Our Baby’s First Heartbeat (and the First Time I Fell in Love)

Yesterday was my first prenatal appointment for this pregnancy. 

Words can not even begin to express how nervous I was about it. All day I jetted around the house frantically, burning off energy I didn’t know I had, and yes, ok, I admit it, stress-eating the ice-cream that I succumbed to buying from the Schwan’s man who happened to knock on our door. I was sweaty and jittery, anxious and fearful.

And why, you may ask, was I such a jumble of nerves with this appointment, my first out of four pregnancies?

For one very simple, slightly embarrassing reason:

This pregnancy was unplanned. 

And I felt guilty.

The truth is, we want pregnancy to always be this magical, momentous event in our lives; and it always is. But sometimes, the magic is also a bit unexpected. And for me, the magic took a while to absorb this time around. I cried for hours after finding out I was pregnant and I was fearful for weeks afterwards.

It wasn’t until somewhere around the 10-week mark that I realized how truly lucky I am to have the chance to be a mother again–and that’s when the guilt set in. What if something happened to the baby and I was busy being miserable this whole time? All my negative thinking surely had to affect this little precious being growing inside of me, right?

Of course, that’s not how it works. And rationally, I knew that of course. But irrationally speaking?

I just wanted to hear that heartbeat.

Image via nanny snowflake/Flickr

Of course, with three other little ones at home, I had to wait until my husband could somewhat help me with the kiddos and scheduled my appointment for an opening they had right after school. I left the two youngest with my sister and headed to school pick-up, where I had just enough time to buckle my oldest in the car and race to the doctor’s office, where (hopefully) my husband would make it in time for the heartbeat.


Honestly, I’m not usually one of those women who asks her husband to come to her doctor’s appointments; my OB and I work together at the hospital and our appointments are generally minutes long–it’s a bit routine at this point. But for this visit, I really wanted my husband, Ben, to be there.

After distracting my daughter while I changed, I settled on the comfort of the paper covering on the exam table and waited…and waited..and waited.

My daughter swung around the doctor’s stool, nearly upsetting all of the tests the tech had carefully set up in anticipation of my visit, before bursting into tears because she felt so badly about it. I felt my blood pressure start to rise.

At long last, the doc and some strange woman-in-tow knocked on the door. I didn’t ask who it was, because frankly, I didn’t care. Could we just listen to the heartbeat already?

I explained that Ben and our daughter just wanted to be in the room for the heartbeat and then they would step out. The doctor looked surprised, then nodded. “Oh, ok, of course. We can do that first,” she said, holding her hand out for the Doppler.

This was it.

Moment of truth. 

I hoisted myself back on the table and held my breath while she jabbed my stomach down lower than I had remembered with any other previous visits. “Let’s hope this little one cooperates!” my doctor said brightly.

I managed a half-smile, thinking, Oh, please, be cooperative!

She switched the machine on and almost instantly the steady, rapid beat filled the room. Relief flooded over me as I looked over at my husband, willing myself not to cry. I saw the same relief reflected in Ben’s eyes as he hugged Ada. “Do you hear that?” he whispered to her. “That’s the baby!” If I hadn’t been sure if I loved this little one before, there was no question now.

It’s so incredible to me that in this early first trimester of pregnancy when it’s still possible to guess whether or not I’m pregnant or just fond of extra meals, that the little person inside of me can make his or her presence so known with a heartbeat loud enough to fill a room. It’s extraordinary, really, when you think about it.

And last night, I went to bed with a smile on my face, thinking how strange and wonderful it was that I will never be alone for the next six months, contemplating the miracle that was happening every second of the day, even when I am stressed or disgruntled or heck, even mowing on ice cream when I shouldn’t be. I drifted off imagining my baby curled up peacefully deep inside of me and safe in the knowledge that we were going to be ok.

And somewhere, even though I can’t hear it, my baby’s heartbeat beats on.

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