What exactly we are doing here? Sitting stoically, I appear statue-like. My fingers interlock, feigning a tranquility that eludes me. My previous self would have never imagined future Laura in this place, this personal purgatory. A pretty, young, browned hair woman calls my name. There is an air of calm and peace surrounding her. There is comfort in the way she talks to us, as if this were just a casual meeting. I wonder if there is a special training for that, or if that is just in her nature. On our march down the hall, we are passing the point of no return. Sweaty hands, knotted stomach, shallow breaths accompany me as I muster up all my strength to stay the course. Turning and running is not out of my realm of thoughts.
The technician leads us to the ultrasound room, “Lie down here, Laura.” Any remnant thoughts of still being a “normal” pregnant woman are quickly abolished in this large, chair-filled, machine-filled space. Monitors hang everywhere, taunting from all directions. It’s almost like a sports bar. Almost. No drinks, no food, no fun. The menacing machines are large beasts, covered in buttons, knobs, switches. More buttons, more answers.
I envy how Jason is allowed to simply sit there, with no probes on or in his body, and watch our baby effortlessly. On the contrary, I don’t envy his obligation to watch everything. He sees every flaw the technician finds with baby. He sees the how arduous these exams are on me. He has no recourse, no action to take this all away. I, on the other hand, feel like a specimen. No reward for my efforts; I don’t even get a clear view of the main attraction. Once again, I find myself straining my neck to get a glimpse. My neck begs for a break, painful straining getting the better of me. I allow myself to rest my neck every couple of minutes. Lying there, in the all-too-familiar glow of the monitors, I feel alone with my thoughts. Dead air.
Despite her calm, sweet presence, the technician does not mince words, “I’m taking a lot of measurements that the doctor will want to see. This may take a while. Don’t be alarmed if I’m not saying much while I do this. If you need a break at any point, just let me know. I realize lying on your back for too long can get very uncomfortable.” Immediately, I resolve to lie there for as long as I can take it, with as few breaks as possible. Anything that will hold up this process is enormously unwelcome. Escape from this hellish, white cube is goal number one.
From within the shadows, I hear a soft narration.
“I’m measuring the head now.”
“Here are the limbs.”
“I’ll be measuring those next.”
“Now, I’m going to use color to show the heartbeat and blood flow from the umbilical cord.”
The tiny black and white heart now flutters in bright colors, reviving the notion that there is still life. An addition 20 minutes slink by. Measuring and typing. Measuring and typing.
“She must be sleeping,” the technician finally says. “She sure hasn’t moved much. I need her to roll over.” She pushes lightly on my stomach, in hopes of making our little peanut roll around. We watch the screen intently as she’s doing this, but there is only slight movement.
“She is stubborn!” cheerfully states the technician. At the 45 minute mark, I finally find the fortitude to stop her.
“Absolutely! It’s a good time for a break anyway. Maybe you moving will get baby to roll around a bit.” Heaving myself off the table, I feel stiff and sore. Forty-five minutes of lying still on my back has aged me 30 years. I saunter down the hallway, disoriented, looking for the bathroom. A nurse notices me looking confused, and is kind enough to point me in the right direction.
Upon returning, I begrudgingly endure another five minutes of the table, the wand, the monitors, the dark.
“I think I have all I can get, so I’ll be back in a few minutes with the doctor. You guys can wait here.” Welcome words, spritely stated. My spirits are buoyant, briefly. This was no more than a mistake.
“Ok, great,” I reply. “Thanks.” What am I thanking her for? Maybe for being so kind to us, or maybe for being an integral part in finding out what is wrong with our baby. I wish we could be done. I wish we could get up and leave with her. We wait a few familiar, quiet minutes. Our breathing, the crinkling of the paper cover, and the soft drone of machines fill the air. I am grateful at this moment that we are comfortable enough with each other to sit in silence. I don’t feel much like talking.