First there was a head. Then arms and legs. Feet, too. The ultrasound images look like a Rorschach test when you first look at them. What do you see when you look at this gray blob? But slowly, after twenty or so minutes, you start to see shapes, human ones.
I woke up earlier than usual, though surprisingly it wasn’t anxiety or excitement that prevented me from going back to sleep at 5 in the A.M. More like my body was just done sleeping, might as well start the morning routine. Heat up the water for coffee1 Take our dog Stanley for a walk around the block. Check the news2 and then idly surf the Internet until Kathleen wakes up.
She came down the stairs ready to go to our appointment. “I’m nervous,” she said. “How about you?”
How about me? Even though I’ve wanted to know Creature’s sex since we found out Kathleen was pregnant, even though I’ve been telling myself that this will somehow make fatherhood more concrete, no, I wasn’t particularly anxious. At least, not in a heart-thumping, palm-sweating kind of way I would have expected. Intrigued? Absolutely. This information brings a lot of color to our picture. We can start delving into names. I finally use an actual personal pronoun without feeling weird about it.
We arrived at the clinic before 8 in the A.M. After I finished two of the short stories in the book I’m reading3 we were brought back into the room for the second ultrasound of Kathleen’s pregnancy.
The grey and black and white images splashed on the screen like waves of static white noise on an old television set. In my head, I imagined the technician waving the wand over Kathleen’s stomach and declaring within a minute, “Congratulations, it’s a…” But no. It was a slow, tedious process. The technician took measurements of almost every detail of Creature’s shape. The size of the head and the heart. The length of the legs. Check the blood flow. Check the kidneys. This was not a mere formality; this was a medical test to determine whether we were on track for a healthy new baby4. It was only after about thirty minutes of measurements and beeps and tipee-typing, tipee-typing that we got to the shot that Kathleen and I had been waiting for.
When I saw the picture, even I could tell the baby’s sex5. The shot where you can tell for sure, for those who have never seen it, is from the bottom up. The baby looks almost seated, legs straight out but spread wide enough for you to see. I knew what I saw, but the technician asked again anyway, “Are you sure you want to know?”
“Yes!” Kathleen gripped my hand. My heart rate stayed oddly steady as I heard the confirmation from the technician.
“Congratulations! It’s a girl!”
Kathleen squeezed my hand tighter, a transfer of delight from wife to husband. I reciprocated. This summer, we will have a little girl. And, as I’m writing this, for the first time in 20 weeks, my eyes are welling up with joy6 at the knowledge that I am going to have a daughter.
- One of the Portland cliches I have been unable to avoid since moving to here: I have become somewhat of a coffee snob. I’ll still drink just about any tar in a cup that’s handed to me by somebody, but in my home, exceptional coffee is one of the few extravagances I indulge in.
- Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won their respective New Hampshire primaries; JK Rowling is writing a new Harry Potter book
- The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams
- So far, all systems are go.
- If you don’t want to know your baby’s sex, you should definitely close your eyes here. I was surprised at how clearly I could make the determination, and if a layperson like me can do it, anybody can.
- Just a bit