30 April 2008

The first big hello

The blur was hard to make out. It looked like a kidney bean with a big dot on one end of it – the right eye of my unborn child.
Karla and I had our first ultrasound today, and she is nearly seven weeks into her pregnancy. At the doctor’s office, we were ushered into a dimly lit beige room that seemed to be intentionally over-soothing. I admit, I got off easy on this visit: I wasn’t the one with my pants off getting probed in a very private place with the technological descendant of the sonar seen in every cheesy World War II movie that resides in my brain. No, I was sitting comfortably in a well-stuffed chair reading an issue of Men’s Health. A flat screen monitor on the counter in front of me splayed out a dazzling array of electronic lines that were hard to read. Then, a black comma shape popped out of the monochrome confusion. It was the nutrient sack for a developing fetus.
It was a strange feeling to be watching a real-time television broadcast from the womb. I thought back to what it must have been like years ago, when a parent’s first glimpse of a baby came after it wiggled its way down the chute. I liked this private showing. My wife and I squeezed hands as the woman operating the machine typed the word “baby” near a grey mass. This shows you how small it is now. It reminded me of the type of thing I’d see on documentaries about shipwrecks, where the side-scan sonar picks out a lump out of the mud and somehow researchers are able to determine that it’s the Titanic. Our lump wasn’t a shipwreck, but it had the whole “precious cargo” theme in common with one.
The nurse changed tactics at this point, picking up a foot long grey scanner that looked like a wand massager I’d see sitting at a Brookstone store.
“Don’t worry,” she cheerfully said. “Only the first two inches go in.”
Somehow, this was less than comforting to my wife.
A brownish, sepia-toned picture replaced the gray of the ultrasound, which was more 3D than the other image. In the course of being probed (a polite way to put it), the nurse managed to pick out a lump in the chaos that I realized was our unborn child. I realized it was our child when I saw the familiar shape of a big head with a dot in the middle of it. It was an eye. At that moment, we bonded. I felt as though I was reaching out through the ether, through the electronic wire, and connecting with the small life form growing by the day in my wife’s belly. It’s not big, coming in at 3.5 centimeters, but it’s getting bigger as time goes on. I found myself wondering how many times I would catch that eye during the course of the next part of our lives. I wondered how many times I would see it cry; I wondered how many times I would see it narrow in anger. I wondered how many times I would be able to see the sparkle of wonder that can make children the joy they are. I wondered what color the eyes were.
Soon enough, the probing was over, and we were given two printouts of the baby. It’s strange to call it that now. Having seen it, I can find nothing else suitable to call it. Although I greatly overestimate its development and ability, I do not underestimate its importance, or the impact it’s going to have on both of our lives.
We went out to lunch together, and held hands while waiting in line at our local Panera. For now, our secret is tiny, growing by the day and completely exhausting my wife. But soon, the whole world will find out and share in the joy we’ve so far kept under wraps. Soon – as in our Dec. 18 due date. It is during times like this that the scales and shackles of the world fall away in the glorious realization of what’s truly important in life. It’s about love – and what that love is capable of creating. Personally, I can’t wait.

No comments: