Hooray! The quickening!
In pregnancy terms, “quickening” refers to the moment when the mother can first feel the baby move. It tends to occur between 18 and 22 weeks for first pregnancies, and somewhat sooner in later ones (I’m at 16 1/2 weeks). There are two main theories why second pregnancies quicken earlier. Either the mother knows what she’s trying to feel for, or the uterus is more stretched and conducts the kicks better. I tend to believe the latter theory – neither Alex nor Chenoweth* has felt like anything other than something inside kicking out. (Note to self: time to watch Alien again.)
For many women, the quickening happens a week or two before the kicks are externally perceptible. This hasn’t been the case for me. Martin felt the third Alex kick I did, and I can already feel Chenoweth from the outside as well. (Haven’t yet timed it for Martin to feel. Probably over the next day or two.) This probably means I’ve missed the earlier movements in both cases, but I don’t really care.
In the days before ultrasounds, or even pregnancy tests, pregnancies weren’t announced until the baby was felt to move. Originally, it was thought to be the time the baby first moved, rather than first time it was perceptible. The quickening was the moment when everyone knew that a pregnancy was viable. If the pregnancy was a politcally important one, it was cause for public celebration. Look what happened when Jane Seymour felt a few kicks one day.
On 27 May 1537, Trinity Sunday, there was a Te Deum sung in St Paul’s cathedral for joy at the queen’s quickening of her child, my lord chancellor, lord privy seal and various other lords and bishops being then present; the mayor and aldermen with the best guilds of the city being there in their liveries, all giving laud and praise to God for joy about it.
Now, I’m not going to book St Paul’s, or even St John Vianney’s over the hill, but I am very pleased. Of course, we knew Chen was viable and moving after the scan (it was doing barrel rolls onscreen). But the quickening is still emotionally important. It’s the first time a baby becomes real, the first time I feel like there’s actually someone there. It’s also the beginning of the best thing about pregnancy for me: the feeling of closeness with the baby. In the years since Alex was born, I have often missed the slow, seismic roll of baby in the tummy, the feeling that he was right there with me all the time. That’s when I fell in love with him, and now I get to fall in love with his sibling.
* We’re referring to the baby as Chenoweth, which is the planned middle name regardless of gender. It was my paternal grandfather’s mother’s maiden name, and I have always loved it. It’s Welsh in origin.