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3rd trimester: Week 40

Your Baby

When your baby finally arrives, she'll weigh between six and nine pounds and measure about 20 inches. She'll be cute, of course, but she won't yet resemble the babies you see snuggled in their strollers. If you deliver vaginally, her head may be shaped like a cone after traveling through the narrow birth canal, and she'll emerge covered in blood and amniotic fluid. Her eyes will be puffy, and she'll only be able to see a blurred version of you, as she can only focus about an inch away. But the sound of your voice, which she's gotten used to while inside the womb, will be music to her ears.

Your Body

Expect to push even after your baby's out; you'll have to deliver the placenta, a comparatively easy feat compared to hard labor. If necessary, you may also get some stitches for an episiotomy or a tear. You may be overwhelmed by contradictory feelings, too -- part elation, part trepidation. But after such a physically and emotionally grueling adventure, laughter and tears are both appropriate. The adventure begins!

Do's and Don'ts

If you're tiring of the wait, try road-testing a few folk remedies -- midwife's approval, of course. Many women claim that taking brisk walks, having lots of sex (the prostaglandin in semen apparently softens the cervix), and drinking raspberry leaf tea will help bring on contractions. Even if they don't work, they'll at least make the wait more interesting.

Health

Expect your baby to be whisked away soon after birth, but not for any worrisome reason. She's just taking her first test: the Apgar. Administered at one minute after birth and again at five minutes, it rates your newborn's heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflexes, and color. Plus, nurses will apply antibiotics to her eyes to protect them from germs in the birth canal. They'll also administer her first shots: a vitamin K injection to encourage normal blood clotting and the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent liver infection.

Mom to Mom

"I'd always thought I'd go into labor naturally, be given all the drugs I wanted, and out would pop this wrinkly baby. My 34-hour ordeal was definitely a surprise... I finally asked for an epidural 32 hours into the labor, but the baby came so quickly after that that I felt everything."--Lisa Ernst, Limerick, PA

Shopping

Pick out a special outfit to dress your baby for her homecoming. Be sure to choose a top that will give her umbilical cord, part of which will still be attached, extra room.

Exercise

If you're feeling antsy and cooped-up at home, take a slow stroll around your neighborhood to clear your head and keep your body moving. Some women claim walking brings on contractions; no one knows for certain if it works, but it can't hurt to go outdoors.

Relationships

Give far-flung friends and relatives a way to help by asking them to be on call when you're under stress and need a lift. You won't have much time for long phone conversations, but you'll feel less isolated and alone if you know a supportive listener is just a lift of the handset away.

Siblings

Be sure to explain to your firstborn where exactly you will be and how long you'll be away once it comes time to deliver. He may worry about when he'll see you again and if you'll be okay, so shower him with lots of reassurances, and let him know that he'll hear from you as soon as the baby arrives.

Twins

Get support from other moms of twins through the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. Check to see if there's a local chapter and when their next brunch for new parents is scheduled.

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