20 week scan, Autobiography, Baby, Book, Choice mother, Choosing single motherhood, Conception, Donor conception, Donor sperm, Female empowerment, Fertility, IVF, Knock yourself up, Memoir, Pregnancy, Single mother by choice, ultrasound, Writer
Elizabeth, the sonographer, is holding me in her arms while I sob… and we haven’t even started yet!
The terror of receiving bad news at the 20 week ultrasound scan has grown rapidly worse all week. I’ve held it together throughout and even sat stone-faced through the lonely forty-minute stint in the waiting room, as couples around me hold hands and partners lovingly rub their wives’ or girlfriends’ bellies.
Now, finally inside the scanning room, the panic hits like a blow to the chest and I am crying hysterically. Between shallow intakes of breath I again blurt out the difficulties of the journey so far and how much is riding on this baby.
“The next fifteen minutes could ruin my life.”
Thankfully, Elizabeth is empathetic and gets me quickly into position for the scan. I’ve spent the week reading horror stories – the sonographer goes very quiet and then says something like, “I’m just going to fetch the doctor”. The doctor returns and gives the couple the devastating news, discussing the extent of the problem and, in some cases, options for termination – an unthinkable position to be placed in after so much hope and happiness.
Elizabeth is revealing no clues; she tells me in advance that she will go quiet for a little while when she begins – she does this with everyone – and then talk with me about what she sees. In fact I don’t have to endure these torturous moments of silence. She shows me the baby on the screen straight away; it is wriggling and twisting and kicking like a slippery fish on the end of a hook.
Elizabeth systematically checks the heart chambers, the aorta and pulmonary artery – all fine, a good sign. She moves on to take measurements of the limbs, the hands and feet, the brain, the spine and the internal organs. The placenta is in a good position to the posterior of the uterus. At each stage, she reassures me that she is happy with what she sees. My fears dissipate with every positive appraisal and I can rest calmly, watching my little one dance about on the screen.
I ask to know the sex. From the first few weeks I’ve had a strong instinct about it and the screen image confirms my suspicions. I smile, knowing that I will tell my parents but keep it secret from everyone else until the baby is born. I have largely settled on a name but hearing the sex cements its feeling of ‘rightness’.
There are just a couple more things Elizabeth wants to check. The baby has rolled stubbornly round to face away from the monitor. As she pokes and jiggles the womb to encourage it to turn, a peculiar rush of protectiveness floods me. I know she isn’t hurting the baby but I fight the urge to bat her hand away and plead with her to leave the poor little thing in peace.
The ultrasound is over. Another hurdle cleared and the finishing line is visible on the horizon at last. Elizabeth has a slight concern over my cervix. With blessed relief, I empty my bladder for an internal scan. Everything’s fine. “A lovely baby,” she says. I spend the bus journey home gazing at the scan images and can’t help agreeing.
And I’m feeling movement at last – light prods, swirls and flutters just below my navel, as though that little fish is now freed from its hook and swimming contentedly about inside me. I mouth a silent prayer for those women who have not been so lucky but I am soaked in gratitude for my own small miracle.