I am washing clothes and sorting through books and notes, and I realize Jon Carroll is back. We need to take care of all that is in the womb. There, too, is a place we change the world.
Jon Carroll - SF Chronicle - August 1, 2008
Now it can be told: The reason we went to Montreal is that our younger daughter, Shana, often known in this space as "the trapeze daughter," is six months pregnant. We wished to celebrate and talk and do adult things, but we didn't want to wait until she was very big and maybe cranky and we would be mostly a burden to her.
"Oh good, Daddy's in town. I'm going to lie down."
She is in wonderful spirits, still working (not at performing, of course, because duh), choreographing a routine for 30 trapeze artists for a celebration of Quebec's 400th anniversary, among other things. She looked radiant even when she was doing non-radiant things, like washing dishes. I am not sentimental about pregnancy - no, strike that. I am not sentimental about your pregnancy. Shana's pregnancy is a deeply moving event.
Don't blame me; blame my primal instincts.
The second day we were there, she told us that she'd made an appointment for all of us at something called UC Baby, a chain of Canadian ultrasound clinics. They do not provide any medical advice or diagnosis. Instead, they provide a half hour ultrasound experience, complete with still photographs in color available in DVD format. Relatives can join the prospective mother in the ultrasound room and, well, gawk.
I've seen a fair number of fetal ultrasound pictures, and I have had trouble making any sense of them at all. "Is that the head?" I'm thinking to myself while saying, "Oh, that's so wonderful." Often the photos just look like grainy undersea pictures of a pod of whales, or perhaps a coral formation. I'm glad doctors find them useful, but I find them confusing and weird.
We were going to be treated to a half hour of this. Not so sure about that. Two minutes, maybe, although I was definitely curious to see my second grandchild, little Deuce, as I've been thinking of her (she has a name now, a very good name, but the due date is not until November, so things could change. I can reveal that her middle name is Carroll. Such a fine choice).
(Just a word here to indicate that I know overpopulation is a growing problem, that baby worship is a Western fad with unlovely consequences, and our responsibility as citizens is - oh, shut up. This is my grandchild. This is little Deuce. This is not your local NPR station.)
So we get in the room, Shana and her husband, Seb, and Tracy and I. The technician rubs goop all over a mushroom-shaped wand and puts it on Shana's belly. At that moment, Viennese waltz music, heavy on the strings, starts up. Apparently it's the genre of choice for fetus viewing. It's a little eerie, because it makes me think of the movie "2001," which had, as you'll recall, images of a somewhat ominous child floating in the void.
So we get the first ultrasound picture, on a nice big flat-screen TV, and it looks like all the other ultrasound pictures. "Definitely a girl," says the technician. Bwah? She moves the computer arrow over to illustrate the distinguishing feature. I'll be darned. Then she tries another view and - it's like one of those optical illusions that look like masses of dots until your brain sorts out the data. A face. A nose! An arm!
"Ten fingers," says the technician. Such good news.
And then the photos start in earnest, black-and-white standard trapezoidal ultrasound images interspersed with square color photos - looking a lot like old-time Polaroids - of the Deuce looking fabulously adorable and, may I say, very, very intelligent. It's not as if you could tell what she would look like as an adult, exactly, but you could tell that she had a big nose - "and big cheeks," says the technician, helpfully.
Plus, she moves! Not a surprise to you, perhaps, but I was bowled over. She puts her fist in her mouth, she puts her foot in her mouth. Such a flexible baby. (Well, she was in the fetal position - why did that surprise me? - so the distance between toe and tongue was not large.) Another view, and we can see her tongue moving in and out, drinking the amniotic fluid. (Is this Too Much Information? Avert your eyes, then. You should have seen it coming.)
She yawns! A stupid fetus trick!
I should tell you that there is yelling in the ultrasound room. There is pointing and gasping and back-pounding. Half an hour is not nearly enough time because, you know, she might yawn again. Some of us are crying, and I notice that my cheeks are wet - probably an allergic reaction to the goop. Or the pollen. Or the sudden overwhelming joy.