My baby is not a sadist (apparently)

Remember when I told you about that one thing (among many) that they don’t tell you about pregnancy, which is when your baby kicks your cervix it feels like nails-on-chalkboard-meets-hitting-your-funny-bone only duller and more repetitive? Oh, I didn’t go into that much detail? See, that’s because I’ve had the past 48 hours to analyse the sensation and get that metaphor juuust right.

And to realise that the physical pain of it isn’t even the worst part – the worst part is when you’re trying to sleep, just drifting off (having FINALLY found a comfortable position which inevitably takes up 75% of the bed), and then BAM – it starts, the first kick, then the second a few seconds later, then a sort of wriggly-scrapey sensation that is far from pleasant… and then nothing for like 15 seconds, during which you’ve become wide awake and incredibly tense, dreading the next jolt of pain.

See, the worst part is the waiting, the hoping that maybe she was just shifting in her sleep, maybe she’s finished moving, maybe she’s in a different position now and the next kick will be the cute little pokes you used to reply to before this hell started. And then the pain and anguish when she does it again. And again. For an average of 20 mins every hour or so. Maybe two hours. I don’t even know any more.

It’s psychological torture. Last night she gave me a last round of vigourous kicks five minutes after she’d stopped, during which time I’d thought it safe to fall asleep, and the frustration was such that I smacked my own belly. Which a) is stupid, since it hurt nobody but me, and not that much since I was sick of hurting anyway, and b) probably makes me a bad mother. It’s a good thing that I have lots of prior experience with whiny babies (often two or three at once) and have never once hit any of them, otherwise I’d be guilt-tripping to hell and getting prenatal depression and probably triggering preterm birth with all the stress. Still, I have to say that while my years of nannying will certainly come in useful after she’s born, they have in no way prepared me for the experience of being repeatedly kicked in the cervix for 48 hours with nothing I can do about it.

(Let’s not talk about how, as a nanny, I could go home at the end of the day and get a good night’s sleep before going back in the morning – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

It is hard, when somebody is physically hurting you, not to hate them for it. Even when that someone is your unborn child, and you know she’s not doing it on purpose, and you keep reminding yourself that it’s probably just reflex movements due to having lots of energy (probably from those home-made vanilla cookies you ate earlier, so you’ve really only yourself to blame anyway). You redirect the hate towards the pregnancy itself, towards all the people in your life who didn’t warn you this would happen before you got pregnant. You try to remind yourself that it’s better than the first trimester, nothing but childbirth could be worse than that, surely.

So you rock back and forth and hum a lullaby, low notes to calm her down, and you try not to flinch or tense up when it happens because that just makes it worse, but it is hard when you’ve been doing that for fifteen minutes and you think she’s asleep and then it starts again and in a rage of frustration you smack yourself on the belly and burst into guilty tears, waking your boyfriend with a jump – it is hard not to feel like she’s doing this on purpose, and to hate her for it, just a little.

Of course she’s not doing it on purpose. She doesn’t know she’s hurting me. She doesn’t even know there is a “me” as opposed to “her”. Her mental representation of her body and her self has no boundaries yet, she doesn’t know that she is not the whole world, never mind that her current living environment is alive and can feel her movements in a way that she can’t.

So it came as something of a surprise to me when, after talking to my gynocologist about this, she suggested that my daughter is in fact trying to turn over. The scan showed that she had her back towards my ribcage, head close to my liver and bottom down on the opposite side – and yes, her feet are right above my cervix. The gynocologist also checked to make sure said cervix was safely closed, and the pain I was feeling wasn’t linked to it opening prematurely, which it isn’t, I’m just a massive wimp, thank god.

Apparently, her kicks are an attempt to get into the head-down position in preparation for birth, although since I’m only 28 weeks in, she might stay that way for the whole of the third trimester. Still, I was surprised because this – at the very least – implies an intention. I imagine it’s instinctive – head down must be the most comfortable position for babies once their living quarters start getting a bit small for them. But how does she know that kicking will help her get into that position? Does spatial intelligence come before sense of self? Instinctive as they are, can I then say that all of her movements are reflexes, or are some of them intentional? What does this tell me about how her mind works, what does it imply about the bond that links us already?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how my brain turned physical discomfort into intellectual wonder. And immense relief. Not that she’s stopped kicking me in the cervix, she hasn’t. But now I understand why, and that changes everything.

My gyno says I should try to help her turn over by stroking my belly anti-clockwise (or clockwise, depending on how you’re looking at it… I know what she means). This gives me at least a sense of control over what’s happening to me, and I feel like baby and I are finally working towards the same goal, rather than against one another. We have a haptonomy session on Thursday, too, during which we should learn better how to help her change her position.

Because yeah, it’s getting a bit tight in there. She weighs 1.3kgs (newborns at term are typically around 3kgs), which is average for her age, and having almost finished growing lenth-wise, she’s starting to put some meat on her bones. Hopefully by the next scan, she’ll be kicking me in the ribs instead.

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