“Have you been feeling movement?” the nurse asks as she takes my blood pressure at each prenatal appointment. Every time she asks, the words sting. I know it is a routine question at a routine appointment, but I am not a routine pregnancy patient.
I’ve lost two babies in the second trimester, one to miscarriage, one to a stillbirth, and I know what it is like to stop feeling movement, to beg your body for the sensation of one more flip or kick. I’ve been feeling definitive twinges in this pregnancy since eleven weeks, and still, well into my third trimester, I pause at least once a day and think. Have I felt anything in the past few hours? Is this the day I lose this baby too?
But when I’m asked about movement at my prenatal checkups, I do not speak about any of this. “Yes,” I say simply. “I feel him move a lot.”
Related: So This is Life After Loss
Somehow though, the exchange always leaves me feeling ashamed. I can’t help but think that the nurse is asking because she is worried, and I hate the idea of other people being concerned about me. My own anxiety seems like more than enough to bear.
Plus, given my history, the question can feel like an accusation. Have you been paying enough attention? I hear when she asks. Would you notice if something was wrong?
Part of me is defensive. Of course I would call the doctor’s office the second I thought that the baby’s activity had slowed or ceased. I don’t know why she needs to ask me about it, I think, as if the necessity of movement is something I could ever forget.
But I remember too how I once convinced myself that my baby was still moving when she was not. Even after I’d seen her motionless heart on the ultrasound screen, I continued to feel phantom flutters for days. Clearly, I am not to be trusted.
It is a simple question, one that the nurse probably asks dozens of times each day, but in this pregnancy after loss, nothing feels simple. There is no such thing as a routine checkup.