At my last appointment, my midwife asked if I wanted to have a routine ultrasound at 20 weeks. We'd talked about this before, and she knew I was thinking about doing it.
With my second pregnancy, I had started reading about ultrasound before the miscarriage, and I was considering opting out of the chance to have one. I learned that ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends against offering a routine ultrasound for a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. I also discovered that there is much we still don't know about ultrasound. I compared the benefits to the risks, and had just about decided the risks weren't worth it to me.
But after having the miscarriage, I really wanted to take a peek at my little one inside me, and have an expert look and pronounce things "normal." I am 37, and although the risks of some birth defects are higher because of my age, we decided to refuse the Quad-Screen test and the amniocentesis. Having an ultrasound seemed like a less risky way to rule out some of the biggest problems. And, I think most important to me, my last ultrasound experience was the one that told me I was miscarrying, and I was still reeling from that awful memory. I wanted to replace it with a positive one.
So, I talked to my midwife, and I decided to go for it. She gave me the order form and told me to call the hospital to schedule the ultrasound. I joked with Pete that she gave me the order as if she was just signing me up to get a photo of Penguin. "Okay, you and everybody else want this thing. Not necessary, but here you go." No, she didn't say that, but I never felt like she thought I needed to have one, although she understood my need for reassurance. I liked that she was calm about it and didn't seem to have any concerns about what we might discover through this test.
I made the appointment for a Friday evening at 5:00, so that Pete could leave work early and come with Charon and me. They had told me to bring my order form, and to start drinking lots of water an hour before the appointment so that my bladder would be full. That afternoon, I explained to Charon what we would be doing while I gulped down a bottle of water. I got her ready to go, and packed up a bag for myself with another bottle of water and an extra pair of underwear just in case I peed while on the examining table. (I'd complained to my sister earlier that I didn't have to do the water thing with Charon's ultrasound. I have to pee so often now, and I was pretty worried about drinking lots of water and not being able to go whenever I felt the need!) Pete got home, and we took off together for the hospital.
This was the same location where I'd had my previous bad-news ultrasound, and when I stepped inside, I got quite nervous. I went to the desk to sign in, and realized I'd forgotten to bring my order form. "Oh, that's fine," the woman at the desk reassured me. "I'm sure they sent over a copy." She looked in my file, and then looked a little concerned. "Hmm, it doesn't look like it's here. Well, we can just call over to their office or something. Go ahead and have a seat."
As we waited, I spotted the doctor who had given me the news of my miscarriage the last time. He walked down the hall into a room, and I hoped no one else was presently going through what I had. I refocused. I tried to think positive thoughts. I chugged down another bottle of water.
At 5:00, an ultrasound technician came over to us. "You forgot your order form?" she asked. And then, "We'll call over to your clinic and have them fax us a copy." "I don't think they're open right now," I told her, "but go ahead and try. Maybe someone is still there." Five minutes later, she came back to ask us how far away we lived from the hospital.
Pete and Charon decided to jump back in the car and go get the form. I carefully explained to Pete where I knew I put it. After they left, I stopped drinking water and looked for some magazines to read that would help me forget that I really needed to pee.
Around 5:45, they came back to find me with me with my legs crossed about five times and me doubled over practically cradling my bladder in my hands. "Do you have it?" I asked. "I was worried because I forgot to give you our ticket for the parking ramp." Pete looked at me sheepishly. "I talked my way through that parking ramp ticket thing okay. But guess what? I gave my house key to our contractor. He has it so that he can get in when we're not home, remember? I didn't even realize it until I pulled up to the house," he groaned.
I ran up to the desk and explained to the young man there (the woman must have finished her shift) that we couldn't get the form and that I desperately needed to pee. He looked at me sympatheticly and told me he'd get a technician right away to see what I should do. Three minutes later, I was about to explode, and a new technician came out to tell us that they couldn't do the ultrasound without the form. At that point, I didn't care. "Where's the bathroom?" I blurted. We scheduled a new appointment for Monday at 5:00.
On the way home, I vented to Pete since I couldn't bring myself to vent to all of the people there. "Do they really expect pregnant women, who are focused on drinking their water and not peeing their pants, to remember to bring their order form?" I ranted. "Maybe we just shouldn't have the ultrasound," he responded. "What??? Not have the ultrasound? Don't you think we should have talked about this before if you felt that way?" He'd been trying to make me feel better, and immediately knew he'd said the wrong thing. He stayed quiet and let me rant for the rest of the drive home. I think I was laughing by the time we pulled up to the door, picturing poor Pete and Charon arriving just a half-hour ago and discovering they couldn't get in. What craziness.
On Monday morning, I called the clinic and explained the ultrasound order form fiasco. "It's in my purse right now, so I won't forget it tonight, but I'd love it if you'd fax it over there this morning, just to have the back-up, just in case." "Of course! It's strange that they didn't fax it over right away. I've got you covered."
Walking into the hospital this time, I had some new crazy memories to keep my mind busy. I cautiously sipped my water. I warily handed my form to the new receptionist. I eyed the clock, waiting for someone to tell us what to expect next.
When our technician came over to bring us in, she turned out to be the same one as before, and she recognized us. "Did you bring your form this time?" "Yes! And I had the clinic fax over a copy, so we should be doubly set." I was ready to see my baby.
When she first got a picture of Penguin, all I could see of the baby was its head and body, and I started to panic. Where are its arms and legs?, I thought. The technician didn't seem worried, and chatted away with us: "Look, there's your baby's head!" But my mind started creating scenarios: I am carrying a sadly deformed fetus. I did once before, and it's happening again, only this time it's continuing to grow. We are going to have a very special child to care for. I looked at Charon and decided she'd be a wonderful big sister to a baby with special needs. I looked at Pete and determined we could do this. We'd have to.
Then she finally moved the wand again, and I saw the flicker of a foot. "Was that a foot?" I asked. "Yes, there are the two feet." Gorgeous. Then, strong beautiful legs. Later, sweet arms and hands. "Look, your baby's yawning." I watched that little mouth go. My baby. Amazing.
Everything is going to be okay.