10 December 2003

Dad-to-be: 24 weeks

A foetal attraction for Mozart, airborne crockery, gum-guards and nappy dry-runs.

What’s going on:
The baby now weighs nearly a kilogram and is growing like the national debt of a Latin American country. He or she can also hear clearly by now, so you can have fun getting up close to the by now large tummy and talking. Experiment with classical music – baroque is apparently a firm favourite, with anything by Mozart the all-time inter-uterine hit.

How you feel:
Having flopped around with emotional stuff and gooey, ephemeral issues such as names for babies, you’re once again firmly grounded in the practical stuff. This includes survival of your once-demure partner’s violent mood swings and the accompanying airborne crockery.

How she feels:
She’s on an emotional roller-coaster now, because of the hormones fizzing around her bloodstream and because of her teetering self-esteem. She feels constantly tired, ungainly and bulky. She feels this way because she is – she’s huge. Her uterus has started contracting in a gentle but promising way known as Braxton-Hicks contractions.

What to do:
Pamper her. Wear a gum guard when she’s in her dark moods. It might be a good time to visit the hospital where you’ll be having the baby. Get to know the people involved if you can. It’ll stand you in good stead when the pressure’s on. Be on your best behaviour.

It’s also time to start antenatal classes. One sure way to chalk up points with your partner is to attend these classes and be actively involved. It’s almost a cliché that blokes will feel out of place and awkward when faced with a room full of swollen women learning how to breathe, but it needn’t be so. Consider the following factors:

  • You’re all in the same boat: All the blokes in the room are in the same position as you. First-time fathers feel self-conscious, awkward or just plain terrified. They’d all rather be at home or work, reading a good book or perhaps having root canal work without anaesthetic;
  • It’s an opportunity to earn brownie points: You’ll earn the admiration and respect of your partner if you’re genuinely sincere, long-suffering and gallant, with a little humility and self-deprecation thrown in;
  • It’s reassuring to you and your partner: You’ll learn that other fathers-to-be share your trepidation. Women are far better than men at establishing and maintaining contact, but you might meet some guys with whom you could exchange war stories, beers and tips on changing nappies. Your partner is likely to be reassured that you’ve taken the trouble to learn some of the skills that will be vital during labour;
  • You might actually learn something: Sitting in a group and feeling silly is the best way to teach you how to get your partner to breathe properly. Trust us on this one.


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