Since I heard the heart beat for the first time towards the end of November, I had been waiting for this moment to provide a shape with that sound. Like most men I suppose, we are very visual creatures and I needed something visual to pin my hopes and dreams upon. I needed to see my child. Despite these expectations, I wasn't setting my hopes very high. After all, every previous ultrasound picture seemed to look like a fuzzy blob on a background or more fuzzy blobs. People would point out the head and hands and I would squint at the blob and say something like I see even if I really didn't. These fetal blobs always seemed to be in a laying position and appeared motionless and in hindsight, why wouldn't a picture of some moment in time be motionless?
So sitting in the darkened room with my wife on the table with a lubed up belly, I wasn't expecting much when the nurse pressed the wand to the outside of the stomach. As I squinted at the monitor, all I could see were fuzzy blobs swimming in and out of focus and my thoughts were being vindicated. And then it happened, I saw an arm with fingers attached briefly appear before being sucked back into the computer screen. My heart stopped. My breathing stopped. Time stopped. Then the profile of a baby curled up on its side came into view and my life began again. I could see my baby.
For fifteen minutes, I crouched at the edge of that chair in the darkened room staring at the monitor like a Wheel of Fortune contestant looking at the envelope in Pat Sajak's hands desperately wanting to know what they had just won. I was afraid to blink for fear that I would miss something crucial. The nurse moved the wand this way and that, looking from all different angles as she paused the image every so often to measure a femur, measure a head, print out a picture of our baby sucking it's thumb... all of it ten times more interesting than watching Geraldo enter Al Capone's supposedly hidden vault. It was seeing life and knowing that I had created it.
Barely a minute into the fifteen minutes ultrasound viewing, the nurse moved the wand top dead center (an engineering term) on my wife's belly so that we were again looking at the profile view. What I saw brought some tears to my eyes. There centered on the monitor was a picture of a baby swinging his arms around back and forth, flexing ten (yes I counted) fingers as if counting or playing an imaginary piano. It wasn't slow motion as one would suspect but fast... in real time... keeping pace with some fast paced concerto. Making a fist, unclenching, making another fist, sticking the thumb into the mouth, and back out again. Legs were also moving and I couldn't help but ask my wife how she wasn't feeling all this. In an awe struck voice she looked at me and said, "I don't know!"
All during the procedure, the baby constantly moved arms and legs and at one point, even turned over as if getting comfortable. But I suspect the baby had an ulterior motive and had been listening in to conversations between my wife and I. You see, my wife doesn't want to know the baby's gender and I do. She wants to be surprised on the day of delivery and I want to be prepared. Having just shopped for baby clothes a year ago to send to my brother-in-law and his wife, I know how hard it is sometimes to find gender-neutral stuff. So we had decided that if the nurse could reach a conclusion, that they could tell me privately and my wife could still be in the dark. The baby must have known how bad my wife is at waiting to learn surprises and kept twisting this way and that until the nurse finally gave up on trying to peer between those wildly churning legs. Although all the old superstitious ladies in the Philippines say it is a boy and my wife and I both keep referring to the baby in the masculine sense for no reason, for the official record, our baby is still indeterminate.
I could have sat there all day long but all too soon, it was over. The nurse pulled out a string of perhaps thirty pictures clipping out four of them to give to us and stapling the rest into the doctor's charts. She pulled out the VCR tape on which she had recorded the entire event for our viewing pleasure later on and soon we were being escorted into another room where the actual checkup took place. I took the four ultrasound pictures to work for show and tell but gave them back to my wife at lunchtime because I wasn't getting any work done with them on my desk. Even without them, the memory of the baby playing air guitar in my wife's womb kept replaying over and over. What song was it? Smoke On the Water?