Published in the Rains County Leader on May 11, 2021:
Mother’s Day weekend was extra special to me this year. Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the day I first felt my baby move. I was four months pregnant and had been waiting for that faint butterfly feeling I had heard other expectant mothers describe. But my son has always been different, even in utero. The first movement I felt was a definite rhythmic tapping, and that tapping continued off and on throughout the next five months. My doctor smiled when I described the feeling and said, “It’s probably hiccups.” He was right – Christian continued to have hiccups regularly for his first several months.
At that time, ultrasounds were not performed unless there was a problem, so I didn’t “see” my son until he made his public appearance, but I saw his shape many times. I had always enjoyed a warm, relaxing soak in the tub, and as the pregnancy progressed, the bath became an important source of relief for my aching back. He seemed to enjoy it, too, because as I lay back in the water, he would stretch like a cat getting up from a nap. During delivery I learned that he was “sunny side up,” or facing front instead of back, so as he stretched I often saw the shape of a little foot or fist move across the surface of my swollen belly.
Christian’s birth was difficult and required a last-minute C-section, so I didn’t see him until the nurse brought him to my room a few hours later. She held up that little bundle that had startling blue eyes and blond hair that stuck up as if he’d stuck his finger in an electric outlet, and I said, “Well, hello there.” When I spoke, his eyes lit up with recognition. For the next several weeks, before he learned to differentiate faces, his unfocused eyes would search for me if I wasn’t holding him, following the sound of the voice he had listened to for nine months.
After feeling hiccups for five months – often when I was trying to go to sleep – after seeing the shape of little hands and feet, after realizing that he recognized sounds he had heard before he was born, there was no doubt in my mind that what was inside my body all that time was a baby. That’s why I was so astonished when David told me about a video he had seen you YouTube. He didn’t give me details about where the incident took place, but a man was standing by a poster that depicted a fetus who was developed enough to be identifiable as a human being. A woman passing by knocked over the sign and said, “That’s not a fetus. A fetus is just a mass of cells.”
I know school curriculums have changed since I took biology, but the charts I’ve seen in doctors’ offices and the information I found online tell a different story than what this woman said. The cells of a fertilized egg begin to divide after twelve hours, and the cells begin to differentiate into specialized cells within five days. A heartbeat can be detected as early as three weeks after conception, and twelve weeks after conception, the baby is coordinated enough to suck his or her thumb. That doesn’t sound like just a mass of cells to me.
The Raffa Clinic in Greenville, www.raffaclinic.org, is a non-profit organization that seeks to offer a compassionate resource for women and their families facing unplanned pregnancies and/or challenging parenting circumstances. I first became acquainted with them when Believers’ Baptist took part in their annual Baby Bottle Campaign. Each year they brought plastic baby bottles to the church, and members of the church were encouraged to take one and fill it with loose change. This year, in order to alleviate any health concerns, the campaign is being done virtually. It began on Mother’s Day and continues through Fathers Day, June 20. It has been set up as a competition. If you or your organization would like to participate, go to https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/website/?m=5139177#0 where you can either set up your own team or donate through an existing team. Every dollar given through these campaigns goes directly to client services at the clinic which include, among many other things, free sonograms.
Medical procedures have changed a lot in the years since the first time I actually saw my baby after his birth. When our daughter-in-law was pregnant with our granddaughter, she had a sonogram that clearly showed Zoe with her face pressed up against the uterine wall. While her nose was somewhat squashed and she look like a child checking out the puppies through the pet store window, that beautiful little girl was already a precious life.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13