If there's anything Dawn was eager to undergo this far into her pregnancy, it was the first ultrasound--the first step in what I expect will be our child's long and glorious film career. Dawn absolutely could not wait to see our baby's first picture. On the one hand, it would be the first really concrete evidence we had that this was really happening, that we were really going to have a baby. On the other hand, it would also assure her that everything was going smoothly, because, like any mother-to-be, she was worrying needlessly. And also, the ultrasound would tell us if we were having twins or not.
I, like any father-to-be, was rather Devil-may-care about the whole thing. I was and am still confident that everything would and will go quite well and I frankly didn't see what difference this ultrasound would make. I've seen parents-to-be come home with their shiny printouts on flimsy fax paper and show me grey dots amid black smears and claim one of the dots as their children, and frankly, I don't see the point. I had an ultrasound done when my gall bladder defected and began making stones for the enemy, and I haven't been able to tell the difference between those images and anyone else's baby ultrasounds. In fact, it's quite plausible to me that ultrasound machines are actually just videotape players and these technicians just play the same four or five tapes at everyone over and over, circling white dots at random and saying, ``That's your baby,'' or ``That's your kidney,'' or ``These are gallstones, when can we operate?'' as appropriate.
Be that as it may, Dawn at least was excited and a bit nervous. I calmed her down as best I could by re-reading printouts of previous chapters of this book. By the time we got to the doctor's office, she was bouncing up and down--although from nervousness or having to pee, I'm not sure. This is because, to further amuse themselves, the Ultrasound Conspirators require that the pregnant woman to be ultrasounded not urinate for an hour before the test, while spending that hour drinking three glasses of water. Their flimsy excuse for this is that a full bladder makes for better pictures of the baby because then it's easier to find the uterus amid all that static. To be honest, if they need such indications to tell the different organs apart, I'm worried. It's as if I were going to have my throat checked and the doctor asked me to please paint everything that isn't my throat blue so he can find it more easily. Anyway, I can drink about a half gallon of liquid without going to the bathroom, and have on occasion stunned even Chinese waitresses with my ability to absorb as much water as they can bring to the table, never once requiring emptying. But then, I wasn't pregnant. Dawn has been running like a leaky faucet for a few weeks now, and no matter how hard I try, I can't find a washer that will fit. So I can well understand, if not fully sympathize with, Dawn's impatience to get the ultrasound over with.
We were called in to the examination room quickly once again, this time because the process is expedited when there's a sloshing pregnant bladder in the waiting room--if the bill we got was anything to go by, they have put a lot of money into the waiting room furniture, and it wouldn't do to get it messy. Once there, the cute nurse had Dawn get on the table and expose her rounded belly, which the nurse proceeded to cover with cold goop. Then she took a squat grey plastic doodad and rubbed it all around my wife's stomach, all the while looking at the wavering screen of black with grey dots, furrowing her brow professionally.
``Hm,'' she said sagely, ``We're going to have to do a vaginal ultrasound.''
Whoa, Nellie. ``A vaginal ultrasound? I've never heard of that. Do you do those often?'' I asked, afraid once again to witness someone fooling around with Dawn's nether regions.
``We do them quite often for the first ultrasound, early in the pregnancy,'' the nurse explained. ``It helps us get a good view of the baby and its heart rate.''
So Dawn got up and removed her pants and underwear and once again laid on the table. The nurse took a device which I can only describe as looking eerily similar to the microphone used by Bob Barker on The Price Is Right, except made of plastic. She covered this with more cold goop and, well, inserted it vaginally.
Poor Dawn. Bad enough I went and put a baby up there, but now every time we go to the doctor she has to get something else stuck in it, too. Now I know why when I wake up every morning and look in the mirror I think, Thank God I'm a boy.
The nurse tooled around a bit, making fine adjustments which had no effect at all that I could see.
``You have a cyst on your right ovary,'' she told us, which would have made Dawn sit bolt upright were she not otherwise engaged. Dawn has what is very nearly an ovarian cyst phobia. ``We expect that this early in the pregnancy,'' she went on, ``but if you get slight pains on your right side, it's because of the cyst. It will probably go away in a couple of weeks, but we'll check on it again when you come back.''
Dawn was now more worried than she was when she went in, and no amount of reasoning was going to calm her down. But then the nurse showed us our baby on the screen, which she helpfully labelled ``BABY!!!!'' and which you can see here from the Official View Up The Wazoo Camera.
Again, it might very well have been the same picture they showed me for my gall bladder or the one they showed my dad for his kidneys or you, for that matter.
``Do you see the heart?'' the nurse asked, pointing to a pulsing white dot.
