[Author's note: For the last several months, brianwithani.com has been the place where I share my tales of weight loss and 5K-training, but recently, my wife and I discovered that she is pregnant, giving me more to write about than my waist line. Over the next six months, I'll be writing about health and exercise as well as my impending fatherhood. If you are grossed out by vaginas and scared of children, be warned.]
When we arrive at the hospital for the first ultrasound, we park in Lot A. To remember which lot you’re in, the hospital posts huge pictures of animals that begin with the letter of the section where you’ve parked. Ours was Alligator, and the picture was of a huge alligator–its mouth wide open ready to take a bite out of a defenseless turtle, or whatever it is that alligator’s eat. I look at Jaime and say, “Alligator should be easy to remember. In about 7 months your vagina will have to spread about that wide in order to push this beast out of it.” Jaime laughs and then gives it some thought and says, “I think of it more as a snake because the jaw unhinges.” Her vagina will have to unhinge to push the head it’s going to spew out of it, I thought, but didn’t say as I stared at the runny, metallic reflection of my large head in the shut elevator doors.
In line at the Polyclinic, it’s clear that I’m just a spectator, a fan cheering on Team Baby-Maker. I want to be so much more, the bat boy at least. Can I rub Jaime down with pine tar when her contractions kick in? The staff is wonderful, sweet and welcoming to Jaime, but they barely acknowledge my presence. No one even asks my name. They know I did this to her, and they hate me for it. It’s almost like fatherhood boot camp, training me for the next 18 years of my life. Wanting to be more involved, I start looking over the paperwork with Jaime.
“Is there anything I need to fill out?” I ask.
“I already answered the questions for you.”
“What were they?”
“Have you ever had a STD? And are you HIV positive?”
I give Jaime a look of disappointment.
“Uh, have you?” she asks.
Well, that was easy: offer up the sacrificial sperm and don’t give her or the baby AIDS. My work is done here, apparently.
After the paperwork is filed, we go into an office with a nurse–again, she doesn’t even acknowledge me but is really sweet to Jaime, so I say hello, but what I really mean is: I’m with her, Team Baby-Maker’s entourage. When we walk into the office, the first thing I see is a poster of a giant cartoon vagina diagram, and immediately, I think this is what it’s like when you find out what’s really in a McDonalds burger. You grow up thinking Mickey-D’s is one of the happiest places on earth. There’s a ballroom, a slide, a clown and you get a toy with your meal. Then you find out the truth, and you never want to have sex again without wearing a Costco-sized box of condoms each time.
The nurse asks all the questions, starting with the period. “When was your last period?” “Have you had any spotting?” If this gets any worse, I’m going to jam a speculum into my ear canal. Then the nurse asks about birth control, and Jaime says she was on it when she got pregnant, smiles and looks at me, knowing how much pride I take in this accomplishment.
Brian McGuigan: 1; Modern Medicine: 0.
So, of course, I give the obligatory flex of the biceps, Hulk Hogan-style, causing the nurse to raise an eyebrow.
“My husband’s proud,” Jaime says. “He’s been bragging that his sperm defeated birth control.”
Thankfully, the nurse has a sense of humor.
After talking with the nurse, we head into the ultrasound room, a smallish, warm space where the lights are so dim you’d think this is where baby’s are made, not seen. Again, the technician rolls out the red carpet for Jaime and treats me like the kid sent to the principal’s office.
“You can sit there,” the technician says, pointing to a chair next to the table Jaime is laying on. I have so little leg room I might as well cram myself into the womb, too.
The technician tells Jaime to unbutton her pants and pull them down to her hips. Then she splatters this mucousy goop on her stomach and plops a wand near her belly button that looks like one of those old-school vibrators sold as a “back massager.” Within seconds, a small blob pops up on the flat screen monitor above us.
“That’s the baby,” the technician says. Clicking away at her keyboard, she inserts an arrow directed at the blob and types in “BABY!”
Up until this moment, this pregnancy was Santa Claus. People believed in it, but was it real? Like, really real? The blob on the screen could have passed for nothing more than a smudge, something a non-abrasive cloth could wipe away in no time. The nurse tour-guided us, pointing out the sites: “Here’s the head…”, but I drifted off, staring solely at the heart flickering like a quickly blinking cursor.
And then, it hits me: I am going to be a father.