The day started out no different than any other. I had to drive my youngest daughter to work, then I stopped in at both of my offices. The first was my newest place of work, and I spent a short time there before heading to the AUSU office where I had a meeting with several other councillors and an AU rep to discuss the new student handbook we will be publishing this upcoming year. We went for a late lunch after the meetings, and then I left to go pick up another daughter to take her to her ultrasound appointment.
Something I’ve not yet shared with Voice readers is the fact that in a few months I’ll be a grandmother for the first time. My daughter gave the news to me the day after my graduation, and although a new life is a wonderful cause for celebration, I’ve been ambivalent for a variety of reasons. I tell myself that my daughter is not ready to become a mother – but perhaps its me who is not ready to become a grandmother!
Even though I’ve not quite come to terms with the pregnancy, I’ve been working hard to help my daughter. She knows that she has my unconditional moral support and help wherever and whenever needed. During her move last month to the trailer park (see Voice article “Trailer Park Blues” (http://www.ausu.org/voice/search/searchdisplay.php?ART=1790)), I spent several weeks doing the “dirty” work, the paint stripping, the bleaching, the oven cleaning, the painting, the insecticide spraying, etc. – jobs that she should not be doing while pregnant due to harmful vapours. We’ve talked a lot about the whole process, and I’ve offered to pay the costs of a midwife should she choose to go that route (I had my younger two via homebirth). She recently raided my closet for “maternity clothes” – in other words, clothes of mine that are several sizes larger than what she normally wears and are therefore perfect for that difficult in-between transitional growing time. And of course I’ve promised her my services as a permanent babysitter, on call 24/7.
When she had called me last night and asked if I might be able to pick her up at work and drive her across the city to her ultrasound appointment, I immediately agreed and arranged my schedule accordingly. As she got in the car, I complimented her on how attractive she looked in my borrowed suit. Her response was that she felt very uncomfortable, since the ultrasound required that she drink 8 glasses of water! I could sympathize, since I had been through several ultrasounds myself, for other reasons. The technology was not as advanced when I had my children, and it was not until my last born that I had a pregnancy ultrasound. It was very early in the pregnancy, and I just recalled seeing a few grainy still screen images of something that the technician said was the fetus, but that to me really didn’t look like anything discernable.
As we drove, we talked about pregnancy stuff. This was her first time having an ultrasound and she didn’t really know what to expect. I shared my limited knowledge of the process and reassured her that it was fairly simple, from what I recalled. She told me her partner would be meeting her there, but she asked if I wanted to hang around and wait, perhaps even go in with her if this was allowed. I had to go pick up my youngest from work, but I agreed that if there was enough time I would hang around. I wasn’t really thinking of it as much of a big deal, just a regular old ultrasound.
After she was called in, her partner and I sat in the waiting room, making small talk. Finally the attendant came out and called us in. The room was small, cramped and stuffy. My daughter was reclining on the raised bed beside the ultrasound screen. The technician squirted a pattern of electrical conductant gel on her stomach, and in the ultraviolet glow of the screen it looked like some weird blue tattoo decorating my daughter’s skin. Then she placed the ultrasound receptor on the gel, and turned our attention to the screen. There it was! Not the grainy, unclear pictures I expected from my own ultrasound – but a complete, moving, living, breathing baby!
My daughter immediately joked that the baby looked just like her, and I agreed that the dark eyes were the same. Of course in reality, the baby looked somewhat like an alien from a Hollywood movie, and we commented that we now understood where such notions came from. The ultrasound provides a transparent image that looks through the object, similar to an x-ray, and certain body parts stand out. The overall shape was very clear, but for the untrained eye it was hard to determine all the details. The head was oversized and balloon-shaped with two large black spots for eyes, and bones in the arms and legs could be clearly identified. Although the technician could determine the baby’s sex, my daughter asked not to be told, so we alternated between describing the baby as a he and as a she.
Then the baby started to move. Miniature arms, with fully-formed long fingers, stretched and reached, and little legs kicked and swam as they bent at the knee then extended full length. The tiny alien-like face turned directly towards us, as if acknowledging our presence, staring at us intently with equal curiosity, wanting to know us just as much as we wanted to know her/him. Although these burning, dark eyes remained focused towards us, the rest of the baby’s body did not stop moving. We were stunned at the power and strength of the arm and leg movements, since my daughter could not feel the intensity inside, and she commented that the baby was moving like either a dancer or a boxer.
We just stared at the screen, fascinated by what we were seeing, incredulous that this beautiful, living creature was actually visible to us through this technological miracle. Each time the baby turned, we could see the tiny heart palpitate rapidly, the umbilical cord floating above the belly button, and little hands and fingers stretching and moving constantly, reaching, seeking, and stretching as if giving us a baby gymnastics performance. I asked the technician how big the baby was and she flipped briefly to a screen full of statistics. She advised that the length of the body was about 12 centimeters, and the weight about 1Â½ pounds, normal for about five months of gestation.
Although we could have watched forever, after a few minutes it seemed like he/she had seen enough of us and began to turn away. At one point he/she even brought her thumb up to the lips as if preparing to suck it, but then appeared to decide better of it, instead turning his/her head and body to the side. Although the technician kept trying to get a good view, the baby turned away, still stretching and kicking, but no longer interested in us.
All too soon, our time was up and the technician removed the ultrasound receptor and turned off the screen. After a few moments she returned with a picture, which my daughter was allowed to keep. We looked at it, still bemused with a sense of awe at having seen something we were not really intended by nature to see, this alien creature that is alive and growing within the protection of my daughter’s body. In those few moments in that ultrasound room, we bonded, and I walked out of there with a profound emotion of marvel and wonder at having the privilege to know this child in this way.
In a few short months we will have the opportunity to hold him or her in our arms, and all too soon the child will become an adult. But I will never forget the miracle I saw this afternoon.
Debbie is a native Edmontonian, and a single parent with four daughters. She has worked as a professional musician for most of her life, and has enjoyed a rich variety of life experiences – with many more to come! Debbie is working towards an eventual doctorate in psychology, and currently serves as the president of the Athabasca University Students Union.