The Quickening

The Quickening

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

The Quickening

“No, I haven’t felt any movements yet,” I responded with practiced pleasantness, which hid my anxiety and disappointment.

“Oh, well, I’m sure you’ll feel those little feet and hands flutter inside any day now!”

Apparently, my attempts to conceal my own concerns about the health of my developing child were wearing thin. I was now six months along, gaining in weight and inches, yet feeling nothing going on inside. I could not dismiss the idea that something was not quite right. And according to the many texts I was reading, fetal movement could be detected by the mother as early as four months, so my fears grew.

I was haunted by the fact that this little baby had come to us as a surprise, and I had therefore not prepared his new home as a responsible and loving parent might have. I had inadvertently taken him to bars on weekends and to the Jacuzzi at night during his first few weeks. My husband, Jack, was taking strong medications to abate the relentless pain of a rare neurological disorder. So despite this adversity, a brave little soul decided to make his way into the world through us. Yet he would not move.

My husband and I were soon forced to think of other things as his mother’s doctor told us the terrible news. She had just suffered a large intercranial hemorrhage that continued to bleed. This came as a heavy blow to all as she had been the arms, legs and voice of her husband, who had been crippled by a stroke nearly twenty years ago. It was almost unimaginable that my mother-in-law now lay in a hospital bed, writhing with the tremendous pain in her head as well as her heart, as she could not be home to care for her husband of fifty years.

Jack and I, along with his seven other siblings and their families, made daily visits to his mother’s hospital room. These visitations were laden with sadness, making conversation even among the closest members strained. My own anxiety was again magnified by the many inquiries as to the progress of my pregnancy—which seemed the most appropriate subject to speak of when I was present among other family members. And with Jack’s family being so large, the stories of how each grandchild came to be were recounted. In the case of each pregnancy and delivery of the eight grandchildren, there was building evidence that, indeed, my little child was having trouble. This thought was now paired with the possibility that my mother-in-law would never see this, her grandson, who would become the only bearer of the family name of the new generation.

And here before me lay the matriarch of so many families. A lady so kind and gentle that I felt immediate warmth and welcoming from her even upon our first introduction four years ago. I came to know how she was too lovely to ever say an unkind word to or about anyone. She spent her life raising a beautiful family and her later years quietly but tightly keeping everyone together.

And so, I thought, with much regret, that my little child may not know the softness of her cheek, the kindness of her eyes, the ever-present giggle in her words and the powerful love that radiates from this small yet extraordinary lady before me. Like silent, somber sentinels, each child in vigil by their mother’s side, Patricia Ann Kiernan took her last breaths and passed away during the early morning hours. All then gathered at her home to comfort their father on that winter day.

Looking down to the events happening on Earth, a timid little boy holds tightly to the strong bars of a pearly gate. He releases the pressure of his grip for a moment as he strains his head to peer over the cloud’s edge cautiously. He gazes down, curious about the people he sees, yet reluctant to leave his safe harbor. He quickly pulls himself back from the edge and examines the sparkling structure of the gate before him. Again and again he is drawn to watch the world below, yet steadfastly remains at his post.

Until he is approached by a beautiful lady. She walks slowly toward the boy, her arms open to embrace him, her face beaming with such joy at their meeting. She smiles so tenderly at him that the boy is immediately disarmed and raises his hand from the gate to meet her touch. Her arms envelop him, and he finds immediate comfort and security in her embrace.

“Little one,” she says softly and kindly. “They are all waiting for you down there. Don’t be frightened for you are already loved and will be taken very good care of. Hurry now, child! I promise you will have a wonderful time, and I will be waiting for you here when you return.” She giggles and then gives him an extra-tight squeeze before opening her arms.

The little boy looks at her and smiles happily, trusting in all she has said. And now, growing more excited about the adventure that awaits him, he steps confidently onto the cloud’s edge. He turns, waves to the beautiful lady—and jumps!

I sat on the last hallway stair, hearing the saddest, most lonely sobs of my father-in-law, who had just lost his best friend and the love of his life. The air inside this old house, with its thousand-and-one memories of happy times and years gone by, hung with pain and parting. My husband was at his father’s side, his shiny blue eyes now tearful and dull.

My hands lay across my swollen belly in silence and sorrow. Until . . . “tap, tap, tap.”

My eyes grew wide. I listened quietly with my entire body.

“Tick. Tick. Tap. Tap.”

Like Morse code came movement inside! I sat smiling and enjoying this moment to myself. “There you are! There you are!” I exclaimed to the tapping. I was so relieved and excited. I was thrilled that this moment had finally come! And yet the gravity of the day prevented me from shouting out to everyone, “He’s here! He’s here!” Instead, I thanked God in a whispered prayer and found my husband on the porch.

“He just kicked,” I said quietly to Jack. Jack looked back at me for a moment, and then his eyes lit up as he announced to everyone excitedly, “The baby just kicked for the first time!” I smiled and giggled as his sisters turned toward me and, forgetting their loss for a moment, joined in our happiness.

And as the day wore on, my previous worries now vanishing, I reflected on the happenings of the morning. Of how with the passing of one life, another is ushered in. And I thought again of how, perhaps, instead of no longer being alive in time to see our very happy and healthy baby boy, his grandmother was really the first to see him. And this will be how I begin to tell my son what a wonderful grandmother he has!

Monica Kiernan

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