During each pregnancy, my wife has marveled at one of the most obvious occurrences. At some point along the journey, she will suddenly stop what she is doing, grab her stomach and giggle. The laugh is contagious as I look over and watch her hand exploring her belly. She searches for something intently. Feeling, pushing and hoping, she lets her hands glide over her womb with an expecting smile on her face.
Once the silence is met by another giggle, I know she felt it again. The small kick or movement from the tiny baby being carried in her body has excited her the same way every single time. I automatically also know that the next step in this process is for her to ask me to come take part in the experience.
For some reason, each time she has done this, I am reluctant as I give her my hand and wait for the movement to send a vibration through my fingers. Once the flutter hits my hand, my wife giggles again. Strangely I am not as enthusiastic as she is. I’m not purposely disengaged, but I have always been less than thrilled at these moments.
This has nothing to do with my love for the pending arrival of my children or the precious life that is being confirmed. I absolutely love the kids we have had together. They are the very best part of anything I have ever been a part of.
I understand the vastness of the miracle of life. I realize that this is my baby growing and letting me know he or she is doing good and stretching. Yet, for some reason, I’ve downplayed those moments.
I practiced this during all three pregnancies. Once our children were born and in my arms, I was captivated. The slightest whimper had me running. The puppy eyes had me pulling out a five dollar bill for an ice cream. They had me wrapped around their finger, and worse — they knew it. Those little missed kicks in the womb were distant memories. The fact that I didn’t care to take part every time my wife said “Come feel the baby!” never mattered again because now, I had them. I could hold them. I could kiss them. I could hug them. I could play with them. In fact I would submit that a kick to the shin from a three-year-old is all the kicking I needed. (Thanks Aiden)
Unfortunately for me I repeated this same bad habit when my wife got pregnant for the fourth time. Because history had taught my sweet wife that my eagerness to feel a baby move while still in the womb was less than notable, the amount of times she would ask me had lessened over each pregnancy.
She still asked. She still sat and giggled. Sadly, I still acted uninterested and unimpressed. It hadn’t ever backfired before. It hadn’t ever introduced regret. I never had faced the notion that those little kicks would be the only sign of life that I could cling onto.
Isabella was kicking away for me for several weeks. My wife felt her daily. Tragically, I can only recall one time. ONE time that I felt her kick. One time that I was sure her movement attached itself to our reality. That one time, is the only sign of life that I have to hold onto now.
I know in my heart that I didn’t ignore her on purpose. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about her. I know it wasn’t cruelly intentional. Yet that still doesn’t lessen the pain I feel when I know I passed on so many chances to feel her move, to feel her living.
This is a page of the book in my heart that holds all the pain that few will ever see. This is an introduction to the chapter of regret that I hold in her honor. I don’t live in those feelings of guilt but I am often reminded that I spent so much of that time missing life.