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Old Fashioned Wishes in a New School World

When it comes to most things, I like to be ahead of the times. I seek out the newest research and the latest technology. I love being ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion, books, music and toddler must-haves. But every once in a while I surprise myself and wish—sincerely and fervently—that things could revert to the “old school” way, just for a little while.

Today was my 20 week ultrasound, which involved a specialist’s office, a 3D ultrasound machine, and a fancy-sounding series of screenings (guilty admission: I was too overwhelmed by the information packet they handed me at the reception desk to take in what exactly I was having done.) I didn’t have one of these with E—that pregnancy spanned two countries, five cities and five different doctors, so I guess it kind of got lost in the shuffle. This experience was all new to me. 45 minutes in the waiting room, another ten lying half-naked on an exam table, and suddenly I was seeing #2 in eerie sepia tones on a 42 inch LCD screen.

All things considered, I’m very fortunate—that we live in a city that offers this kind of prenatal screening technology, that my OB includes it in normal pregnancy protocol, that my insurance company actually pays for it. But as I lay there, looking dumbfounded as the doctor pointed out the four chambers of the heart, the cerebellum, the tiny ridges of the spinal cord, I couldn’t help but wish for nothing more than a pair of headphones on my belly so I could hear the uncomplicated, unpretentious, reassuring thump of baby heartbeat.

I’m a chronic worrier. I feel the best way to be prepared for life’s uncertainties is to imagine, in excruciating detail, all the things that could possibly go wrong—and then rejoice if they don’t. I walk into every appointment with fingers crossed, praying that #2 is still alive and growing inside. There are invisible lists in the air over my head that detail every possible defect, every crossed chromosome.  So it stands to reason that I would crave these kinds of tests, embrace them for allowing every nook and cranny of my unborn child to be inspected for potential flaws.

Except the test didn’t make me feel safer—it just freaked me out. It seemed like an invasion of #2’s privacy to be poked and nudged through my tummy while some stranger recorded measurements and charted graphs. Every click of the mouse seemed to indicate certain doom: They’ve found something. Something’s too big or too small or missing. His little flailing limbs kept dodging the camera, and once a full-on face shot captured a scowling, open mouthed glare—if he’d had teeth, he’d have been baring them for sure.

The preliminary results were good, and I was sent on my way with some keepsake snapshots and a DVD of the session. (I didn’t even have a wedding video—you can rest assured we will NOT be busting out the ultrasound movie at a family picnic ten years from now. What a bizarre parting gift.) I took a picture of one of the face shots with my phone and emailed it to J. Caption: “Ick. Alien caught on camera. Scary.”

I’d like to go back to the old-fashioned way for a while. Maybe not so much that I’d have to wait to find out #2’s gender (how on earth would I decorate a nursery then?) but enough so that my early encounters with him were largely blindfolded. He’s in there, I’m out here…we’ll meet when the time is right. I like hearing the impersonal, magical thump thump thump of his heart beating alongside mine. I like imagining his little face with flesh and eyelashes and everything. This ghoulish creature with hollowed eye sockets and bony, kicking feet isn’t helping my chronic fear that I’ve been taken over by an alien creature.

Does all this technology make us—and our babies—safer? Or does it make us more neurotic, less faithful in a process no amount of research will allow science to fully understand? I’m still on the fence about whether, in a low-risk pregnancy like mine, this procedure was worthwhile. I guess when we get the full results I’ll have a better understanding of what exactly they were looking for in the first place. Knowledge is always power in my world, and though I’m usually the first in the line for the newest and the greatest, this time I’m just not so sure. 

Did you have an advanced ultrasound screening with your little one? Did it make you feel more comfortable? Was it exciting to see a preview of the little face waiting to see daylight for the first time? And is there anyone else out there like me, who was more freaked out than grateful to catch such a glimpse? 

Visit Jenny's personal blog Karma, Continued.