|Matching for Valentine's Day|
My pregnancy apps told me I would be able to start feeling the baby move when I was around 18 weeks pregnant. But at 20 weeks, I still hadn't felt any definite movement.
I wasn't too worried but I still made sure to ask my doctor about it at my appointment that week. He explained that I have an anterior placenta—the placenta attached to the front of my womb instead of to the back as happens in most pregnancies. "The placenta is acting as a cushion between you and the baby," he said. "That's why you haven't felt any movement. But don't worry. You will."
Sure enough, that Sunday night I was reading in my living-room rocking chair when I felt a most unfamiliar sensation. It was like little bubbles inside of me, gentle tapping from a small but energetic occupant. It turns out that having a tiny person move around inside you feels exactly the way you'd expect it would.
"Frank!" I exclaimed. "I think I feel the baby moving!"
I sat still, my eyes taking on the far-away look that has become so familiar to my family and friends in recent months, as I listened patiently for something deep inside of me.
Finally I concluded, "It was either that or gas. But I'm pretty sure it was the baby."
Frank thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard, but I was excited. A new era in my pregnancy had begun.
After that I began to notice movement more often. I especially noticed it at my little sister's Christmas concert, when the baby didn't stop moving for a second. This little one seems to love hearing people sing.
I wanted Frank to be able to feel the baby too, so I looked up online when people besides the mother would be able to feel movement. Most internet sources said that as soon as the mom can feel the baby kick, other people should be able to, too.
We tried a few times—the classic "Honey, come quick and put your hand right here, the baby's kicking!"—but with no success. Finally, one morning when we were staying at Frank's parents' house in New Jersey, he was able to feel something.
"That's it?" he said in surprise. "That… pulse feeling?"
I nodded, amused at his response and thrilled that someone besides me had felt it. Then I was too excited to go back to sleep, even though it was around 7:00 a.m.
After that I thought it would be easy for him, and anyone else who wanted to, to feel the baby kicking. How wrong I was. Feeling a baby kicking is a lot like fishing. You have to be in the right place at the right time, you have to be very patient, and even then you might come home empty-handed. The baby moves where and when it wants to, and no amount of coaxing or prodding will make it move in a more convenient manner.
Dozens of times I've told Frank, or my mom or sisters or friends, "The baby is moving now!" They come and dutifully put their hand where I tell them, and then the little one decides to kick too gently or kick somewhere else or just stop kicking altogether. We joke that the baby is being ornery, but really it's just being a baby.
The other night I felt a lot of activity, so I encouraged Frank to try and feel it, but he couldn't feel a thing. We've unfortunately gotten used to these attempts being unsuccessful. I sighed as Frank gave up, keeping his arm around me but no longer pressing his hand hopefully against my belly.
Then the baby gave a strong, forceful kick—one of the strongest yet, the kind we jokingly call a "rib cracker"—right into Frank's arm.
He started in surprise. "Was that the baby?!"
"Yes," I said. "He wanted your attention!"*
Frank put back his hand and felt the little one squirm and wriggle under his touch, pushing against the pressure of his father's hand. There was no need for me to direct Frank where to touch or to narrate the baby's actions. Frank could feel everything for himself.
I marveled as the baby pushed his little self against Frank's hand through the pliable wall of my stomach. For the first time they were experiencing each other, getting to know each other, on their own—without need of my help or intervention.
As Frank and the baby had their moment, almost as if I weren't there, I cheered inside. My imagination ran away with me and I thought about how this is just the first of countless moments those two will share over a lifetime. I pictured them having so much fun together, embarking on adventures and having good conversations and just enjoying the heck out of each other's company.
And I was glad that, just this once, our unpredictable little baby decided to kick in the right place at the right time.
*We don't know if the baby is a boy or a girl so we use "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun.