Midway through pregnancy, a mother may begin to feel the fetus unconsciously moving in her uterus. These first sensations are usually a faint flutter, but they soon become more pronounced. As her baby increases in size and strength, she may distinctly feel it stretch, squirm, roll, punch or kick inside her. These stirrings can be felt by someone else if they touch her abdomen, and strong moves can make her belly visibly bounce or shift for a moment.
For many, this is among the most joyful experiences of pregnancy. For eager soon-to-be parents, this evidence that their soon-to-be child is developing and healthy is reassuring. For the mother and those close to her, this can mark the point when the expected baby begins to feel "real." Sure, they knew there was something inside her growing belly, some vague invisible thing that will eventually resemble a baby. But when they recognize that the thumping inside her comes from tiny knees, elbows, fists and feet, suddenly they realize it already seems like a baby, even if they cannot see it yet. It vividly appears in their imagination: it becomes cute. The mother bonds with it in a new way: when she gently touches her abdomen or talks to the baby, it sometimes seems to respond.
The experience can be a way for a father to bond with both mother and baby, for a young child to understand that a younger sibling is on the way, for other mothers to remember how it felt, or simply to share with friends. Moments like these can be Played for Drama to highlight tenderness, intimacy, wonder, joy, love, connection and more. The way a pregnant mother invites someone to feel her baby kicking — and their reaction — can show how they feel about one another, the soon-to-arrive baby, or the human life-cycle itself.
And like much of pregnancy, it can be equally incredible and inconvenient for the expectant mother. Her changing body can feel strained or tender, so getting roughly pummeled from the inside can take her breath away. She might endure restlessness and Sleep Deprivation as her enlarged uterus makes it difficult to get comfortable, so if the occupant of that uterus throws a late-night party using her cramped abdomen and pelvis as a dance floor, it's going to keep her unpleasantly awake. Because they are ultimately harmless, such aggravations may be Played for Laughs to show the awkwardness and discomfort of pregnancy in an amusing or endearing way. They may be comically-Exaggerated so that the kicks are powerful enough to assault someone else, like the Bumbling Dad.
Also, it is not unusual for onlookers (or the mother herself) to find it faintly grotesque or disturbing. They might compare the fetus to a Parasitic Horror or Chest Burster trying to wriggle out. Proud parents might not appreciate these comparisons, but this uneasy reaction is surely one inspiration for Womb Horror.
It is generally considered rude to touch someone without their permission. Some people bizarrely lose this inhibition in the presence of a pregnant woman and touch her belly before asking. If the mother-to-be Hates Being Touched, this is offensive. Even if she doesn't, it's obnoxious. (Don't do this.)
Compare Hand on Womb, which signifies announcement of a pregnancy.
- Baby Blues: When Wanda is pregnant, she and the family sometimes notice the baby kicking.
- In one strip, Darryl puts his ear to her belly trying to feel or hear subtle movement. Moments later, he is Punched Across the Room by a powerful kick.
- Wanda calls Darryl and the kids over to feel the baby kick, but every time they try, it stops moving. After a few disappointments, they lose interest and wander away. Annoyed, Wanda calls it "the fetus who cried wolf."
- Wanda asks Bunny if pregnancy with twins feels different than pregnancy with one baby, and Bunny spends several panels explaining that it does not. However, while she talks, her whole belly visibly lurches and heaves as the twins fight inside. She doesn't seem to notice, but Wanda stares and winces.
Bunny: ...But basically, having two babies in there isn't much different than having one. [finally looks down as her belly furiously quakes and bulges] Except for the occasional territorial dispute.
- Sally Forth: Jackie exclaims in pain, and Sally asks her if the baby is about to be born. Jackie says no, it is just kicking hard, and invites Sally to feel it.
Jackie: I hope the kid doesn't think that's the way out.
- Spider-Woman: When Jessica is captured by Skrulls, the Pregnant Badass considers fighting her way out. While she thinks about options and tactics, the baby kicks hard. She responds as if they are having an argument.
Jessica: I just want to keep you safe. ["KIK"] You know momma would do anything to keep you— ["KIK KIK"] Okay. You're right. Time for momma to shut her mouth. [draws weapons] And go save the damned day.
- In the Warrior Cats graphic novel A Thief in ThunderClan, there's a heartwarming moment where Brightheart's sister - the medicine cat - explains that the weird thing Brightheart feels is her kits moving, and Brightheart is thrilled and prepares to tell her mate. This sets up a Mood Whiplash when the conversation is interrupted by the shock of a patrol bringing a dead Clanmate's body into camp.
- In An Acceptable Arrangement, Hou Yue feels Sun Qiu's baby kick at one point. It leads her to a small breakdown, because try as she might none of her pregnancies have been viable.
- Near the end of the Dragon Age: Inquisition AU fic The Lady and the Lion, Lady Evangeline has to spend the last two months of her first pregnancy on bed rest. Although the rest of the family delights in feeling the baby kick, Evangeline herself is sometimes a bit frustrated with the child's antics.
Evangeline: (to her stomach) Those were my ribs, darling.
- In call it what you want, when Wen Qing kisses Jiang Yanli's stomach, she feels the baby move in response. Aww.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "The Birth Of Psycheliana", when Smurfette feels her baby kick inside her stomach, Empath feels it inside himself as well.
- In For What, For All But Myself there's a dark version, as Wei Wuxian doesn’t know what is currently inhabiting his brother and just thinks it’s a monster, so it brings revulsion rather than excitement when he feels it kicking. He even threatens to kill it for hurting his brother so much. Once he realizes that it's a baby, he becomes excited and moves to touch again.
- Hyperemisis Gravidarum, by A.A. Pessimal, follows the hitherto unknown phenomena, in a previously male-only world, of pregnant Assassins in Ankh-Morpork. Johanna Smith-Rhodes feels her unborn infant kicking vigorously, concedes there's certainly a Guild-pleasingly aggressive streak in there, and gloomily wonders if pregnancy has somehow put a climbing wall in her womb, judging by the degree of movement going on. note
- The Kedabory Verse:
- Baby Blues (no relation to the comic strip): The first chapter involves Pepa allowing Antonio to feel baby Catalina (then unnamed) kicking.
- Shining and Sweet: This is the basis of the chapter "Baby Kicks"; Lizzie, who is surrogating baby Paige for Joe and Viktor, feels a little jealous of the couple when she feels the baby kicking, and expresses to her girlfriend Marlowe that she'd like a baby of their own.
- Welcoming Chiho: The first time Rosemary feels the titular Chiho kicking is during their baby shower. This pops up again in the two following chapters leading up to her birth.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction Rights and Privileges, Hoshi is pregnant and offers to let Trip feel the baby kicking. This offends Shran, because with his species, public pregnancy is taboo.
- In the A Song of Ice and Fire fanfic Safe Anchorage, Jeyne feels her baby kicking after Asha's Declaration of Protection, and says the baby must have heard it too.
- In Truth Through Mirrors by beautifulpurpleflame, Beast Boy and Raven offer the rest of the team to feel their baby kicking. After Cyborg receives a hit to the cheek (the metallic parts of him lack proper feeling, so that's what he had to press against Raven's belly), he remarks that the baby already seems to be kicking harder than daddy.
- Us and Them: In the sequel Life Renewed, Love Renewed, after receiving the news that they are expecting, Sephiroth is lying in bed with Aeris, putting his hand on her stomach to feel their child even though it's still too early for that. Later, he keeps trying to feel it, but every time he does the baby stops moving.
- The Boss Baby: In a brief opening scene, Mr.Templeton asks sleepy Tim if he would like a new baby brother, and he answers no. He and Mrs. Templeton, who is obviously pregnant, look at each other with concern, probably anticipating Infant Sibling Jealousy. They are distracted as a big kick makes her belly move. They smile at her belly, then to each other.
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Ellie is pregnant throughout the film and the signs that her baby is about to be born come in the form of kicks that she feels throughout the film... Which unfortunately pop out at the worst possible moments while the Herd attempts to rescue Sid from the dinosaur world.
- Apocalypto: On what becomes their Last Day of Normalcy, Seven and Jaguar Paw relax and embrace in the evening. When he leans close and murmurs to their unborn child, Seven's belly bulges conspicuously as it kicks. Jaguar Paw smiles at the sight.
Jaguar Paw: My son is dancing.
Seven: Your son is happy.
- Children of Men: In the Childless Dystopia of the setting, Kee is the first pregnant woman in a generation (and the only one Kee herself has ever seen). She admits that at first she felt such despair and Freakiness Shame she considered suicide. Feeling the baby kick was what changed her mind and made her proud.
Kee: You know, when I started puking, I thought I catch the pest. But then my belly started getting big. Nobody ever told me these things. I never seen a pregnant woman before. But I knew. I felt like a freak. I didn't tell nobody. I thought about the Quietus thing. Supposed to be suave. Pretty music and all that. [smiling] Then the baby kicked. I feel it. Little bastard was alive, and I feel it, and me too. I am alive.
- Clock: At a baby shower, Ella's pregnant friend, Shauna, invites Ella to do this. Ella declines after seeing the baby's foot press from inside the mother's womb. Shauna chides her, saying it's a baby and not an alien.
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: Jane lets Ned touch her stomach to feel the baby. He seems unaware that she is unhappy about the father leaving her or that she feels a growing attraction to Ned. His naivety must be charming, because she is quickly Overcome with Desire.
Ned: Is that him? ... I've never felt a baby in someone's stomach before. I think you'll make a very good single mother.
- Revenge of the Sith has a quick scene of Anakin putting his hand on Padmé's stomach to feel their baby (or rather babies) kicking, one of a few moments of them getting to be a normal couple before everything goes to hell.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: One of Shang's memories of his mother is her resting him on her pregnant stomach to introduce him to his sister, Xialing.
- Where the Heart Is: This provides the Title Drop. Novalee puts Willy Jack's hand to her belly and claims the rhythmic beating sensation is where the heart is. He irritably pulls his hand away and says he doesn't feel anything. By the end, Willy Jack admits that (besides the other terrible things he did) he lied: he felt the baby and was overwhelmed by cowardice and his own inadequacy. This is why he drove away and abandoned her.
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Greg recounts his life before he was born. He hated when his parents would kiss, so he would kick to try to get them to stop, but that only made them kiss more.
- In Ramona Quimby, the book "Ramona Forever" has Mrs. Quimby pregnant with Roberta. When Ramona asks Mrs. Quimby if the baby hurts, she replies that it doesn't hurt, but it does kick and invites Ramona to feel the baby kicking.
- We Need to Talk About Kevin: Eva reflects on her first pregnancy. Aside from not particularly wanting to be a mother, she was particularly annoyed and upset by people who only wanted to talk about the unborn child, and wanted to feel him kick, which resulted in multiple people putting their hands on her belly without asking first. She understandably was very uncomfortable with this.
- The Big Bang Theory: In "The Fetal Kick Catalyst", Howard feels his unborn baby kick for the first time, which causes him to fully realize he's about to be a father. He subsequently goes overboard preparing to be a parent.
- Cheers: Pregnant Lilith arrives at the bar with Frasier. She says she felt the baby kick and the gang goes over to feel for it. Woody says that he heard it move, but Frasier tells them that it was his own indigestion. Woody then feels his tummy and the others join in.
- CSI: NY: Before Danny and Lindsay get married, she tells him at work that she felt their baby kick. He ushers her to a secluded area and tries to feel it, too, but there's no movement. He tells her to find him as soon as possible the next time it happens.
- The Drew Carey Show: The Story Arc where Drew spends several months unemployed and/or working crappy jobs begins with Wick admitting that he squandered some of the company's money and telling Drew that the budget can be balanced if he fires one employee. Overjoyed, Drew goes over to Mimi's desk, but as he's about to fire her, Mimi says that she felt her baby (his nephew) kick her. Not wanting to be the guy who fired a pregnant woman, much less one carrying his brother's child, he looks for another employee to fire.
- Frasier: When Daphne is pregnant during the final season Niles buys a special speaker that plays music through the mother's belly. After a few seconds of classical music the baby kicks so hard it knocks the speaker off Daphne's stomach and onto the floor, much to Niles' dismay.
- In season one baby Ben kicks for the first time after Ross sings to Carol's belly. Carol tells him to keep singing so Susan can feel the kick too.
