Today was a beautiful day. Sitting at the computer, I felt clearly the light tickling of the baby kicking around in my womb for the first time. It's strange to think that the baby was probably moving around like a little jumping bean, but to me it was just a gentle sensation.
The moment of "quickening" is momentous in a women's pregnancy. In that moment you know - you know - there's really a baby there. It certainly doesn't sink in as soon as you see the positive pregnancy test. Feeling pregnant in that first trimester doesn't necessarily make the baby itself feel real. Even getting an early ultrasound done, where you can see your baby before you have felt your baby, doesn't make it real in the same way. Maybe it's the Doubting Thomas in all of us, that just seeing something doesn't convince us. But when we feel it - when our flesh touches another - that's real.
This is an excerpt from the book Midwives by Chris Bohjalian.
"Birth is a big miracle foreshadowed by lots of little ones. Conception. Little limbs. Lanugo. A fingerprint, hard bones. The quickening. The turning. The decent.
I will never forget the moment of quickening with Connie. She was thirteen or fourteen weeks old. I was bundled up in this monster sweater that hung down to my knees. Lacey Woods had brought it back from somewhere in Central America, and it had this vaguely Aztec eagle on the back. It was beautiful, and so heavy that it kept me warm even outside on the sort of cold December day on which Connie had made herself known.
I was sitting on one of the tremendous rocks in Mom and Dad's backyard, one of the ones that faced the ski resort on Mount Republic. I hadn't climbed those rocks since I was in high school, and sitting there made me feel like a very little girl. And then, suddenly, I felt this tiny flutter a bit below my belly button. A tadpole flicking it's tail. A ripple, a wave. Instantly that image of the tadpole - an image I'd probably pulled from some high school biology textbook - changed to that of a newborn baby. I knew my baby at that moment looked nothing at all like a newborn, but that was what I pretended was fluttering inside me. A psychedelic little person doing the breaststroke in a lava lamp. A bubble bouncing euphorically, but in slow motion, around in my tummy. I saw a newborn's pudgy fingers flicking amniotic fluid with a whoosh, I saw little feet smaller than baking potatoes gently splashing my own water against me, and I wrapped my arms around me and hugged my baby through my belly.
Oh my God, was I happy. I remember I just sat on that rock grooving on the little person - my little person - inside me. Of all the little miracles that build to that big one, the birth itself, my favorite must be the moment of quickening. All these emotions and expectations and dreams for your baby just roll over you like so much surf.
And quickening really is the perfect word to describe it, because your heart races, and the pace of the pregnancy just takes off.
Some mothers experience the quickening as early as twelve weeks, others much further along. Sixteen weeks is common in my experience, but some women don't feel it until they're a good eighteen weeks. It really doesn't matter, except that those women who have to wait have to worry. It's inevitable, a mother can't help it. You want to feel your friend, you want to know he or she's there.
Of course, there may be one nice thing that comes with a later quickening. After all that anxiety, the high must be amazing when it finally arrives. Absolutely, unbelievably, outrageously amazing."
Today is also my dear mother's birthday. Can you believe this woman is 50?! I've jokingly referred to her as my older sister because of how many times I get asked that. Once I was out shopping with her a month or so after Grace was born. She was holding Grace while I browsed, and someone came up to her and said, "Wow, you look GREAT for having just had that baby!" She said, "Thanks."
But really, she does have many other excellent qualities besides being beautiful. When I'm feeling worn out by my kids, I often think about how much she gave of herself every day to make us feel like we were the most important thing to her. She would stop making dinner to come watch us put on plays, she would allow us "help" her with projects and not tell us we were wrecking it, she would let us use whole rolls of tinfoil to make ourselves into knights in shining armor. I want my kids to know, as I knew growing up, that they are the most important things in my life, second only to Jesus and Papa. They come before a clean house or peace & quiet or my hobbies or my favorite tv show or my friends or time to myself. All those things were important to my mom (except tv, thank goodness), but I never felt that she cared more about those things than about me. And that's the kind of mom I want to be, too.
Happy Birthday, Mom!