I remember feeling so many things after the birth of my first son. I felt joy. I felt aches and pains from labor. I felt overwhelmed and happy and peaceful all at the same time.
And then I felt kicks.
A few days after my son was born, after I’d had a chance to settle in back at home and get away from the hustle and bustle of the nurses, I started feeling kicks in my stomach again. Baby kicks. I’m not talking about digestive flutters. These were full-blown rumbling infant roundhouses. I thought I was totally losing my mind. I asked my close friends who had kids if they’d experienced anything like this and they all looked at me like I was nuts. “Did they accidentally leave one in there?” someone joked. Even my mother-in-law, a nurse, had never heard of such a thing.
I ran through all the possibilities in my mind. Left-behind baby? Probably out of the question. Super-speedy growing new fetus, a la Robin Williams in Jack? Doubtful. Perhaps a spastic tumor? Alien invasion? I had to get some sort of answer before I drove myself nuts with possibilities. I called the nurse practitioner at my OB office, who warmly congratulated me on the birth of my first child.
“Yeah, thanks, but I’m having this…problem,” I hestitated. I knew I’d sound like a complete nutcase. “The baby’s out but, uh, he’s still kicking me.”
There was an awkward beat of silence. “Your baby kicks you?”
“Well, no, not the actual baby out here in the world. It’s in my stomach. I still feel a baby kicking even though I know there’s no baby in there. Man, I’m losing my mind, aren’t I?”
The nurse stifled a chuckle. “Oh! Phantom kicks. Yeah, that’s perfectly normal.” She explained that some moms have extra-sensitive stomachs and their brains get so used to detecting movement in there that they pick up on any sort of digestive activity and wave a big red flag about it. It’s just nerves being crazy, but to the mom it can truly feel like a 30-week-old baby is doing somersaults in there.
I thanked her for her help and let out a big sigh of relief that I wasn’t having some sort of postpartum breakdown. As much as I was thrilled to be a mom, pregnancy was no cakewalk for me and I was fairly positive I wasn’t experiencing some sort of crazy pregnancy withdrawal. Her explanation made perfect sense, and I was happy to have a name for this weird bodysnatching experience: Phantom Kicks. They eventually died down, only to start back up again after the birth of my second son and fade away again after a couple months.
Did you have any big surprises post-baby? Any weird adjustments back to normal life?