- Shortly after getting inseminated in season four Phoebe excitedly says she thinks she just felt the first kick. Monica rushes over to feel it, which is when Phoebe realizes it was just the elastic on her underwear snapping. Towards the end of the season she feels one of the triplets kicking one of the other babies and yells at her belly to try and get them to stop.
- When Rachel is pregnant she notes that the baby always seems to kick harder when Chandler is the one feeling her stomach and wonders if that means her daughter isn't going to like him.
- On Gilmore Girls, after Lane got pregnant from her honeymoon, Kirk touches her belly trying to feel the baby kick. Lane then threatens him: "You're going to feel a kick if you don't take her hand off my stomach!"
- Lost: Claire's baby stops moving after the plane crash, which causes her to worry that something may be wrong with him. The baby finally starts moving again after Claire eats a piece of fish Jin offered her. Claire grabs Jin's hand and lets him feel the movement in gratitude. It's an awkward moment for Jin, not helped by the language barrier between them, but for the rest of the season Claire is the only survivor other than his wife that he shows any concern for.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Lois has a Pregnancy Scare, and a Flash Back shows her when she was nine months pregnant with Reese. Throughout the memory, Lois complains about how the fetus keeps kicking her repeatedly. At the OBG/YN room, Lois decides to induce labor to get the baby out so he'll stop kicking her. Once baby Reese is born, the first thing he does is punch the doctor in the nose.
- The Originals: As Hayley is giving birth she remembers when she invited Klaus to feel baby Hope kick.
- On Passions, when Luis tried to be supportive of his ex-girlfriend Beth's pregnancy, he wants to feel his baby move at one point but he never does. Understandably, this was impossible since Beth was pretending to be pregnant by using a bag of sugar in an effort to keep him away from Sheridan, who was genuinely pregnant by him but unsure if he or his brother Antonio was the father.
- Sesame Street: In the first part of "Three Bears and a New Baby", after the Bear family hug each other when Mama tells Baby Bear that they'll still have the same amount of love for each other as they did before, their hug is interrupted by Baby Bear's new baby sister, Curly, kicking from inside Mama. Baby Bear is impressed when he finds out that a baby can move around inside its mother, and Mama allows him to feel Curly kick.
- Stargate Atlantis: When Atlantis goes into lockdown during the episode "Quarantine", Sheppard and Teyla are stuck in a room together. Sheppard is certain Teyla, who is near the end of her pregnancy, is going to go into labor at any moment, because in the movies a pregnant woman always goes into labor at times like this. A few scenes later, it seems like his prediction is about to come true but it's just the baby kicking, and she invites him to come feel.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Disaster", Keiko O'Brien and her husband Miles are in Ten Forward. She offers to let Riker and Worf feel her baby kick. Later they are trapped in Ten Forward when the titular disaster happens. Worf ends up being midwife to the child's Screaming Birth.
- Star Trek: Voyager
- "Lineage" ends with the EMH feeling B'Elanna's fetus kicking. He jokes that the baby is "feisty" and it must be genetic.
- In "The Killing Game", B'Elanna Torres is in a holodeck program as a pregnant woman. She complains about how realistic the program is, as her baby even kicks. (This was Leaning on the Fourth Wall as the actress was pregnant at the time.)
- In The Young Ones, Vyvyan claims to be pregnant in one episode. At one point, he says "The baby's kicking!"; when Rick leans in to hear it, the "baby" kicks Rick so hard in the ear that Rick doubles over in pain. Vyvyan loudly exclaims "That's my boy!".
- "My Willing Heart" by James Blake: The music video features serene photography of Natalie Portman, pregnant with her second child. She is shown swimming, relaxing, and thoughtfully caressing her belly. In one close-up, she suddenly smiles, apparently pleased by something she just felt. In another, the curved surface of her belly shifts as the baby moves. Though this can be interpreted as a romantic love song (from Blake to his partner), this imagery frames it as a Parental Love Song (from Portman to her soon-to-be-born baby).
- Final Fantasy X-2: When the Gullwings come to visit Wakka and Lulu, who are getting ready for their first child, they go off to talk to Lulu by themselves. After a while, Lulu pauses, saying the baby is moving, and Rikku skips over saying she want to feel.
