August 24, 2006

The addictive properties of ultrasound, and other dangers

I have a confession to make.

I'm a peeker.

I always have been.

When I was growing up, I knew exactly where my mother stashed the Christmas gifts. She kept them in the walk-in closet in her bedroom, and in her mind, the holiday shopping season began with Labor Day sales.

Throughout the glorious fall months, my brother and I would eagerly wait for our mother to leave the house, then we would sneak into the closet and examine the wares. This jigsaw puzzle is clearly for Monica... but which one of us gets the Legos?

On those rare occasions when she slipped something past us, we had Plan B. I was born a klutz, but Chris had the dexterity to slip a piece of Scotch tape loose from a wrapped package, examine the contents, and replace the tape with nary a scuff in the wrapping paper.

Somehow, I married a man who would compete with his sisters to see who could hold out the longest before opening his or her last Christmas gift, quashing their childlike impulses of curiosity and excitement for the satisfaction and moral superiority derived from consciously delaying their own gratitude. Needless to say, they never peeked to see what was inside those packages.

You might think that my peeking hijinks would have sucked the joy out of opening Christmas gifts. I beg to differ. Knowing what toys awaited me, I could mentally prepare myself to play with them, contemplate which game I would tackle first, what designs I might draw on my new Lite-Brite, or what I might name a new stuffed animal.

Although I realize this was a little ridiculous, the truth is, I haven't changed all that much.

If I have something big to look forward to, I want to gather every detail imaginable, then mull over them in a lovely daydream.

Last fall, I took a driving tour of Europe with Sam and a couple of friends. For several weeks beforehand, I studied the itinerary and brochures from our travel agent every single night. I wasn't actually exactly making plans - I'd rather put a fork in my eye than say "Wake up, guys, we have to see Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower before lunch, then board the 1:35 bus to Versailles." No, I would look at the photos and descriptions and imagine how the Black Forest might smell, or whether there might be a patisserie near our hotel in Paris. I would grab little details (historic cathedral, world-famous ice cream) and follow them across miles of hypothetical voyages.

Being pregnant with a baby who can be neither seen nor felt is like having a dozen Christmases worth of gifts stored in a locked closet. A locked closet that I bring with me to every place I go.

I've become addicted to week-by-week pregnancy guides, and I've been enthralling Sam (I'm sure) with a running narrative of statements such as "Rasbaby is growing a pancreas!" or "He'll have earlobes this weekend!"

Today, it got even better. We got to peek.

I used to be the kind of person who would smile and nod politely at other people's ultrasound photos, thinking "Wow. It's a grainy blob."

All that has changed, thanks to Rasbaby. Maybe it's because this grainy blob belongs to me and Sam. Either way, it's a good thing they do not sell ultrasound machines for home use, because if I had one, I would never leave the house. Each day, I would gather precious details for my daydreams, details like the ones I got today.

Rasbaby measures 2.97 centimeters from crown to rump. (That's 1.17 inches, but who's counting?)

His little heart is pumping along at a steady 163 beats per minute. (It's still too early to know the gender; I'm just playing with pronouns.)

This afternoon, he had one arm stretched way out, fingers spread out, as if to wave at us.

He still has plenty of room to stretch and swim and play.

He has a happy little umbilical cord/placenta/yolk sac arrangement, all the equipment needed for his care and feeding.

This was all so exciting that, instead of just crashing on the couch as I normally do in the evening, I took my little family out for fondue. Peeking is exhilirating; it gave me a burst of energy and an urge to celebrate through the adding of bread to cheese.

Today marked my last visit to the fertility specialist who helped engineer this little miracle. I've crossed another milestone, and now he's referring me to a regular obstetrician. I'm already eager for my next ultrasound, though I've got plenty of thoughts to fill up the next few weeks of daydreams. How much does he swim around in there? What color will his eyes be? Will Rasbaby grow up to be a peeker, like me? Or a delayed-gratitude-seeker, like Sam?

I'm already thinking of obscure hiding spots for Christmas gifts, just in case. I can forgive peeking, but he'll have to work for it.

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