Thursday, 3 May 2012

Through a Scanner, maybe?

It was sunny when we went for our first sonogram, a nice day in May, and I was incredibly nervous.  I was sure that everything was going to be all right but a very small part of me wouldn’t stop whispering ‘what if there was nothing there?’  But at least the sun was shining.  It was to be our first time inside the maternity wing of the hospital as well, which also filled me with dread.  One day in about 6 months we would be coming back here and I would need to know my way around.  Spatial awareness isn’t exactly my strong suit so I needed to pay especially close attention to where I was going, except I kept getting distracted.  I noticed the colour of the chairs in the cafe just inside the door, blue, the paintings which were on the wall, abstract and geometric, not my cup of tea but probably meant to be soothing, but not which way we had gone once we got inside, was it left or right at the end of the corridor?  Two double doors or just the one?  My face began to settle into its familiar bemused expression as we went and sat in a room that I couldn’t have found my way to again had my life depended on it.  I began to wish I had adopted the navigational approach pioneered by Theseus and then plagiarised less successfully by Hansel and Gretel.  Where was a ball of string when you needed one?

The waiting room itself was nice, if you like the sort of interior design which film makers have imagined characterises East Germany circa 1980.  We were surrounded by warning notices and propaganda designed to promote the virtues of breastfeeding but which instead came across as being threatening, you imagined that if you gave the wrong answer to the question, ‘how do you plan to feed your baby?’ a door would slowly creak open to reveal an 8 foot midwife cracking her knuckles whilst your midwife would innocently smile and sweetly repeat the question.  Resistance is futile. 

Finally, although the wait may only have been 5 minutes, we were called along another corridor and into another dark room. I thought they must be doing this on purpose, perhaps the designer had some vendetta against expecting couples with impaired senses of direction1.  Anyway, here we were, in the room, with the sonogram, which looked disturbingly like an arcade game. I half expected to see a little rocket defending my child from invading alien craft, but sadly nothing like that materialised. At least then I might have known what it was I was supposed to be looking at, because without the little rocket I could barely tell which way was up.  Really.  The nurse had run through her preliminaries and applied the strange blue gel, like toothpaste for your tummy, and was running the device over where the baby should have been when she turned and, having seen the look on my face, smiled reassuringly and started to point out which part of our baby was where, except they really weren’t.  You’ve probably all experienced the slight dislocation when you look at a map and can’t tell which side of the coast is land and which side is sea.  Well in this case I couldn’t have told you which part was earth and which was outer space let alone where the coastline was.  It was almost a relief when the nurse took the device off my wife’s stomach and I didn’t have to look anymore.  But it wasn’t over, more gel was applied and up came the image again, although image is too strong a word, like calling the white noise you get when a television isn’t tuned in, a design.

Eventually, after trying to explain things to me the nurse took pity and took some stills which she then proceeded to label up with various body parts. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she may as well have labelled up the other side of the picture, but I was happy to take her word for it that the line which seemed to be coming out of the back of a turtle was in fact my child’s arm.  We purchased our photo and took it home to show to admiring grandparents and friends, all the while pretending that the things I was pointing out, with the aid of the labels, were as obvious to me as they were to everyone else.  This became a major worry for me as, here I was, with the first view of my unborn child, and I just couldn’t decipher it at all.  If you had plonked me in the middle of a French field (where the sun always shines) and placed this photo in my hand I would have told you with very little hesitation that it depicted the surface of Ganymede, Jupiter’s 7th moon, thus displaying the fact that my knowledge of the order of the moons of Jupiter far exceeds my knowledge of my own child, or indeed human anatomy.   Nevertheless I played my part as a proud father inwardly panicking that if I couldn’t understand the picture how was I ever going to cope with the actual 3D person.

1 My wife would like me to inform you that her sense of direction is perfectly functioning and was equal to this simple challenge.

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