A dissection of the anatomy scan.

After watching other people’s pregnancy announcements appear on Facebook for the last several months—with due dates further and further after ours— Sea and I counted down from three and posted our own.  I changed my cover image to three pairs of shoes and updated my status.  Sea posted a picture from Friday’s ultrasound.

Friday was the big 20 week anatomy scan: the first ultrasound we had had in seven weeks, and possibly the last one of the pregnancy.  Sea and I had both booked the afternoon off, and it felt strangely like being on vacation.  It was sunny and warm.  We went to one of our favourite restaurants for lunch.  We visited the library.  I drank my body weight in water, as required by the ultrasound clinic.  And then wandered into a small, beige office to see Bingo.

The waiting room was tiny: there were only about ten chairs, crowded around a glassed in front desk.  As I moved to sign in, explaining the purpose of our visit, the bored looking woman sitting behind the glass pushed a form through an open partition.  Gesturing towards Sea, she directed, “She’ll have to sign in”.  I had been read as the supportive (male) partner, while Sea had been read as the one with the occupied uterus.  In most cases I wouldn’t take the time to correct a stranger’s assumptions, but I knew they would find little other than lunch in an ultrasound of Sea’s torso.  So I stood at the desk, clipboard still in hand, and filled out the form myself.  Realizing her mistake, the receptionist smiled uncomfortably and asked how far along I was.

I barely had time to exit this awkward conversation and take a sip of holy water before my name was called.  As Sea stood up behind me, we were simultaneously interrupted by the receptionist and the ultrasound technician, insisting that Sea couldn’t go in with me—that family members had to wait until after the initial measurements had been taken.  They pointed to a sign posted on the glass of the front desk, echoing this inexplicable rule.  Faced with the stern faces of both staff, and the sign’s bold font, I helplessly followed the ultrasound technician down the hallway leaving Sea to wait in the small beige room.

The room was small and dully lit: a far cry from the glass cabinets and soothing blue paint of the rooms where Clinic One’s ultrasounds take place.  I pulled my pants low around my waist, lay back on the crinkling paper, and stared up at the ugly drop ceiling.  The dimmed potlight above me and soothing orchestral music in the background provided visceral reminders of that first ultrasound: the one that had happened eleven months prior, to the day.  It was hard to remember that anything had changed, until the technician asked how pregnant I was.  Sea keeps a closer count than I do, and I often forget the exact number of weeks and days.  But I had looked at one of my phone’s apps earlier in the day, and could respond without stumbling: 19 weeks and 4 days.  She looked at me sceptically: “Can you tell me either the date of your last period, or your due date?”  Sighing, I responded with the due date.  She entered it into the ultrasound machine, letting the computer do the math.  “You’re 19 weeks and 4 days.”  “Yes, I know.”

She squirted ultrasound gel across my belly, with brief warning that it would be cold.   Then she got to work on whatever measurements an anatomy scan entails.  I’m not sure what these measurements are, as the screen was angled mostly away from me.  This ultrasound was clearly not for show and tell.  I saw her drawing circles around shadows at one point, as if diligently working on a project in Microsoft Paint; at another point I saw the word “femur” at the bottom of the screen; a third stolen glimpse revealed what may have been Bingo’s feet kicking at my uterus.  I craned my neck as she measured the heartbeat: a very average 144 beats per minute.  But mostly I was focused on the fact that technician seemed intent on getting the wand as far into my bellybutton as possible, and that Sea wasn’t there holding my hand as she had been for all of the other scans.  I didn’t want to look, really, because Sea wasn’t there to see it with me.  So instead I looked at the medical posters attached to the wall on the other side of my head—reviewing a diagram of the muscoskelatal system to the beeps of the ultrasound machine beside me.  The scan lasted several orchestral pieces, and the ultrasound technician replenished the gel on my belly three times.  “Almost done,” she eventually announced: “your baby is difficult”.  Then the beeps stopped and the wand was removed from my belly button.  With the measurements presumably complete, she left me pants-down and covered in goop as she went to get Sea.

This was finally it!  The part of the ultrasound that we would get to experience together: the magic of seeing a larger Bingo on the screen.  Granted, Sea was left standing by my feet, but we were both there.  The ultrasound technician resumed post by my belly, and started moving the wand around.  Where the earlier scan had likely been filled with careful measurements, this was a cursory glance at the small creature inhabiting my uterus.  “Here’s the heartbeat, here’s the stomach, this is the profile, here’s the bladder”.  Then, without pausing for a breath, “it looks like it’s a ____.  You can tell because you can/can’t see the penis.* Oh look, here’s its hand by its face”.  That was it: a minute at most, the reveal of our future child’s sex crammed in between mention of a bladder and a hand.  I was taken aback.  I looked down towards Sea, who looked equally thrown.  I’m not sure how I had imagined this ultrasound, but I had certainly expected a little more pomp.  Still, Bingo appeared to have a bladder, a hand, and a sex.

