I never was one of those people who believed in the all-powerful, nine-month bond between mother and baby. I’ve often wondered if in recent years this was an attempt to vindicate myself for having not experienced it. In high school, my senior project was a solo presentation called Conception to Birth, which won honorable mention at the science fair. By then I’d seen one pregnancy and birth close-up. I studied the illustrations of birth books, tracking the shape and size of embryos as they morphed into fetuses. An early human fetus could easily pass for the fetus of almost any mammal with its giant eyes, suggestion of a head and thick tail. A blip of a heart appeared, but wouldn’t resemble a human heart until the end. For much of the pregnancy the eyes were sealed shut. Ears wouldn’t function until the end of the seventh month, but even then blood vessels, arteries and mother’s heartbeat, was what they’d hear more than anything. For months, turning, kicking and thumb-sucking would be involuntary. But later, when the baby was packing on fat, bone calcium and brain cells, the ears would become more acute and the baby might noticeably respond to noises outside the womb. This was the big milestone for me. When they can hear, they are real people, I thought. And so when H told us, “Every time you speak, she moves,” I was filled with wonder and delight. A little person, in utero, deliberately responding to my voice – a real person with real preferences.
While I’ve done my very best to provide an optimal-growth environment for these babies, my body does what it does without conscious effort from me. The experience has been almost wholly abstract. The vomit of the first trimester didn’t inspire much bonding, or celebrating for that matter. By the start of the second trimester my belly was excitingly big and round (the early pay-off with twins), but the babies were tiny, and much like my uterus they were on autopilot. It was fascinating when they began to flutter around at twenty weeks and yet the movement was still too random and slight to inspire true bonding. Most of the time I felt like the passive host of an alien duo. (I always imagined it would strike me as poetic and definitive, but instead, it was mysterious and totally beyond my doing or control.) But now, midway through the third trimester (and very close to the end), I finally feel the two little people inside of me. Together, we are three beings. And I’m beginning to know them, physically. I assumed the babies awoke at 7am due to their internal clocks, but I realize it’s the exact time I call-out to D and Z each morning. It’s my voice that wakes them. They respond to the sounds of their sisters’ voices. I know when I lie on my right side the Little Guy will flail and squirm beneath the weight of his considerably larger brother. He will stay still when I pat his tiny rump. If his foot is wedged in my rib and I grab it, he’ll kick hard to break free or tuck his tiny legs up tight. If I disturb the Big Guy when he’s resting he’ll do a complete turn-around until he’s out of reach. I know that if I lie on my left side he’ll gently roll over to support the weight of his smaller brother with his strong back. I could feel it when he suddenly became interested in moving down into my pelvis. Try as he might, the Little Guy was there first and he refuses to relinquish his position to the Big Guy. I knew this was happening, but I couldn’t say how or why. Then I saw it on the monitor – the Big Guy’s head nudging and pushing the Little Guy’s head before giving up and coming to rest right on top of it -and I was happy to know that I really am learning something about these boys. They’re with me now, two very special, familiar passengers. I guess they’ve always been with me, but they finally feel real. Their presence has finally upstaged my body. Our feelings are often aligned. The three of us are hungry. The three of us are tired. The three of us are cramped. The three of us are almost ready to meet one another.
Full-term for all babies is 37-42 weeks. Ten more days until I cross that line.