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Baby Scan Is An Examination Of A Parent's Stress Levels

20/10/2016 15:58
Monkey Business Images via Getty Images

Something happened this week that has made my impending fatherhood seem a little more real.

I know that's an odd thing to say in the 12th week of my wife's pregnancy but up until now it has all felt a bit unquantifiable as the dad-to-be.

My wife has been suffering quite a bit with morning sickness this past week, she can feel her body changing ever so slightly and a bizarre line has appeared on her stomach. She visits the toilet twice as much as she used to, belches (loudly) after nearly every bite to eat and has developed an incredible sense of smell that warns us if the toast is burning 90 seconds before our smoke alarm.

Surreal as some of these developments are, none of them are wholly unwelcome - even the sickness - as they're all things that make her feel like she's going to be a mum.

For my part, I've shaken a few more hands than I normally would and got used to being given the third degree by my wife at meal times over whether the meat has been properly cooked or I've thoroughly washed the salad.

There's been some talk about decorating a bedroom and fixing a faulty radiator before baby arrives but that still feels a long way off. None of it is life-transforming stuff.

But this week there was something tangible.

I saw my baby. I heard its heartbeat. And someone called me "dad" for the first time. A barely discernible "dad" through a thick Spanish accent but I'll take it.

When I told people with children we were going to have our 12-week scan they reacted as if this was a joyous occasion but, as we're finding out with a lot of this pregnancy stuff, there's a selective memory in operation here that ignores the fact that you're walking into the most stressful hour of your life.

Basically, your baby is undergoing a comprehensive medical examination and any one of a number of things could be wrong with it.

You're on such tenterhooks that anything that is not altogether positive is seized on as a life-threatening problem with your baby.

I felt the blood drain from my face when the sonographer performing the scan made a noise that suggested all was not well.

Indeed there was a problem - the mouse to her computer wasn't moving across the screen because it wasn't fully plugged in - but the cursor arrow was moving up and down long before my heartbeat had returned to normal I can tell you.

It was in this heightened state of trepidation that we were led by a woman into one of consultation rooms.

It was rather stupid of me to be apprehensive at this stage because we hadn't even had the scan yet. We were just being taken into a room for a bit of privacy to answer some personal questions.

The lovely medical practitioner asking the questions was of Latin extraction which, as someone who voted for the cost of Marmite and Pot Noodles to stay the same in the Brexit vote, I've no problem with at all. However, I did have a problem understanding all the questions she asked as she had seemingly picked up English by watching Manuel off of Fawlty Towers.

"Does you or anyone in your family have problems with the Elf?"

"No, we love Christmas and Will Ferrell is one of my favourite actors," I replied.

"You no understand. Elf problems."

"Do you mean the ones from Lord of the Rings?"

"No. The high blood? Heart disease? Die beat this?"

I typed Die Beat This into Google as soon as I away from the hospital, hoping to plug the gap in my knowledge of the hip hop scene.

It responded "Did you mean diabetes?" It's clearly a more common problem than I thought.
Toning down our respective accents so that we were all on the same frequency, we completed the questionnaire on our medical history and then it was time for the scan.

While this can be a nerve-shredding moment for the parents there was clearly a party going on in my wife's womb.

I don't know why, but I hadn't expected to see "it" move. I thought we would just see it lying there looking like a piece of fruit, because that's all anyone ever measures its size by (this week, it's the size of an avocado).

But its hands and legs were pumping up and down like she was listening to the latest album from Die Beat This.

It then turned its body to face the ultrasound so that the sonographer couldn't get a measurement of the spine. She moved the transducer to the other side to get the view she wanted and "Junior" turned with it, foiling her again. Sensing her frustration I had this weird, never-before-felt sensation of being embarrassed by my child's behaviour. Sitting there, transfixed by the screen I nearly told it to "Sit still."

But seeing my baby move, even if was to someone else's annoyance, was incredible.
"You see baby art?" said Dr Manuel, pointing at the screen to a beating white splodge in the centre of my baby's chest.

On this occasion there was no need for translation. It really was a beautiful picture.
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