The 20-week scan

Everything In Its Right Place: The 20-Week Scan

No matter how often I reminded myself that I was soon going to be a dad, regardless of how many L-plate-parent books I skimmed through, nothing could have prepared me for the wonderment of my first child’s 20-week scan. More than just a milestone checkpoint, it’s a cinematic experience that, like The Godfather II, is even better than the (12-week) original; a must for first-time dads.

While the sum of the sequel’s parts resembled those of its predecessor – the bored, unfeeling ultrasound technician; the transducer and the gel-like substance that looks sort-of sexy when rubbed all over my girlfriend’s tummy – the visual feast this time around was far more profound.

At least that’s the way it seemed once the screen flicked from grainy black and white to 4D colour. The alien-like creature we’d laid eyes on two months prior was now quite the human. I sat there, entranced, wishing I had to hand a box of popcorn and a Coke. Or a beer.

Again we were alerted to all the vital components – head, arms, legs, beating heart – but most of them could be made out. “Everything in its right place,” the technician said.

“That’s great,” my better half said.

I didn’t say anything; instead allowing myself to be drawn into a game of song-title association. It was something I’d always done. “Everything in its Right Place“: one of my favourite Radiohead songs. Its glitchy, piano-and-bass drum intro entered my head, bringing with it a vivid memory from my stoner days. The rented shithole. Bombed on weed. Lying on the wine-stained carpet, staring up at the ceiling. The cracks and the cobwebs, the flaky paint. Listening to Hail to the Thief for the first time. Lovely grass. More, more, more.

“You don’t want to know the sex?”

Thom Yorke’s morose mantra – “Everythiiinnnggg…” – gave way to the low drone of the technician’s voice and I was transported back into the now. My unborn child was floating about the screen in front of me, its thumb in its mouth. At least that’s how it looked.

I sucked the moon.

“No, we want the surprise,” my girlfriend said, looking at me.

…it’s a cinematic experience that, like The Godfather II, is even better than the (12-week) original…

I rubbed my eyes and nodded. Yes, we wanted the surprise. Each to their own, of course, but neither of us could understand wanting to find out unless there’s an overly pressing reason for doing so.

We want to be organised: to know what colour clothes to buy; what colour to decorate the nursery.

Gender-neutral colours too difficult?

No, it’s…it’s …we just couldn’t wait.

Ah. Fair enough. You found out because you can.

In our case, we didn’t give it a second thought. We’d heard of a couple who, after informing the world of their pregnancy within hours of discovering it themselves, found out the sex and relayed it to all and sundry, before booking in for a c-section and naming their boy months out. “Henry’s coming out on September 12,” this young lady posted on social media. “We can’t wait to meet him.”

Talk about an anti-climax.

Unless… “OMG! The sonographer got it wrong 🙁 Sorry everyone, turns out Henry is actually Henrietta – fingers crossed she likes a room decorated with blue trucks… LOL…!”

The technician was still talking. Did we want to buy a DVD of our baby’s scan for $20?

I shrugged, as if to leave the decision with my partner. She paused. I knew what she was thinking: the delicate balancing of a cash-grab gimmick versus the realisation that this may be a once-off. Only weeks before we’d knocked back the “golden opportunity” of $20 photos with flamenco dancers on entry to a Buenos Aires club. In hindsight we should have snapped them up, if only to prove my girlfriend had been there rather than asleep through the entire show, owing to jetlag and the general lethargy of being three-and-a-bit-months’ pregnant. It was decided: we’d use the money we saved from that experience to splurge here.

We watched it, twice, when we get home, and once more at around 30 weeks, before it began a long, dust-and-cobweb-gathered life at the back of the DVD cabinet.

That night I opened a beer and turned on Hail to the Thief while preparing dinner. I turned it off halfway through. It wasn’t the same. Everything to its time. Everything in its right place.

Tadpoles and Transducers: The 12-Week Scan


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