Mar. 25 - I was almost too excited to sleep last night. We had an ultrasound and OB/GYN visit scheduled for 8:15 this morning, and the DMG and I had both been giddy about it for weeks. At last the Bean would reveal himself as the boy we've always known him to be—or the girl we've secretly suspected she might be.
Our families tried to dampen our expectations—it doesn't really matter as long it's healthy... don't underestimate the value of surprise... you can't always tell unless the baby's lying just so... et cetera. All of it very warm and sincere, but all of it total bullshit. Everyone wants to know. It would be unnatural not to. Platitudes are nice, but they don't offer much balm to an inflamed curiosity.
And so, as I mentioned, I had a hell of a time falling asleep last night. When sleep finally drew near, I happened to be imagining what the ultrasound would be like. I pictured the little room at Hvidovre Hospital where the scan would be performed, pictured the roller moving its way across the DMG's greased-up belly, imagined the weird sepia image dancing on the monitor.
"Ah, yes!" I could hear the technician exclaiming, "Look—it's French!"
The DMG scrutinized the monitor. "Are you sure?" she asked. "We were pretty sure it was Romanian."
I snapped out of the dream—for clearly, I had fallen asleep—and couldn't help giggling at its absurdity. I fell asleep giggling.
* * *
I had brought our video camera along for the visit, hoping to catch the seminal moment on tape. I had no sooner taken the camera out of its bag than the technician said I would not be allowed to take a video recording of the ultrasound. (But they're allowed to keep all the prints they want of a child in the DMG's belly? Where's the justice?)
The technician then explained that she was actually a doctor, but needs to perform ultrasounds now and then to stay in practice. Her session would be unofficial; afterwards, a nurse would come in and do the "official" ultrasound, at which point they could compare notes and see if the doctor was still in good form.
Once again, the DMG and I were both awed by the images flickering on the monitors. We got to see a lot more detail on this visit than we had on previous visits, since there was more detail to see.
The Bean was apparently engaged in some kind of interpretative dance. "Kerri Strug on Amphetamines," it might have been called, or "Jackie Chan Stubs a Toe." He whirled and kicked and punched and raised and lowered his arms and legs, he twisted his torso, he tucked himself in to one little corner of the uterus, then thought better of it and bounced his way across it. He was scarcely ever still, and seemed furious at the ultrasound monitor itself, kicking out at it frequently.
"There is the head," the doctor finally said. "You can see the two sides of the brain. And there is the brain fluid, just as it should be. And here is the face—"
The leering skull grinning out at us made me jump. Previously I've compared the Bean to Simon Bar-Sinister and Sir John Gielgud. The only comparison that leaped to mind today was that annoying skeleton from "Tales from the Crypt."
The doctor "pulled back" a little, and the hideous skull was suddenly (mercifully) cloaked in a gauzy veil of flesh. It looked more like a baby, now, but the terrible face of horror had seared itself irreparably into my mind.
"Here's the neck," the doctor said. "And the spine." We saw what looked like a little zipper running down the side of a big jelly bean.
"And look, here's the heart, you can see it beating, and all four chambers look good." We perused a few other internal organs on our way down—liver, kidneys, bladder—but all I could think was, gonads, gonads, gonads!
"There are the thighs, let me measure those..."
"Can we look between them?"
"I will try."
The image on the monitor flickered, undulated, grew, shrank, and bubbled as the doctor rolled the device around Trine's belly trying to get the money shot.
"I can't see anything," she finally said.
"Does that mean it's a girl?"
"No, it means I just can't get the right angle. It happens."
I knew it happened—it had happened to my own sister, who wasn't entirely sure her second child was a girl until my niece was actually out in the world. I wasn't doubting the theoretical possibility of our not being able to see the Bean's bits: I just wanted to see them, even if we had to scan all day.
"And here's the feet—do you see the toes? And the arms..."
"Can we go back between the legs?"
The doctor gave me a withering glance and the DMG gave my hand a hard squeeze.
"I have already tried. It is early to tell. Usually we wait at least until Week 24."
The doctor left it at that. I was fuming. She went to go get the nurse.
"Now we'll get somewhere," I said while we were alone in the room. "That lousy doctor didn't know what she was doing. She said herself, it was a refresher, that's all. Probably hardly ever looks at an ultrasound. Get the nurse in here, show her the same exact image... no problem. She'll know. I guarantee it."
"Maybe," the DMG said hopefully.
I was going to try asking about the video camera again when the nurse came into the room, but unfortunately the doctor came right along with her.
The nurse got right into it, and went through more or less the same procedure. The same stupid blobby brain hemispheres, the same appalling bony face, the same stupid little undulating raisin, the same little zipper, the same damn legs and arms we've been looking at for weeks and weeks. Yes, yes, a beautiful healthy normal child, of course.
Boy or girl?
She worked the scanner carefully up and down, over and around, this way and that. The Bean was more than noncompliant—he seemed actively hostile to our intentions.
"C'mon, you little twerp," I muttered, "show us the goods."
But he—or she—did not show us the goods. Would not.
Fine. I don't care anyway. So what?
We're not quite halfway through the pregnancy and my child has already managed to completely enrage me—and yet it's five months before I'll even have the opportunity to punish him! Or her.
Goddammit—that's the whole problem! I'm tired of all this him-or-her, he-or-she crap!
It's going to be a long, long summer.
I honestly think I'll enjoy every second of it.
Beautiful little human.
* * *
Anne Brontė was born on March 25, 1820. She and her sisters Charlotte and Emily were avid writers. Women were not supposed to write books at the time because novels were still being written in the formal style, and it was feared that women would corrupt that classic form with their penchant for multiple climaxes. The Brontės therefore wrote under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte got to be Currer, which made the other girls jealous, because Currer was the handsome and swarthy sailor: Ellis was the stuttering librarian, and Acton was the simpleminded shepherd.
Today is the birthday of Sheryl Swoopes (1971), Sarah Jessica Parker (1965), Elton John (1947), Aretha Franklin (1942), Anita Bryant (1940), Gloria Steinem (1934), Flannery O'Connor (1925), Howard Cosell (1920), David Lean (1908), Bela Bartok (1881), Arturo Toscanini (1867), and Anne Brontė (1820).
It's Independence Day in Greece.
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac