One skill I’ve picked up since becoming pregnant is sonogram analysis.
Previously, when I’d see a sonogram pop up on social media, I felt like I was looking down into a bowl of miso soup. What was it that I was looking at, exactly? A face? A foot? No matter how hard I squinted, all uterine residents looked like stray pieces of kelp.
Parents-to-be seemed fixated on these blurry images, but I just didn’t get it. The photographs looked so cold, so clinical to me. Yet they popped up all over social media like dandelions sprouting up on a lawn. I had no idea what the proper response was when a sonogram popped up on my feed. A dull, “Congratulations!” seemed to be the only appropriate option.
When I found myself in the exam room, my belly slathered with jelly and filled with 18 weeks’ worth of baby, I was determined to understand what I was seeing. The sonographer was professional but quiet. I watched her for clues as she moved the wand and examined the screen for evidence of two arms, two legs, and a head —you know, the standard pieces you get when you place an order with the stork — but all I saw was that same old kelp. My eyes jumped from the screen to the sonographer, and back again. I waited for her to give away what she was seeing. She had a great poker face.
“I think you’re gonna have a boy,” she finally said. My husband Alan and I exchanged smiles across the dark room.
“Would you say you’re sure?” I asked. “Like, 95 percent sure?”
“I wouldn’t quite say that,” she said. “But that’s my best guess.”
Then she fell silent again, clicking away at the screen. A minute passed, then five. Despite the fact that I didn’t know what I was seeing, I couldn’t look away. My heart was pounding.
“Let’s get a head shot of him,” the sonographer said, breaking the silence.She zoomed in to show me a close-up of my son’s face. I still couldn’t make out exactly what I was looking at—until the baby opened his mouth and yawned. Then, it was like solving one of those Magic Eye puzzles—the image suddenly snapped into focus. There he was. My little guy.
The sonographer printed out three still images from the session and gave them to us to take home. At first, I was disappointed that I didn’t have 3-D images like some of my friends have of their children. But how ridiculous is that? I have three pictures of my pre-born child—and he actually looks like a child in them, once one takes the time to really look. Can we take a minute to appreciate how amazing that is? The sonogram of pre-born me, taken in 1983, was about as medically useful as a photo of a tray full of hot dogs. If it weren’t labeled, there would be no way to tell that I was a baby and not, say, a black-and-white rendition of a Jackson Pollock painting. But despite the primitive quality of the image, my mother has kept it around for more than 30 years.
I finally understand the fixation on these little snapshots of life before life. They are a little sneak peek into a world we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. They are a way to visit with our kids before we can even hold them.
There are sure to be a lot of portraits and snapshots in this child’s future. But I think his first photos will always be my favorites.
Kelly Gallagher is a first-time expectant mother from Scotia. She’s excited to share her new adventures with readers.