A tiny kick breaks down the barrier
There are so many different feelings and thoughts that women experience when pregnant, and feeling unsure or uncertain about the whole process is all part of their prerogative. But sometimes, something happens to show you exactly what’s important and what you really don’t need to worry about.
This mum, below, wasn’t prepared for what really rocked her world, despite her careful research.
A kick counts for so much
My partner and I had worried that being a same-sex couple would take the ‘magic’ out of conception because we were obliged to use outside services (IVF) to recognise our dream of becoming a family.
I found out I was pregnant just 15 days after embryo transfer – it was the most wonderful moment of my life to that point. The ‘magic’ was very real indeed.
However, working in a scientific field rather shaped how I viewed my burgeoning pregnancy. My friends wanted to take me shopping to coo over tiny little bootees and babygros, while I was far more fascinated by the fact a ball of cells was developing into a human inside me. And very quickly.
I pored over articles relating to each stage of fetal development, eyes seeking out the development information. I was totally in awe that by week 6 or 7, the neural tube had already closed over. I mean, that’s quick work!
And just ten short weeks later the fetus measured 13cm and the spinal cord was becoming wrapped in the protective myelin sheath. My job meant that I spent large proportions of every day working in a laboratory and it was amazing to think that despite all the testing and certainty going on around me, I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many neural sparks there were flying up and down my body in an average day.
But, I did know that myelin was helping to transmit these messages more rapidly around my body. And it was amazing to think that the capacity for this was becoming more entrenched in my unborn baby day by day.
My linear brain found it difficult not to obsess over each developmental stage. I couldn’t help wondering whether his cerebellum had formed so he could remember, think and feel. Or whether his hypothalamus had developed so he could regulate his sleep, emotions and body temperature when he was born. And the brain stem – the control panel for so many of our abilities – it was literally being grown inside me. I just found it fascinating.
But with all that knowledge came the realisation of how easy it would be for things to go wrong. A chromosomal abnormality, a neural tube defect. At times it was hard not to go out of my mind worrying about our baby’s development deep in my uterus. At times I felt very detached from the pregnancy, as if I was just a carrier bag with an important item inside of me.
Yet one of the best parts of pregnancy happened to me at seventeen weeks – very simply and unexpectedly.
My reading for week 17 informed me that my baby’s sucking and swallowing reflexes had kicked in. He was already practising for life outside the womb; it was incredible to imagine.
I’m tall and slim by nature, and I spend a lot of time in the gym, which means that my stomach muscles were strong. This I found reassuring somehow, as if my body was keeping the baby extra protected. But I thought perhaps it would be a while before I’d feel anything through the layers of muscular uterine tissue and amniotic fluid protecting the fetus.
One evening I had been lying on the sofa, when I felt a sudden, quick, movement inside me. It felt like a tiny ‘pop’. A kick? Or just my digestive system doing its job? I lay very still and after a couple of minutes I felt another little movement, like a ‘flick’.
“Hello baby,” I said. “I’m your mummy.”
There weren’t any further kicks just then, but the two tiny movements that I’d felt were enough to re-orientate my thinking slightly. It wasn’t just ‘a human fetus’ growing inside me, it was MY baby. MY genes, being supported by MY body. Somehow, and in a way that I can’t even pretend to understand, I became more attached in those couple of minutes than I had for the first 17 weeks of pregnancy.
Science and biology is all well and good – and very useful definitely – but there’s an indefinable bond between mother and child which defies even the most expert scientific theory. It cannot be judged, it cannot be quantified, but I tell you what – it exists beyond all doubt.
And if that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is.