Tadpoles and Transducers: The 12-Week Scan
There it is in black and white: writhing in murky fluid, safe and warm in its little encasing.
“All the vital organs are visible,” the scanning doctor – or is she an ultrasound technician, or diagnostic medical sonographer? – says, pointing out white blotches that indicate bones.
“Everything’s looking good and on schedule”.
The technician manoeuvres the transducer (another word I have to look up afterwards) over Tash’s gelled-up tummy and the baby’s rhythmic, frenetic heartbeat is amped up. But without the ping of my morning coffee I’m droopily, languidly staring at my girlfriend’s stomach. I’m thinking that there’s a noticeable bump there, but I’ve seen a similar bloat after a big meal. Indeed, it looks like it’s been filled by the expanding properties of bread or pasta, rather than a growing foetus.
The image is changed to 3D, and our little human springs to life. I lean forward with owl-eyed fascination – but the image quickly reverts back to boring old black and white.
“That’s that,” the technician says. “Some people don’t really like seeing the baby at this undeveloped stage.”
I can understand why, but I, for one, am not averse to seeing tadpole-sized alien-humans with protruding eye sockets (but no eyes) doing a little horror-movie jig. A few more minutes, please!
“Coming along nicely,” she says, removing the transducer and wiping Tash’s tummy. Tash breathes a sigh of relief and pulls her top down.
Back in the reception area, armed with prints of our unborn, we share the same Cheshire-cat smiles as another couple seated in the waiting room. The hum of joy is not shared, however, by the curt, multi-tasking receptionist, who informs us the scan isn’t covered under Medicare. There goes a few hundred on the card. It’s already starting.
We kill a nervous hour at a North Melbourne café, waiting for the results of the Down syndrome test. We quietly ponder what we’d do if the results aren’t favourable. It’s not something we’ve given any thought to. Friends of ours had needed an amniocentesis test as their odds were lower than 1,000-to-one. I know I’ll support Tash if we need to take the test, but I’m not sure I’m equipped to deal with the bigger beast.
We needn’t have worried. After a large strong latte for me, a hot chocolate for her, and exactly 61 elapsed minutes, Tash rings the clinic. I sit there, half covering my face with my hands as she requests the results. I’m thinking: what power these health receptionists have, relaying the numbers that can make or break a couple’s day – and, indeed, the rest of their lives.
I peek through my fingers for Tash’s reaction: it’s a smile; a beautiful smile! “That’s great news,” she says, before thanking the receptionist – as if it were her doing that our baby was normal – and slapping her phone down on the table. “3,000 to one,” she says.
I lean over to kiss her. She stops me. “Time for a coffee,” she says.
I nearly object, my heart already hammering in my chest, but I think better of it. I signal to the waiter. Almost immediately, Tash relays the news to Rach.
Afterwards, she says: “It’s time to start telling people.”
I nod. It’s time.