Going back to a more casual approach let me view my baby’s kicks as joyful moments instead of a source of stress.
Is there anything more gratifying than a punch to the gut or kick to the ribs? (By your growing baby, that is.) From the first tiny bubbles you had to close your eyes and all but freeze to feel, to the impossible-to-ignore socks to the waistline when you bend over, baby’s kicks are a sign of the miraculous life growing inside you.
Counting kicks is an important practice to track the health and well-being of your baby.
But for some expectant parents, formal kick counts can be stressful. I’m a highly anxious person, and they definitely were for me! The guidelines to count kicks can be confusing, with different doctors and websites suggesting different things. And babies don’t move all day long.
I could not wait to feel my baby’s kicks. After suffering a loss with our last pregnancy and taking a long time to show, kicks were a tangible reassurance that everything was okay. I felt the first official flutter around 18 weeks, though I later suspected that the bubbles I was feeling a week or two before were not gas.
At 27 weeks, I was given a chart to start official kick counting. The rule follower in me was incredibly excited. Yay, a chart!
According to this particular measuring tool, my baby should move 10 times within 2 hours, twice a day, at the same time of day. It sounded easy enough, and I looked forward to setting my alarms to keep watch.
But other online resources said I should be feeling 10 movements in 1 hour. And still others were saying we only need to feel baby once a day. I decided to be better safe than sorry and picked three times a day to count. You know, one for extra credit.
For the most part, baby was consistent, and I was so proud of him when he beat his own time. But then there were days where I would not feel him at his scheduled times. There were days when his kicks felt faint.
I’ve never gone a full day without feeling him (thankfully!), but those 6 to 10 hours waiting for distinctive movement were excruciating, and it took everything in me to not call my OB or rush to emergency.
Often, just when I was on the brink of breakdown, baby would resume his Kung Fu fighting and I’d be temporarily appeased.
Like most things in my life, kick counting quickly became an obsession. I would watch the clock waiting for when it was time to count again. I would get frustrated if baby did his fireworks flurry too early.
And because I wanted to do it all correctly, I set alarms and made sure to pull out my phone and chart at the exact same time every day, which meant interrupting time with friends or forcing myself to keep my eyes open so as not to miss our 9 p.m. count.
It also meant the aforementioned meltdowns when baby was not active during his regularly scheduled time and consuming a lot more juice than any human needs in hopes of waking him up. I also stopped enjoying his movement as much. I was so distracted by needing him to get to 10 kicks all the time, that I no longer appreciated a tickle toe tap to my hip bones.
After another anxiety-filled day, I started to think. Though I am someone who operates best on a consistent schedule, I still have days where I sleep a bit longer or stay up a little later. Could the same not be true of baby?
With approval from my doctor, I decided to forgo the formal act of recording kicks multiple times a day. I let the chart go.
It felt out of control and irresponsible, at first. This is not to say I stopped counting, but instead of obsessively recording kicks at specific times, I would just pay attention to my baby. No stopwatch, no schedule, no ticking clock. Just me and my little guy.
Of course, I’m still overwrought with anxiety when he decides to sleep in some days. But not having to officially monitor him at specific times has opened me up to enjoying his little dance routines, instead of maddeningly holding count, like some overzealous dance mom on the sidelines.
It has also allowed me to trust my gut (literally). Most importantly, it’s allowed me to give the baby permission to not have to follow my rules so tightly. So, he’s a little late for his usual count. Maybe he’s tired and needs a nap. Perhaps by giving him permission, I can learn to give permission to myself. Universe knows I will need it once he is out kicking his way through the real world!
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love to one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website www.sarahezrinyoga.com.