Ultrasound: No, honest, it’s not just a gray blob

Like most major events in life, having a baby comes with certain rites of passage: taking that first pregnancy test, buying the first baby clothes, the 432nd time you get up in the middle of the night to pee (even more for the mother), and so forth. Then, about halfway through this magical experience comes one of the big ones: the ultrasound.

This is not to suggest that they only do an ultrasound the one time. Erin’s doctor did one early on that he swore proved she was having a baby but that, for all I could tell, maybe just suggested she had swallowed a circus peanut whole. At 22 weeks, though, this was the big one, the one where you can start to make out body parts, organs, gender, and even — because we live in an age where having ice available in July is no longer the world’s greatest miracle — his head.

This is the plan, at least. A lot of it depends on the kid — how he’s positioned, where he’s curled up in his little Uterine Hotel Suite, whether he’s ready for the paparazzi to begin their non-stop assault of photography that will (for a first child) continue until the day when he does something that requires you to call the fire department, at which point, nothing is cute anymore.

Then there’s the other thing, the elephant in the room, the thing no parent-to-be wants to talk about but that all of us can’t help thinking about: what if something is wrong? What if the scan shows that our baby is in trouble, or won’t make it? I’ve had family and friends go through this, I’ve seen what it can to do a person, and after the year we’ve had, it was too terrible to contemplate. I didn’t say any of this out loud, of course. Erin was already nervous about the whole thing, and we have a strict rule about only one of us being allowed to freak out at a time, although frankly, it’s been her turn for a while now and I’m starting to get a little jealous.

Anyway, we got to the doctor’s office and the ultrasound technician slathered Erin’s belly with the blue ultrasound slime that is, of course, standard in these situations. She smeared it a bit, and placed the instrument against my wife’s skin. She began moving it around. And then we looked at the monitor on the wall, and there it was.

A blob.

A gray blob, to be precise. And while it was not substantially any different from a million other blobs I’ve seen in my lifetime, I could tell immediately that this one was cuter.

She moved the device a little, and we started to see the blob from different angles. Shapes appeared, and lighter and darker areas. The technician started to take pictures of the image and stamp labels on them from a drop-down menu, and I turned to my memory of high-school biology to try to fake comprehension of what was on the screen. “AORTA,” one image read, and I nodded and said, “Good, he’ll need one of those.” Another: “FOUR-CHAMBERED HEART,” to which I helpfully told Erin, “That is the recommended number.” I was just desperate to see something recognizable, but we’d already made plans to see Alien: Covenant the following evening, and when the technician pointed out what she claimed was my son’s spine, I couldn’t say for certain that we weren’t just watching a preview of the movie.

Eventually, she hit an angle where things looked a bit more baby-like. We saw his feet, which Erin declared were going to be big like his daddy’s. We saw an angle that confirmed the blood test that identified him as male was, indeed, correct. And then…

Then we had a profile image.

It wasn’t super-clear. It wasn’t like looking at a photograph. It wasn’t like it is in the movies.

But it was real.

20170518_144605We were looking at our son’s face for the first time.

Erin teared up. I squeezed her hand tighter. It was the most incredible moment since that day she first told me she had peed in one of our drinking cups. And then, as we stared at it, something else happened.

You’re going to think I’m crazy.

Then he lifted his arm and waved.

It was like, “Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. See you in September.”

I know what you’re thinking. First-time parents, kid moves his arm, we saw what we wanted to see and it doesn’t actually mean anything. But here’s how I know you’re wrong: this is my kid. And pulling that sort of Michigan J. Frog “You can tell everybody but nobody will believe you” crap is exactly the sort of prank I find hysterical.

Kid has my sense of humor already.

After it was over, the tech printed out some of the images for us, including the profile, and we then waited for the doctor. This was the nerve-wracking part. What if he saw something we didn’t? What if the gray blob was missing an important blotch? What if it had an extra blotch that wasn’t supposed to be there? What if something was wrong with our baby?

Again, I didn’t say these things out loud. Erin’s turn.

But the doctor came in and said the only thing that could have mattered: “Everything looks good. Let’s schedule your next appointment in four weeks.”

And then we took our first baby picture and we went home.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

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