I was folding the babies’ laundry when I felt it, a quick little thump in my tummy, likely an indigestion side effect from the copious amounts of Thanksgiving turkey I’d consumed the day before. But there was a brief moment between feeling it and identifying its cause that my mind strayed and I thought, a kick. It hadn’t yet clicked in that, no, that certainly wasn’t what it was. Instead, I thought of Reid, the baby that used to kick me the same way in that same spot. I instinctively put my hand over it, trying to “catch” it the way I always used to when I was pregnant, in that brief window of time when I got to feel my babies move. And then, of course, I remembered that, nope, that’s over now, and my heart sank a little.
I don’t remember a lot from my pregnancy, at least not specific moments, but I do remember the day I felt Reid kick for the first time. I was twenty-one weeks along, and it was also the day we found out that I would likely not carry to term (how’s that for ups and downs!). Matt and I were sitting together in the waiting room of the ultrasound clinic when I felt a sudden bump in my belly. I was trying to figure out what on earth I was feeling, when I felt another and it hit me – “Matt, I think I may have felt one of the babies kick!”. Reid kicked again, as if on cue, and this time I laughed out loud. That’s my baby. My baby is kicking me. My baby.
We had no idea in that moment that a few hours later we’d be crying in the hallway of the labour and delivery ward having learned that my cervix was too weak and my only shot at not going into labour was an emergency cerclage – something normally done months earlier, even with only one baby. It might not work, they said, we could lose the babies anyway. It could be the first and the last day I’d ever feel my baby move.
The cerclage was a success, but what we didn’t know at the time was that that day would be the first in a string of days that went from bad, to worse, to this-is-a-nightmare. But in between those days was more kicking. Kicks that I could see on the outside of my belly. Kicks that other people could feel. Kicks that made me hopeful, but also sad. I’m sorry that my body is failing you, babies. Please stay in there as long as you can.
With each passing concerning ultrasound, the reality that I might not ever get to take my babies home sunk in a little more. Viability is considered most often to be around 24 weeks, and if they came before then, there would be little anyone could do. By the time I was hospitalized at 24 weeks and 4 days gestation, I’d become more and more detached from my tiny, kicking babies, so preoccupied instead with hearing their heartbeats on the monitor, of mentally cataloguing every little twitch and twinge that could indicate preterm labour.
Until yesterday, and my phantom indigestion kicks, I had forgotten entirely what it felt like to be pregnant. In all likelihood, I’ll probably never feel it again. But in that one strange moment, I remembered, and it was at once both wonderful and heartbreaking. I hope I never forget.