Watch the left of my belly for movement and kicks.
Pregnancy is not always peachy. It is not always this special, wow-you-are-just-glowing! kind of an experience. (In the month of August I will be doing a 4 week series on pregnancy and what it’s really like. One week for each trimester and then postpartum). For now, I want to talk about one element of it. The part that really is so special: Feeling the baby kick.
First, some info:
- The baby starts moving around once they have the ability too, which is pretty early. 7 to 8 weeks. Long before mom feels it.
- Mom will feel baby kick for the first time around 16 to 22 weeks. Some first kicks are softer, like butterflies almost, others can feel like a jab.
- Other people can feel the baby kick through mom’s belly anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months after mom feels it the first time, it depends on mom and the baby. (And how she feels about hands on her belly.)
- By a certain point mom will notice baby’s patterns, as baby’s wake and sleep cycles become more evident. Certain things will set baby off on crazy kicks. Mom will be asked to do kick counts, to monitor baby.
- Near the end of pregnancy, when baby is running out of room, the kicks can be less intense but will still be regularly occurring.
- Pay attention to moves that baby does often, because when baby comes out of mom, you’ll notice them do the same thing.
Baby kicks are really not what you read on the internet, or even how other moms sometimes explain it. In case you don’t know what the common comparison is, it’s that feeling a baby kick is similar to feeling gas bubbles move through your gut. Um. No, it’s not. I mean, yes that is the closest comparison. But no, that is not really what it feels like.
When people asked me what it felt like—and I was cranky and pregnant—I would respond, “it feels like another person, with a mind of their own, is moving around as they please inside of my body.” Yes, that is literally what is happening. My tone would very much imply how I felt about them asking me. Take a moment, close your eyes. Really think about it. It’s an entire person, who wiggles and moves whenever they want, for whatever reason they want, with no physical restriction. Babies bones are flexible, so they are super bendy, and they’re floating suspended in their own personal ocean. So they can pretty much move however they want to. They love to explore and test out what they can do as their bodies grow and their muscles develop.
But of course, never having lived on the outside of the womb, babies don’t quite understand that they are within limited space. I often imagined Eli thinking, “Oh, that’s your rib cage up their? That’s in my way a little. Let me just kick it, and kick it, and kick it, and see if it’ll move. I’d like more room, if you wouldn’t mind.” He had no idea I was sharing space with him. He heard my heartbeat, my voice, and felt my breathing, but he did’t get that it’s because he lived within another person. He had no concept of other people, just this super cozy little world of his.
If you’ve been keeping up with us, you know that Eli is a large baby. He was so strong that his kicks were painful. I was almost certain he would break my ribs. Sometimes it felt like he was bruising my internal organs…. well, let’s be honest, he probably was. There was this move he would do that would push on the nerves that run down to my legs, and my legs would give out on me.
I’m not really painting a pleasant picture here, am I?
Don’t worry, we’re just getting to the good part.
(Where I push, he pushes back. You can see him really throw his weight into it.)
Towards the end of my time sharing my body with my giant, crazy baby, when I was so done, something really, really amazing happened. Something that I think might be a little uncommon: I felt Eli wiggle his toes. It was so much more special than just a kick. I’d felt (and seen) feet, and elbows, and knees, and little fists, but this was so… delicate. How many times on earth do we get to experience something so tender, so innocent, as the first time a baby wiggles their toes? It gave me such a sense of who he was; he must be a content, happy baby if he is spending his time in there practicing wiggling his toes.
This happened when I was past due, and so while it would have been nice to go into labor sooner, it made every discomfort worth it. It took 40 weeks of pregnancy to get to that, 25 weeks of feeling him kick, and lots of moments where he would move and I would grimace in pain, and I would do every single day over again if I knew I would feel that at the end. To feel my baby wiggle his toes from the inside of my womb. Just thinking of it makes me feel so connected to him, so lucky to have experienced him in that way, before he even knew who I was.
The first ultrasound, at 9 weeks, when I first saw him, I remember being so surprised to see him moving. Because I barely even had a bump, and he was smaller than a plum, how could I not feel it? How was this little tiny thing moving around in my own body and I wasn’t aware of it? Then I was lucky, I felt him kick pretty early. Around 14 or 15 weeks. It’s hard to be sure that’s what it is until it happens several times, and I actually felt him roll more than I felt individual kicks, at least as first.
Every woman and every baby and every pregnancy is really different. So please don’t use my experiences to dictate your own expectations if you are pregnant for the first time and reading this.
But wow, if I could just get back to that moment, where Eli was a part of me and my heart beat for his—if we could relive that moment where he discovered the simple pleasure of wiggling his toes—I could live forever in bliss.
Bonus video! Hiccups!