From what I remember, the rest of the conversation came in whooshing bits and pieces. “We found a small issue”… “Nothing to be alarmed about”…. “Just need to monitor.”
It took a few seconds but when my brain stopped spinning enough to process those pieces it did in fact realize everything was more than likely going to be OK. Just a little hiccup on the last ultrasound, a very common issue called a “placental lake” that rarely, if ever turns out to be a true complication.
“And the good news is, you get to have lots more ultrasounds!” my doctor enthusiastically cheered into the phone.
“Oh, that’s… uh… great,” I lied, through clenched teeth.
Worried that I was still worried, she did her best to continue to reassure me about the growing baby’s health. I finally had to interrupt. “I believe you, Dr.X., really I do. It’s just that….” (deep breath) “You see I don’t really…” (how do I put this so I don’t sound like the worst mom in the world?) “Ummm….” (come on, just spit it out) “I don’t actually enjoy ultrasounds. They really creep me out. The baby looks so waxy and see through and bony and then there are all those TEETH, I mean, who knew that fetuses have teeth? It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Really scary nightmares!!!”
It was like a geyser erupted: I couldn’t stop gushing about my neurotic, Bad Mommy feelings about a diagnostic exam.
And there was silence on the other end of the phone.
I steeled myself for the inevitable, certain she was about to call Protective Services to have my children removed from my custody, or at the very least refer me to a psychiatrist. But instead, she burst out laughing. While this was her first experience with Ultrasoundaphobia, she did seem to understand where I was coming from, and didn’t judge. The same is not true for the rest of the Mommy Universe. I’ve tried explaining myself to my ultrasound-loving friends and I’m either greeted with blank stares or flat out hostility. Moms are a tough crowd.
This is now my third time round the pregnancy carousel and in my experience, ultrasounds are one of those things that moms-to-be are just “supposed” to love. The same way you’re supposed to bring baby home to a fully-decked out nursery (oops) and you’re definitely not supposed to ever have a sip of alcohol while pregnant (oops…hiccup).
I’m not sure when it happened but ultrasounds have become quite the cottage industry. The pictures you get from your appointment now come with instructions about proper care for scrapbooking purposes. I have seen those pictures used as cell phone screen savers, even Facebook profile pics. The test is available in 3 and even 4-D (I have no idea what the fourth “D” even is, but it still scares me). There is a whole chain of “drive-thru,” non-medical ultrasound businesses that have popped up, including one in my town, to offer parents-in-waiting another opportunity to sneek a peak at baby in his/her cocoon, often set to music and available for your purchase. It’s Glamour Shots: Fetal Edition.
With Baby #1, my husband took the morning off work so he could attend the ultrasound with me. The brochure from the office said we could bring up to three additional people with us. I remember thinking that was odd, since I couldn’t think of one, much less three, other people for whom I would raise my shirt and show the outside of my belly, much less the inside. Maybe it was a Mardi Gras special?
After I was appropriately gooped up and the exam was underway, the technician turned to us and excitedly said, “Oh, the baby is staring right at you! Quick- take a look!”
I turned my head toward the screen, naively expecting to see a chubby, cherubic, waving Gerber baby holding a sign that said “Hi, Mom!”
“AHHHHH!” I gasped, a little too loudly. It was Casper the Friendly(?) Ghost in fetal form. Since then I’ve typically gone solo to appointments, and have even endured questioning glances and what feels like scorn from the office staff.
“Are you sure there’s nobody else coming?” one tech asked at my last appointment, as she looked behind me in surprise.
“Oh, I did bring this baby in my belly, is that OK? I couldn’t find a sitter.” I tried to joke. Silence.
Don’t get me wrong, I am nothing but grateful for the advances in modern medicine and imaging that make ultrasounds possible. They are incredibly valuable diagnostic tests that provide a host of critical, often life-saving information on the health of both baby and mother. But so does a colonoscopy, and I don’t happen to get mushy about that either. I believe that if God had intended ultrasound images to be a necessary part of the mother-child bonding process, He would have equipped the uterus with a partial window, much like the one on my oven.
I know many women say the ultrasound makes them feel more connected to the baby or makes the pregnancy finally feel “real,” and again, I’m happy for you if that’s the case. For me, the 9 straight months of nausea, fatigue and banging on my internal organs is about as real as it gets. Believe me when I say that not loving ultrasounds has nothing to do with how I feel about my children. There will be plenty of time for photos once this precious child is on the outside. I don’t need to see an image of developing limbs to look forward to the day I’ll one day hold tiny hands in mine, or play piggies with little toes. For now, I’ll just close my eyes and rely on a combination of good old fashioned imagination and pure love to conjure up images of this growing piece of my heart.
Now that’s my kind of picture.
Mona Shand is a radio and TV news reporter. You can read more on her blog.