``I would not have known that was a heart,'' I said honestly.
``Well, that's what you have me for,'' the nurse answered cheerily. She took three pictures and gave us the printouts, telling us further that the baby was just about the size we should expect it to be and that our due date hadn't changed from about the end of April. She removed Bob Barker's microphone from Dawn and then Dawn got dressed, still holding and marvelling at our baby's first pictures.
Just after that we were let in to another examining room, this one without an ultrasound device--you notice how you're never left alone with one you can examine?--so we could meet Doctor Number Two. Our new obstetrician came in a four-pack with three other doctors, all of whom you're supposed to meet at one time or another, so when it finally comes time to deliver the baby, you at least know the presiding physician. Otherwise, we might find our doctor to be on vacation or golfing or windsurfing or something and end up having some strange doctor deliver our child. This, as anyone can tell you, is a tragedy that will psychologically scar the poor child for life.
Now it was time to meet Doctor Number Two. This doctor was also a woman and more vivacious than Doctor Number One. She introduced herself and we asked her our questions.
First, Dawn wanted to know about this ovarian cyst she had begun to brood over in the last fifteen minutes. The doctor explained something to us which I did not know. (I have a feeling I should get used to discovering things about which I know nothing.) She pulled out a colorful diagram to help us understand.
What she explained was that an ovarian cyst is not only common during pregnancy, but actually required. What happens is this: After an ovum is released from a follicle in the ovary, that follicle becomes a cyst known in that all-too-comprehensible doctorspeak as the corpus luteum. If the egg isn't fertilized, then the follicle shrinks back to normal. If, however, the ovum meets its ultimate dream date sperm and implants in the womb, the corpus luteum remains for a time, secreting progesterone. It stays, in fact, until the placenta is in place and begins to secrete its own progesterone.
I was satisfied. Alas, the damage was done, however: Dawn was still depressed by the whole episode. No amount of explanation, however learned, was going to bring her spirits back up. Such is the joy of a pregnant woman: Dawn has less in the way of mood swings and just sticks to mood drops.
My spirits were further lifted, though, when we discussed our next question. It turned out that my wonder vitamins were vindicated after all: The doctor wrote Dawn out a prescription for supplemental folic acid pills and said we could take the regular vitamins, as she could see nothing wrong with them. Although she did note that Dawn would probably not feel any better regardless of what vitamins she took.
``Now is the worst time of your pregnancy,'' the doctor told Dawn. ``If the entire pregnancy was as bad as the first couple of months, no one would ever get pregnant a second time. I will almost guarantee that you will feel terrible no matter what you do. The good news is, it's almost over.''
That pretty much answered all of our questions, so we gathered up our new armload of free pamphlets--every visit you make, you get a new pile of paper with which to line your baby's crib--and stopped at the desk on our way out to pick up our baby bag.
I assumed, rather naturally I thought, that a baby bag was a bag for carrying your baby. I was wrong. Nor is a baby bag a small bag you bring home in the hopes that it will grow to be a great big bag you can stick your golf clubs in. No, a baby bag is a small bag in which I assume you put baby things--bottles, napkins, diapers, toys, and what all else we'll figure out when we get there. This particular baby bag is just about big enough to carry maybe a nipple or two. It comes from Enfamil, the baby food people, and is covered with Beatrix Potter illustrations. Odd, I didn't know The Tale of Peter Rabbit was just an advertisement series. The bag comes with a free sample of Enfamil--the first dose is free--and a helpful little ``Guide and Journal'' with little stickers with more Beatrix Potter drawings and legends like, ``CREEPS'', ``DISCOVERS TOES'', ``TURNS HEAD'', and ``SLEEPS ALL NIGHT''. This is clearly made for the mother, as no father I know would deliberately poke this book with a stiff rattlesnake.
Perhaps I've found the thing that will get me rich: A ``Baby's First Year'' calendar for the father. It will have large stickers for items like, ``FIRST VOMIT'', ``FIRST VOMIT ON MOTHER-IN-LAW'', ``FIRST SMILE AT OWN FART'', ``PEES ON MOM'', ``BREAKS TOY'', and ``WATCHES TV WITH DAD''. Yes, I can see it now.
Also on the way out, we asked the receptionist who gave us the bag for pamphlets on the Lamaze and Bradley Methods. She rummaged a bit and came up with a paper about Lamaze.
``What was the other one?'' she asked.
``Bradley,'' I answered.
``What's that,'' she said flatly. There was no question mark at the end of the sentence. I'm sometimes slow on the uptake, but I took this to mean that she wasn't going to give us any information on the Bradley Method, and not because she hadn't heard of it.
Poor Bradley. He's really annoyed a lot of people.