The day was finally here. We were finally going to get to see our little baby. I drove my wife to the appointment and we discussed numerous things, including possible names. We had never been to this doctors office and we were running a little late in rush hour traffic. Not fun. We finally arrived slightly frazzled from the horrible roads which are always under construction and constantly facing a barrage of morning commuters. Cars thundered by overhead (the office is directly under an overpass). You can still hear them in the waiting room zooming twelve feet above your head.
While we waited more women arrived and waited. I only saw one other man there with his wife. We really didn’t have to wait for very long to be called back. When we were ushered into the waiting room the nurses smiled at my wife and gave me a polite nod. I began to notice something. Perhaps it isn’t that common for a husband to come with his wife to her prenatal appointments. I’m was so eager to see our baby it seemed incomprehensible to me. Why wouldn’t you want to be involved every step of the way in this new life you helped create?
So it turns out the doctors are fairly busy! We met a nice nurse who explained we would see the doctor for a few minutes at a time, but for the most part she (the nurse) would be our direct contact. She then opened something on her laptop and asked numerous questions about my wife’s medical history. I only had to answer one question regarding my medical history. Then the nurse reached a question and paused. She gave me a look that said “well this would be easier if you weren’t here” and then glanced at my wife. We both just stared back at her. The nurse appeared to make up her mind and asked “does this apply to you?” and showed my wife something on the computer screen. My wife said “No, of course not.” I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I had a suspicion. Later I found out.
Finally we were taken to the ultrasound room. What an experience. We were looking at the screen and then all of a sudden there it was. An image I’ve seen countless times from friends who have children. Only this was OUR child. Our little tiny baby was there on the screen. He/She waved their tiny little arms. She/he kicked their feet. My heart soared. I looked at my wife and grabbed her hand. We both had tears in our eyes. What a moment. We both watched as our little one floated around.
Our little baby
Our baby was quite a mover. Squirming all over the place. Fascinating to watch. I wanted to record the baby moving, so I asked and the technician said I could do so afterwards. She pointed out the baby’s heart beat was nice and strong and we watched as the technician measured the length of the baby. I was exactly right as to the timeline (I was rather proud of that as I’ve kept the timeline throughout the whole pregnancy.). Then the tech turned away and I thought she was done, so I asked again if I could record now. She clearly got irritated and repeated I could do so at the end. I tried to apologize and say I was just so excited and that it was our first, but I’m not sure I got it all out. I truly was excited. We kept watching not wanting the moment to end, but in what seemed like just a few seconds it was over. The tech turned around again and now the screen was showing just a still picture she had captured with the computer. I was determined to keep my mouth shut until she said it was done. She did keep her word and allowed me to take a picture and then she revealed that she had captured the entire session, but I was only allowed a 2-3 second loop to record (I found out later very few offices allow you to record anything due to malpractice fears.). The baby hadn’t moved much during that little frame so I all recorded was her/him sitting still and their little heart beating at 173 beats per minute, but it was enough. You can see that little spark of life on the screen. I’ve played it so many times since then. I’ve shown it to just about anyone who will take the time to watch and several who really didn’t want to see it, I’m sure. I haven’t been that ecstatic in quite some time.
After the ultrasound, we met the doctor for the first time. She has pictures of her two children around the office along with some drawings they made for her. She was very nice and took the time to make my wife feel comfortable. I made sure to ask several questions. However, the doctor tended to direct the answers to my wife. I was noticing a pattern here. She also mentioned several tests that can be done to determine if your child has any birth defects. Now I’m not trying to dissuade anyone who wants these tests, but we’re not in the at-risk categories. So we declined. The doctor then mentioned that some people like to know so they can prepare for the life altering challenges and others like to know so they can terminate the pregnancy. I was somewhat surprised this was presented in such a matter-of-fact manner. I didn’t even realize that I was shaking my head somewhat vigorously while the doctor was still speaking. As soon as she was done, I looked at my wife and she at me. We both had discussed this well in advance. I told the doctor we were going to have the child regardless and whatever God decides to give us is what we’ll take. She then explained it was her duty to place all the options on the table regardless of her personal beliefs.
I don’t know if this is typical, but it bothered me. Abortion by choice because you don’t want to deal with a child with disabilities? As a man of faith, I find this disturbing. There is no guarantee our baby will be perfect in every way physically possible, but it’s perfect for us. This baby is what we created together (well God made the baby, but we certainly contributed). Even more frightening is the idea that this practice could expand. Soon scientists will be able to tell you the eye color of your child, or the likelihood of cancer by a certain age, etc. Then you can abort if you don’t like those attributes. This all leads to designer babies. It’s not necessarily there yet, but it’s something to be aware of. There is a desire by some people for this sort of service.
We chatted for quite a while and then the doctor mentioned the upcoming appointments and things became clearer. One appointment every month for the next few months, then every two weeks, then every week. My first thought was I can’t possibly be there for all of these appointments. It would require a monumental amount of time off from work. I’m only getting my two weeks of paid vacation after the baby arrives anyway! These appointments could cut into that. Now I understood a possible reason why so many women were there by themselves. Perhaps their spouse could not get the time off to join them for so many appointments. However, after further contemplation, I realized I may be able to take a few hours off and make up that time later in the week. I want to be there for every ultrasound. I realize they don’t do one at every appointment, but I want to be there for the ones they do! I want to see our baby every chance I get.
After that we had another meeting with the nurse to schedule the next appointment (when we get to hear the heartbeat!), my wife had a flu shot, and we were heading back to our side of town. We were both a little late to work that day, but man it was worth it!
Now my wife felt very welcomed and comfortable with this doctor and the office. I agree they did a great job making her feel like they care about her as a mother, not just a patient. However, there needs to be a way to involve the dad. On the way back, my wife explained the nurse had pointed to a question on the screen asking if she was the victim of domestic abuse. I understand the concern. I do. I also highly suspected that was the question from the way the nurse looked at me. Why did they not have my wife just look at all of the questions on the screen and answer them one by one? Why not have her write them all on a piece of paper? By singling out that one question, I knew what it was and I was a little hurt, not by the question, but by the nurse’s glance. I understand her concern and the reason for it, but that’s how it made me feel. The technician in the ultrasound room was quick to get irritated with me, but it was my first time ever experiencing the wonder of seeing my child. I wasn’t trying to be inconsiderate. I was so anxious to capture the moment so I could share it with our family and friends. I want to compare notes with other dads my age. The doctor directed the answers to my questions to my wife. I asked the question. At least acknowledge that a little better.
The entire experience was truly centered around my wife and our baby. Which is wonderful, but as a dad I have feelings too. I want to be as involved as possible. I don’t get to experience the physical changes or feeling the baby move inside. So I’m always asking my wife how she feels. Sometimes, I just stare at her belly amazed as it’s getting bigger and firmer over time. I want to take a “bump” picture each day and compare it to the previous one (I’m restraining myself and keeping it to once a week). I love her and I’m growing to love our baby in the womb. I have dreams about her/him and what they’ll be like. Respect that and show a little compassion to the father. Ask how he’s doing, if he has questions, and try to have patience when he doesn’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure if the absence of these things is a result of society as a whole, the mindset of the office, or a general lack of understanding of future dads.
Our society says men are aloof. They helped make the baby, but they’re generally not interested in the minutia of the pregnancy. They just want to drink beer with their buddies and when the time comes they’ll just be there to hold their wife’s hand and panic when they don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure where the blame falls for this. Hollywood has certainly inflamed the stereotype. Men do try to “be cool” and act macho around their friends, but attitudes are changing. Watch a little “Up All Night” on TV and I think you’ll see a difference even in the entertainment industry. More men are becoming stay at home dads. Things are changing and it’s time our perception did too.
Bottom line: If I’m at the appointment, if I’m shopping at Babies-R-Us, if I’m in the Lamaze class, it’s because I want to be involved, not just because my wife asked me to come. Guys, go to the ultrasounds! Watch your little baby move and wave at you! It’s truly an amazing experience and you’ll feel so blessed to be a future dad!