During all of these months, Baby, I get a kick out of you
By Sarah Kickler Kelber, The Baltimore Sun
I am plural.
My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in mid-June, but because it took us so long to get to this point, for a while it didn't seem real.
Several bloggers I read frequently have noted that when you get pregnant after a struggle with infertility, at first it can feel like you're just playing the role of a mother-to-be. It was like that for me, after two years of trying.
Eight home pregnancy tests, properly doubling beta blood-test results and two early ultrasounds be damned: For weeks, I felt like I was starring in some elaborate masquerade. My face showed true joy and wonder that this was happening -- and thankfulness that, after other procedures failed, IVF worked on the first try.
But it also masked deep terror, fear that because becoming pregnant had been so difficult, being pregnant could not possibly go smoothly.
My dad and stepmom came to visit, eager to talk baby and shop for baby and share in the excitement, but I wasn't ready to believe this was happening and kept changing the subject. It was almost easier to think that the other shoe was going to drop than put any trust in hope.
In early January, at the end of a long week, I was spending a Friday night getting my hair cut. Glasses off, tresses in my face, eyes closed, the drone of dryers and chatter closing me off from the rest of the world, there it was.
Flutter. Flutter-flutter. Tap.
My eyes flew open, and I realized: I was not alone, and this was not a drill. I was carrying a baby. And in that moment, I finally allowed myself to picture my future as a mother to a child, to this child. To imagine my husband as a father, a vision that had tapered off as the months trying to get pregnant had multiplied even as we had not.
It didn't take long for those tiny flutters to become more insistent. One day, while trying to solve a small crisis at work, I got a little panicky -- and suddenly I noticed that the baby was feeding off my adrenaline, too, bouncing around more than ever before.
"OK, kid," I thought. "We're a team now." I resolved to try to stay more calm and not create any extra stress for this person who had enough to do, what with all that growing he had left on his schedule.
As the weeks have passed, those insistent taps have begun to feel more like kicks or stomps or punches, leaving me wondering what he's up to. Maybe practicing tae kwon do forms that he picked up in the classes I was still taking until a few weeks ago. Or re-enacting one of the many episodes of Dancing With the Stars he's sat through with me. Or playing bongo drums, because you never know what to expect, right?
"Whatever makes you happy," I murmur to my belly.
We might be imagining things, but it seems to me and my husband that our son is already showing the trademarked Kelber stubbornness. He'll be wiggling around, and as soon as I bring his dad's hand to my belly, he quiets again. Other times, if I lean too far against a countertop or rest a book on my stomach, he resists, with bopping fists (or maybe feet).
"This is my space," he seems to be saying.
I was relating this to the midwife the other day, and she was a little bemused. I knew I appeared to be giving characteristics to this person a little prematurely, but moments later, she was checking his heart rate with the Doppler, and THWACK! He landed a kick right on the microphone.
My husband and I wonder what all this means. Will he hate being swaddled? Have trouble sharing with other kids? Be a lousy roommate in college?
But we know even our best guesses are just that and that every moment is sure to be a surprise.
No matter what, though, plural though we may be, as a family, we know we'll always be one.
Note: Published in The Baltimore Sun, May 11, 2008.