says Louden. Recognize that all of your thoughts are perfectly normal.

Revel In Your Ripeness

While not always comfortable, it's undeniably fun to watch your baby bodysurfing beneath your skin. There are also practical reasons to be tuned in to your body in the final months, says Susanne Bathgate, M.D., an obstetrician at the George Washington University Hospital, in Washington, D.C. "If you haven't felt any fetal movement in five or six hours, stop and eat or drink something and lie down," she suggests. Sugary foods, especially, will perk up your baby. Alert your doctor if you go more than half a day without feeling anything, but don't panic prematurely. "Movement may change toward the end of the last trimester, from more or less continuous kicking to squirming," says Dr. Bathgate.

By month eight or nine, you'll probably feel Braxton-Hicks "practice" contractions. They prep your body for labor and can startle you into thinking birth is imminent. How to distinguish them from labor? Real contractions come regularly and continue even if you shift position.

Think Baby

Taking care of newborn business helps make parenthood seem more real -- and can work wonders in keeping your mind off discomforts and worries. If you've been putting off the fun stuff, now's the time to go all out. Finish decorating the nursery, settle baby-naming disputes, pack your overnight bag for the hospital. "Be careful not to exhaust yourself. Get as many things done ahead of time as you can so you don't have to juggle them all in the last two weeks," says midwife Case.

And find time to enjoy the hidden pleasures of being really great with child. After all, some last trimester realities just are. Roll with them. Can't see your toes anymore? It's a perfect excuse for a professional pedicure. Pull up to the full-service pump. Take a picture of yourself -- in profile, and naked -- as a memento you'll later find hard to believe. Best of all, don't miss this golden opportunity to clean out your stretched-wide-open navel.

Contributing editor Paula Spencer, the mother of four, is the author of the Parenting Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth.

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