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The light fantastic, the patient sarcastic

You know how sometimes at a doctor's office you'll lie back on the table, look up at the dropped ceiling expecting to see only spongy-looking acoustical tile, and instead see a restful cloudscape?

No?  Well, it's a translucent panel that fits over a fluorescent tube fixture and it goes a little like this:

In my gynecological travels I have enjoyed many a soothing panorama, from a bright drift of butterflies...

...to a coral reef shimmering with life and color...

...to a tangle of bougainvillea so vivid and lifelike you'd almost expect it to wave lazily in the warm tradewinds of this New England winter...

But it was not until today, flat on my back in the fetal diagnostic center of our regional hospital, that I basked in the gently diffused glow of ultimate tranquility:


Because nothing says serenity like a squadron of F-16s.  I bet they were scrambled specifically to deal with the clear and present danger in the next exam room over:

Monster mash


No such reptilian drama in my room.  No drama, in fact, to speak of, unless you count the stubborn refusal of the fetus to present its nuchal fold for measurement.  For over an hour the ultrasound tech measured this and evaluated that, counting hands and feet, assessing lengths and diameters, ascertaining to my relief that the fetus had no bony knifelike protuberance projecting from its forehead.  (We've decided not to find out whether it has a bony row of wicked dorsal spikes — we're leaving that surprise for the birth.  Note to self: Consider repeat C-section.)

Everything looks good — gorgeous, in fact, if you're into quick blurry flashes of something that sort of looks like it could be vaguely humanoid.  But no neck.  My retroverted uterus conspired with the fetus to make a good view impossible, despite the tech sneaking up on it several times during the course of the scan.  In the course of these ambushes, I'm pretty sure I saw it give us the finger at least once, and probably twice.  Lest you think I am a slack disciplinarian, I assure you that later I punished the fetus for its insolence by eating a large bar of Toblerone.

The most exciting part of the scan was when the tech tried to visualize the nuchal fold by going transvaginal, thinking she might be able to get a better angle that way.  She didn't, but we did get better resolution.  Those few minutes of uncomfortable rooting were rewarded by a view that was absolutely clear.  I could count ribs.  I could see each individual knobble of spine.  And when we looked at the hemispheres of the fetus's brain, I could practically see its thoughts.  Of course, those ran heavily to SWISH SWISH INVOLUNTARY WIGGLE SWISH SWISH SWISH MUST ROLL IRRITABLY OUT OF RANGE SWISH SWISH HA HA TAKE THAT ASSHOLES SWISH SWISH, but I'm not expecting sparkling banter until early in the second trimester, so I saw no reason for concern.

Based on the results of my bloodwork and what we were able to see, my risk of Down Syndrome is calculated at 1:4000, and my risk of trimsomy 13 or 18 at 1:3000.  I was offered the opportunity to return next week for another run at the neck, but I turned it down.  I like those numbers fine.


At my OB's office a little later, I had my 12-week appointment — some questions, a weigh-in, and a brief tussle with the Doppler.  All absolutely uneventful, except for the moment when the doctor asked me, "So, do you have a feeling?"

Like, uh, what kind of feeling?  Urinary urgency?  Vague foreboding?  A warm regard for my fellow man?  Contempt for stupid questions?

Yes to that last, because he clarified: "About whether the baby's a boy or girl."

A feeling?  ...The hell?  Oh, Doctor, aren't we past that?  You're holding my chart in your hands.  I lost my faith in intuition about 120 pages ago.  So forgive my dearth of shiny-eyed wonder, but I will manufacture a feeling when you show me genitalia, and not one second before.

Now if only he'd asked me if I had a feeling about whether the baby's Godzilla...