The baby now weighs about 2.3 kilos. It is 46 cm long, and its feet are about 6-7 cm long. But there’s still room for about a litre of amniotic fluid inside the sac that holds the baby, where it listens to the gurgling belly and steady heartbeat. Once born, the baby will want to be held as close as possible, because it is comforted by the sounds of the body. The sucking reflex is also evident now: some babies suck their thumb, as you can see, and the sucking reflex likely comforts the baby once it is born. The baby can show it is hungry and wants to breastfeed by raising its hand to its mouth to suck. The eyes have developed and the pupils can expand and contract. Some researchers say that babies can focus the gaze already now. Something we know with certainty is that they can differentiate between light and dark and can perceive day and night.
At this point, your belly has probably gotten so big that your navel might stick out instead of in, like a little button. It will return after childbirth, when it has space again. Maybe you’ve also noticed a dark vertical line? This dark line, the Linea nigra, is often more visible on darker skin, but it will fade after childbirth and usually disappears entirely. It is also common to develop stretch marks, usually on the breasts, belly and bottom. The extent to which stretch marks affect you is hereditary, and even if they don’t disappear completely for most people, they do fade after you deliver. You can buy various oils and salves to fight stretch marks, but there’s no proof that they work – instead, try to see these marks as proof of what your body has managed to do! Still, it can be nice to massage the belly with lotion, both for you and for the baby. If you’re expecting twins, you will probably give birth fairly soon. Twins are usually born earlier because the cervix is bearing a heavier load from two little babies. On average, most twins want to come out 2-3 weeks earlier than a solo baby in the belly, but it isn’t uncommon for them to come earlier anyway. With vaginal delivery, they might come out one right after the other – as if they had queued up – but usually, the body wisely takes a little break between the first and second baby.
The one thing we can say with certainty about childbirth is that it rarely goes as planned. Sure, you’ve been given an expected due date, but only 5% of babies stick to the schedule. There’s no template laying out what to do to provide support during childbirth, because every birth is different. You can count on the fact that it won’t be what you had expected – so much can change in the moment and it’s impossible to know how you will feel then and there. But as you play the important supporting role of your life, there are some things you can help out with. First and foremost: if your partner has made a birth plan, it’s good for you to know what’s in it. You can also read up on pain relief and birthing positions, to make it easier for you to follow what the doctor or midwife is saying. This way, you can play tour guide and explain what’s going on and where in the course of events you are – if that will be soothing. As the partner, you might also be in charge of administering laughing gas. In that case, you will give her instructions on when and how to breathe – but don’t worry, you aren’t expected to know this in advance; a nurse will show you on site. You can also towel off her sweaty forehead and remind her to drink lots of liquids, if it’s taking a long time. (And don’t forget that you need liquids and calories, too!) Remember: you know your partner best and you know what you’ve discussed in the run-up to delivery, so make sure to convey her wants and needs if she is unable to. Most important of all is that you offer a hand to hold and the necessary emotional support to boost her confidence in herself. Don’t be surprised if her wishes change on the spot relative to what you discussed earlier, or to what it says in the birth plan. It all depends on how she’s experiencing the situation. What she says in the moment is what counts.