- The Sims 3: Sims interacting with a heavily pregnant Sim can ask to feel their tummy.
- The Cyanide & Happiness Show: "Pharmacy" turns this into a grotesque parody of Fighting Games. Two pregnant women, irritated over waiting at the pharmacy, attack one another by aggressively bashing their bellies together while the babies strike and jab from inside. The "losing" baby is "knocked-out" — of its mother's womb.
- It's Pregnancy!: Joyce is eager to feel her baby for the first time. When it wakes her in the middle of the night, it feels like a prank.
Joyce: C'mon, you're at twenty weeks! When am I gonna get to start feeling you kicking me? [later, in the dark] Oh I see. 3 AM. Well-played.
- Later, she spends one strip silently watching bulges protrude from her belly and shift across it as the baby moves. She seems fascinated at first, but finally grimaces.
- Joyce and Walky are competing at a video game, and he is winning. With the controller resting on her middle, she blames the baby and disqualifies his victory.
Walky: Fine, fine. Whatever.
Joyce: Baby kicked the controller again. Doesn't count.
Walky: OH COME ON!
- Lunarbaboon: The man puts his cheek on his wife's belly and feels a strong kick. He declares that whatever their child decides to do, he will be proud. Abruptly a newspaper headline appears: "Man Arrested for Kicking 18 People in the Face." The aged parents read it in dismay.
- Puck: Puck, ancient fairy of lore, bonds with her unborn child. She invites Phoebe to feel it, but Phoebe declines. Puck tries to celebrate how wonderful the sensation is, but her praise is quickly derailed.
Puck: But we're talking the magic of new life here! Ouch! Hey, what the hell's going on in there? Don't kick me there! Hey, stop it, you little twerp! NO, not the ovaries!
Phoebe: If we're talking magic, I call that bad juju.
Puck: I'm getting squared in the lady-balls!!!
- Family Guy: In "Lethal Weapons", Bonnie feels her baby kicking and invites Peter to feel it. Because she had been taking taijutsu lessons, the unborn child gives Peter one hell of a kick to the face.
Peter: Oh, you are freakin' dead, kid!
- Futurama: In "The Route of All Evil", Bender decides to try brewing beer at home, with Fry and Leela using his metal body as a fermenting tank. He treats himself as if he's pregnant, with all of them acting like the fermentation is an analogue to a baby kicking.
Bender: [burps] Oh my god! I just felt it ferment!
Leela: Ooh! Let me feel! [Fry and Leela gather around, with Fry putting his hand on Bender's belly, and Leela her ear.]
- Gargoyles: In "Walkabout" Fox suddenly gasps and holds her belly in pain. Her mother asks what's wrong and Fox replies, "Your grandson just kicked me."
- In the Kim Possible movie A Sitch in Time, on her first day of preschool, four-year-old Kim is excited to put her ear to her mother's pregnant belly and feel "my baby sister kick!" Her mother reminds her that the baby could be a boy, and her father jokes that it might be two. (It is, of course, both of these things; Anne is pregnant with Kim's younger twin brothers Tim and Jim.)
- King of the Hill: In "As Old As The Hills," Peggy gives a speech about her and Hank's marriage for their 20th anniversary. She is repeatedly interrupted by Cotton's wife Didi's gasping while her baby (later named Good Hank) is kicking. Cotton later invites everyone to feel the baby kicking, while also claiming that when his first wife Tilly was pregnant with Hank, he never once felt him moving in her womb.
- Total DramaRama: In "Baby Brother Blues," Beth is about to have a baby brother and dealing with Infant Sibling Jealousy. Meanwhile, Beth's mother talks to Owen and Noah (disguised in a Totem Pole Trench) about the pregnancy. She goes into labor and gives birth by the end of the episode.
Beth's Mom: Yep. [hands on belly] It's like a one-kid soccer team in here. Look!
[With the sound of a kick and a referee's whistle, a footprint protrudes from her belly. Owen is startled.]
- Leonardo DiCaprio is named such because his mother was in front of a Leonardo da Vinci painting the first time she felt him kick.
- The historical term for this is Quickening and was often used as the sign of confirmation that a woman was pregnant.