In the weeks prior to the ultrasound, since shortly after conception, Sea and I had been betting on Bingo’s sex.  Sea had chosen one, I had chosen the other (both acknowledging the approximately 2% chance that the outcome would be neither/other).  There was no rhyme or reason behind either of our choices, but once made we stuck to them.  This meant that there was a brief moment of gloating after the reveal.  Perhaps, even, an audible “Ha!”  But mostly there was a sense of bewilderment as the ultrasound technician wrapped up and handed Sea three slightly blurry profile shots and I used paper towel to wipe off layers of rapidly drying ultrasound gel from my stomach.  That was it.

Sea and I were both disappointed as we left the clinic, Sea more than I.  I had at least been present for the entire scan, as underwhelming an experience as it was.  But neither of us had experienced the magical bonding time we had imagined and that movies had led us to believe the 20 week ultrasound entailed (darn you, Juno).  Instead we had been left with a 60 second glance at Bingo, one stomach sticky with ultrasound gel, and three slightly blurry profile shots.  We consoled ourselves by walking in the sun and buying a second hand onesie and hat from a consignment store we passed.  But the main consolation was, and remains, the fact that Bingo appears to be healthy.  And in four and a half months we will be able to look at Bingo without a bored technician as a go-between.

Consolation also came from the responses to the Facebook announcements we posted a few short hours later.  Within 48 hours, Sea and I had more than 200 likes and comments between us.

Prior to our Facebook announcement, I had planned to make a pie chart of the responses to share here.  Based on our family members’ reactions, I had imagined that the chart would look something like this:


But instead, the chart looks like this:


All but two responses (both asking Bingo’s sex), were simple messages of support and congratulations**.  Another important reminder that Bingo will be here– welcomed and loved– so very soon.

Total Ultrasound Count: 34

*We had chosen in advance to find out the sex, a fact that was noted on our intake form.  We’re choosing, equally intentionally, not to share this information with even our nearest and dearest.  I’ll write a separate post about this at some point.

**A third category of responses came from one of our neighbours, who had found out about Bingo through Sea’s Facebook post.  I ran into her as I arrived home yesterday, and she congratulated me and told me that she was glad that living next door to her own children hadn’t discouraged us from ever wanting to reproduce.  I assured her that her children were lovely, but as she opened the back seat of her car to reveal the wide-eyed children strapped into car seats, she cheerily contradicted me, explaining that they were little terrors who she quite often wanted to sell.  As I backed slowly towards our front door, she shouted after me that I could borrow them for some practice any time.

(In unrelated news, today was the first day that I wore maternity pants.  I may never take them off.)

5 thoughts on “A dissection of the anatomy scan.

  1. Sucky ultrasound experience! Didn’t realize I had it so good with mine. They have a massive plasma screen set up for mother to be and up to for spectators. Then give you a dvd and millions of pictures after. I’ll take their bitchy receptionists for that experience!

  2. I can’t believe they didn’t allow Sea to go in with you at the beginning! How disappointing. I guess on the bright side, you know you have a healthy little Bingo in there! 🙂

  3. I felt the same way about our ultrasound (which we had last thursday, we were 19weeks 3 days I believe so quite close to you!). Andrea was in there for like 45 minutes, and then I got to go in for like 5. It felt rushed, but I tried to take the whole thing in, knowing this was the first and last time I would get to see my Ziggy.

    I am sorry for the receptionists attitude and mistake. That must have taken you aback quite a bit!

  4. Wow, that sucks! K was with me every ultrasound. She even made the tech recheck cause she just couldn’t believe she was being told it was a girl. LOL. I’m so sorry your ultrasound wasn’t what either of you expected and I don’t blame you for being disappointed. Boo! Glad the Bingo is healthy though! Can’t wait til Bingo has arrived!

  5. I’m sorry your experience was… lacking. Between PB and I, we’ve had anatomy scans in two different areas of our hospital (regular imaging department for her, and maternal/fetal medicine for me, thanks to the cervical polyp), and neither was anything like that. They have TVs set up in the room, for one thing, hung so that everyone can see what’s going on. We’ve been together for every ultrasound, and no one has ever even suggested anything otherwise. And while we didn’t find out the sex this time around, when we did with Critter, it was at least presented as a bit more of a moment.

    Still, I’m glad Bingo is looking good.

    I have to say, I was expecting more in the way of “Boy or girl?” questions on Facebook, especially once I mentioned having had the anatomy scan. So far, I’ve not had any, although I’ve had a fair number of people ask in person.

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