Timberly's sister Lindsey instructed me to lay down on the exam table and prepped me by tucking a disposable sheet into my pants to prevent them from getting goopy and warned me the jelly would be cold as she squirted it onto my skin. Being such a hot day, I had no complaints. It actually felt pretty nice.
Jerry, who was able to come at the last minute, stood to my left with a clear shot of the monitor. As soon as Lindsey lowered the wand to my skin, fetal images appeared. Although there were eight or so other girls in the room, one with a newborn of her own -- six-week old Gunner, there was hardly a sound as Lindsey took her time methodically scanning the baby, pointing out what she saw and where.
The images were understandably a little more grainy than what I had previously seen at my doctor's office, but it didn't take long to discern what was what. The head. The spine. The umbilical cord. A tiny fist.
I fall more in love every time I see her.
After Lindsey finished, she offered the wand to her classmates. One by one they sat down, introduced themselves and got a glimpse of their own.
Being an open lab session, their teacher only intervened when asked, or when it appeared someone was having trouble or confused. That was my favorite part. She would explain things most moms-to-be probably never get a chance to see and hear.
The second girl, Rachel, who admitted not knowing a leg from an arm after explaining, "I haven't done this in awhile," got a lot of help.
"Did you find the crown of the head?" her teacher asked. "Establish that first. Always start with that and work your way around from there."
Grabbing the wand, the instructor moved with precision and expertise to my lower abdomen and the two hemispheres of the brain came into focus. By increasing the resolution and lowering the depth, little neural folds came into view.
"Now, if the spine is here, which way is the baby laying?" the teacher asked Rachel.
"Um ... to the right?"
"And if you wanted a profile shot of the face, how would you get it?"
"Um ... over here?" Then Rachel swept the wand to the left side of my belly and pressed hard against my skin.
Sure enough, a tiny profile came into view. I was awestruck.
"Is Chuck in here?"
A little confused, I turned and shot Jerry an inquisitive look. I hadn't seen any other males in the room. Apparently neither could he from his standing vantage point because he gave me a confused a look back and sort of shrugged.
Then one of the girls handed the teacher a tiny little naked plastic doll. I laughed. Chuck. Got it.
She used Chuck to show how the baby was laying in my belly and placed the doll's hands over his face. "That's why you're not getting a clear frontal image of the face, just the nose and mouth."
Either way, it was the best look at the lower half of my daughter's head that I had seen up to that point. Her nose came into focus and her lips stood out because they appeared a little darker on the screen than the rest of her face. I just kept thinking how beautifully full they are. Just like her dad's.
And then, when it seemed I couldn't possibly feel any closer to that grainy image, she yawned. I got to watch as she opened her mouth wide and scrunched up her nose.
I couldn't help but think how strange it is that I feel more connected to her after getting to see her on a screen. It's like official proof that a person is actually in there. All those thumps and whooshes I've been feeling really are tiny flailing appendages. I know because I saw the movement on the screen as it was happening. She was incredibly active the entire time.
The other girls took turns, each one pointing out something different. One used a special cursor to draw a box over the umbilical cord and hit another button to show the blood rushing through it. Another measured her skull and calculated her approximate fetal development stage and weight: 27 weeks and 1 day, almost 2 pounds. Another reconfirmed her lady parts.
They thanked me when the lab ended and the teacher invited me back, much to my delight.
"I really appreciate you coming in," she said. "You're more than welcome to come back either for another open lab or once the semester starts."
"I'd love that," I said. "This is probably way more fun for me than it is for you guys. I won't have any more ultrasounds at my doctor's office, so it's great to get to see her at all these different stages of development."
Lindsey promised her teacher she'd set up another appointment with me and everyone filed out of the room, leaving me, Jer and Lindsey to ourselves. She gave me a few extra paper towels to wipe off my belly because the one that had been tucked into my pants was completely saturated from so many different jelly squirts. In fact, it tore apart as I tried to peel it from my skin.
Jer and I thanked Lindsey over and over as we walked to our cars. I left with a few printed images that the girls had saved for me, but none of them will compare with the mental image of seeing my daughter yawn in the womb.
And knowing that she has Jerry's lips.
Here is Lindsey giving me an ultrasound. If you look closely, you can
see the baby's profile on the screen. The blob above it is her right hand.