I lie on the examining table and stare up at the small, black screen on the wall. In the upper left-hand corner: my name. Well, husband’s last name, my first name, which still looks weird to me even after 5½ years. In the right-hand corner: the time shown in hours: minutes: seconds. I watch the seconds tick up, 51…52…53…54, as the ultrasound tech squirts gel on my belly and sits in the chair beside me.
“Too warm?” she asks.
I shake my head no, and wait for the tiny, spidery-white face to appear on the black screen. When it appears, the tech switches on the sound and the room fills with a loud and rapid Ba-whoosh, Ba-whoosh.
“Sounds great,” the tech chirps, clicking her computer mouse to measure the space between the beats.
I don’t say anything and she moves the wand around to find the tiny femur bone. She clicks a few times, magnifying it to get a measurement. I focus on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen as she stretches her electronic measuring tape across the baby’s thighbone.
I can see the numbers that measure centimeters, but I keep my eyes on the ones that measure in weeks and days—they’re the only ones I understand. The first click starts somewhere around 26w 8d… She stretches and clicks and stretches and clicks until it ultimately lands on 27w 6d…
I am 29 weeks pregnant as of yesterday.
She pauses to type something into her keyboard, then puts the wand back down on my belly over and over again. Baby’s belly: click, measure, click-click, type. 28w 1d. Baby’s head: click, measure, click-click, type. 27w 5d.
None of the measurements say 29 weeks. I know I can’t expect that. And I won’t know until they’re all calculated whether the results are closer to “still okay” or “time to start worrying.”
Suddenly she stops and freezes the frame. “Do you see that?!” she practically squeals. “That’s my favorite shot!” There, in the center of the usual ultrasound gobbledygook is a crystal clear outline of the baby’s foot, with five perfect toes. She giggles. “See how the baby’s foot is right by its face? I’ve gotta print that one.”
The printer whirs. She hands me a long, shiny roll of black and white pictures. I tell her thank you. I tell her thank you because I don’t know how to tell her that I don’t care about getting more ultrasound pictures. That I have a pile at home of a baby that I never met that I never look at. That the only picture I care about is one that no one can guarantee: one of a live, healthy baby—ex-utero.
She leaves to find the doctor and the screen on the wall is blank again. While I wait in the darkness for the doctor to bring me the results, I fold and refold the roll of photos, and when I’m done, at the top lays a baby’s single, tiny footprint.