Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Fearing the Ultrasound

Today on facebook my friend Tiffani posted about being twenty weeks pregnant and getting ready for the first ultrasound appointment. She mentioned a similiar situation ten years ago where the ultrasound conveyed some distressing news about her baby. Since then, she's had a fear of ultrasounds, with reason.

When I was pregnant with Anson after five years of infertility I had this huge fear that my ultrasound would reveal another heartbreak. In the waiting room I started shaking uncontrollably. I remember Christopher looking at me, and me over at him trying to figure out what was going on. Fortunately, I went on to have several successful utlrasounds with that baby boy. He was like a karate champion in my womb--kicking and punching incessantly. And now that I know him better, I can see why. You don't hold Anson Idaho Kendrick in--anywhere--and that includes my uterus.

I didn't have an ultrasound with my girls. I felt pretty confident about the health of those two pregnancies. And I didn't want to have ultrasounds, to be honest.

But with my fourth pregnancy, I felt this intense need to have one done and so I called my cousin Katie who is generously willing to get me an appointment with her anytime I feel the need. As she put that baton on me I knew something wasn't right. There was a baby, but the baby was still with hands crouched up like it had been paddling the fluid it swam in for three months. The machine showed us that the heartbeat had stopped only hours before our appointment.

I think that miscarriage went remarkably well. I was fourteen weeks and had a peaceful transition from gestation to post-partum and a wonderful D&C experience. But I will never, in my life, forget seeing that baby on the screen floating but not moving. It's been almost a year, and when I see it in my mind it still has the power to take my breath from inside my chest. (I actually saw the baby twice, days apart, just to make sure there was no movement before the D&C. The second image showed a baby less robust. But, it's the first baby I see in my mind.)

And I wonder, are women supposed to see those images? Because my mother had nine babies and didn't ever have an ultrasound, so she certainly couldn't have prepared me for that moment. 

Now, I am not at all anti-ultrasound. I know they've been a God-send to so many babies and families. I am only writing this because there might be more Tiffanis or Courtneys out there who have this pit of fear when they go to see something that only a small percentage of women have been able to see in the history of the world. As women, we haven't had a lot of time to evolve into creatures who can prepare for and cope with what we see in ultrasounds, I think. And maybe we never will. But as much as we praise and feel grateful for technology the truth always remains: it can be terrible and beautiful all at once.

Just another piece of writing to say: you're not alone.