My First Experience of Quickening
When I first felt it, about a month ago, I was lying on my side in bed. Pulse, pulse, pulse. Oh, that must be my stomach pulse, I thought sleepily. Until I realized, Wait, I donâ€™t have a stomach pulse. Oh! It was my first experience of what they call quickening, those initial flutters of baby that you can actually feel. Throughout that first weekend and since Iâ€™ve felt daily pulses, bubbles, flutters, and micro-thumps. All sensations that make me realize: HOLY MAMA, THEREâ€™S A HUMAN INSIDE ME.
Of course this was theoretically quite clear. Plus, I had seen the ultrasounds. But those were on a screen and could, possibly, if I was in a movie like The Truman Showâ€”The Reiss Showâ€”be faked. But this was a person inside of me, clearly moving, sleeping, kicking, stretching, chillinâ€™. In the first couple of weeks of it I could have happily done nothing but lie there and feel him swimming around all day. It was like having a koi fish in my belly. A really, really cool koi fish. It was also like a fresh love affairâ€”I was flooded with feelings of bliss and excitement and actual awe. Awe. Iâ€™m a jaded New Yorker who says awesome too much; real awe does not come cheap.
Then, about a week ago, after some lovinâ€™, I felt my uterus get hard for a moment. And then I couldnâ€™t feel the koi fish move. I went to prenatal yoga, thinking, â€śI probably didnâ€™t kill my baby with an orgasm, this is going to be OK.â€ť Then all through the class I was like, â€śBuddy, ya there?â€ť Stretch, open, downdog, inhale, exhale. â€śDude? Make a movement for mama.â€ť Savasana was the least relaxing rest ever; my head exploded with thoughts: I knew this was too good to be true. Move, move, move!Â I almost bolted and called my doc. But a rational part of my brain knew that things were probably fine. After class I texted my husband a tome and ate a cookie to sugar-jolt the koi into moving.
My husband called. â€śEverything is very likely OK,â€ť he said. â€śBut how do you know?â€ť I asked between sobs. â€śI just do,â€ť he said, trying not to gently laugh a little at my sad attempt at certainty.
I emailed the doc who immediately wrote back, â€śCall me!â€ť Which scared me more. The answering service woman was, as usual, nasty, and asking the eight million questions they are inexplicably forced to askâ€”whatâ€™s your due date, have you ever had a C-sectionâ€”I finally said that the doc just asked me to call. She barked at me. I tried to draw on that place of kindness I reserve for really circular conversations with the cable company, and failed.
By the time I talked to the doc, I was sitting on a stoop in my Brooklyn neighborhood in the beautiful sunshine, bawling. â€śI am certain itâ€™s fine,â€ť she said. â€śBut you sound really upset.â€ť Indeed. I could go to the emergency room and get a scan, she said. But she had never read or heard anything that would in any way justify a death-by-orgasm fear. I realized this was just my own emotional quickening. Mamaâ€™s first unnecessary freak-out. The doc explained that the baby probably just changed position, and thatâ€™s why I couldnâ€™t feel him as much. Oh. That actually made sense. She told me to eat sugar, have some juice. I added a natural orange soda to my belly. And later, relaxing at home, I felt him again, but muffled, like his limbs were pointing away from me now. Whew, whew, and whew.
And now that itâ€™s been a month since that first pulse, I am still in Aweville, living in a quiet place on Gratitude Street. Iâ€™m typing and heâ€™s in there, bumping some part of himself against my uterus. Though Iâ€™ve done a lot of spiritually incredible things in my life, this is closest Iâ€™ve ever come to experiencing magic. Not conditional or superficial or interesting or passing magic, but miracle-of-life magic. The real freaking deal.
I canâ€™t wait till the koi gets big enough that someone else can feel him too. For now though, itâ€™s our secret language of taps and bumps. And thatâ€™s pretty awesome.
Valerie Reiss is the Managing Editor of Mom365.