Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thoughts on Ultrasounds

These are some pictures of our baby who is due in May. We did not do an ultrasound with our daughter. I know many of you are thinking we are crazy. But we did not feel there was any reason to have an ultrasound done, there were no signs of stress, or potential problems with my pregnancy or the baby, and we didn't want to know what the gender was, so we waited to meet our baby.

Because we did not see the pictures of our daughter we had a deep understanding that she may not have been OK. Meaning she may not have formed "normally", and we believed that whatever baby was inside of me growing was meant for our family and that we loved this child just as it was. Many people think this is totally wrong, and that we have the technology to see babies and make sure they are OK so we just do that. However on the other side of things, many people are told that an abnormality has been found and they also love and accept their baby, so its not like we are heroic for not seeing our baby.

Because we did not see that our baby was OK, each time the midwifes would tell me, "Oh there's a knee" "There's an elbow" I would get so excited, "My baby has a KNEE! An Elbow!!!" I remember the last appointment I had before I gave birth, the midwife telling me that my baby would be a thumb sucker because she could feel its hand by its face. "My baby has a hand, probably with fingers!!!" I loved these updates with body parts because I had never seen them and had to just guess they were there, but we did not KNOW they were there. When my daughter was born I remember, after discovering that she had red hair, being so surprised that she did indeed have all her limbs, digits, a face intact with eyes, lips, ears, they were all there, she was just fine. And that was a surprise to us. We got a healthy baby girl, and we were surprised.

With this baby we did have an ultrasound, two in fact because we were using the midwifes at the hospital (we have since switched to home birth midwifes) and hospital protocol is to have one at 11-13 weeks for viability (or earlier if you have any problems, or just want to see the heart beat). I wanted an ultrasound because our last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and this time I really wanted to see the heartbeat before we told Marin. Anyways we also had the 20 week ultrasound where they measure all the body parts, count each of them, make sure your baby has no "abnormalities". Ours checked out fine. And we are grateful for this, but both my husband and I left with a feeling of disappointment. Why, well for me I had this realization that I was just told my baby was perfect (everyone reading this is thinking what the hell is wrong with you lady, that's wonderful news) and I was totally excited about that. However, I now am in love with a perfect baby, not whatever comes out. I expect a baby with no problems, a healthy baby, why should I expect anything else. However, ultrasounds do not tell you your baby has colic, asthma, allergies, autism, dyslexia, could develop cancer, I could go on and get more morbid but that is unnecessary, you get the point. The point is, I have been given hope, some "solid evidence" that my baby is OK, this was not given to me with my first birth. If something had happened to my first child or she had been born with some "abnormality" we would have dealt with it like most all parents, but at the same time I feel we would have also been more prepared for it, because we did not expect to have perfection, we expected to love and welcome into our lives whatever little baby came out of me. However I have given over that feeling of "acceptance" because I have been told my baby is perfect. I have seen that my baby has all of its body parts, it does not have a cleft lip, it has every bone and so why should I expect my baby to be anything by perfect.

My thoughts on this experience have led me to think that I believe for the most part modern technology is a wonderful tool. It saves many lives, all the time. But how often does it give us false hope that everything is going to be OK. Or on the other side of things, that something is wrong, and it turns out to be OK. I wonder how often our expectations are based on a machine, how much of our shock at "abnormalities" comes from being told our babies have all their necessary bones, when in fact something that cannot show up on a machine fails to tell us something else is wrong. Several decades ago women were not told their babies were going to be just fine, they had to wait just like we did the first time to find out. Were those families more prepared for children who were not "normal" because they were not told "your baby is perfect". How much of modern medicine lead us to expect perfect children because we see perfect babies? I don't know. But I know that this time around, after seeing my "healthy" baby through ultrasound, I have not put much thought into "I wonder if my baby is OK?", my thoughts have been more focused on petty things, like stains in my newborn clothing, how to arrange the kid's room, and what kind of stroller I want. Many people are happy to not wonder if their child is going to be fine, once they are told the baby is fine they go on with their life and figure out all the other details. But looking back, the joy of hearing the midwifes tell us about the different body parts they could feel through my growing belly was wonderful. I loved the expectation of waiting for that little child we had never met before. I am of course looking forward to our second baby, its really fun to go through this with my daughter who cannot wait until she gets her hands on this little baby. But I have, in all honestly, lost some of the excitement of hearing about each body part my midwife discovers as the baby grows, because I know its there.

I hope you all don't think I am a crazy lady, or that I look down on people who get ultrasounds. I am just reflecting on something that my husband and I have experienced. Not having an ultrasound is not for everyone, the stress and worry some people would have over 9 months would probably cause more harm to the baby and mother (and father if the mother is really going nuts) than necessary. But its what we did. And I will admit I do enjoy looking at that little foot over and over, and knowing that in a few months we are going to meet that little baby.
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1 comment:

Jonnali said...

Holli--not a crazy lady. :)
Oh so ponderous. Like Mary who "treasured these things and pondered them in heart" after she was told she would have a baby. She had no ultrasound to know that a mysterious baby would grow in her.
I love this post Holli. Just because technology exists does not mean without question to use it. I like at least putting thought into the reasons why either to get an ultrasound or to forgo it.
I am excited for you and your growing belly and family. I'm so thankful I was present at the birth of Marin. Blessings with your second birth. You are a strong and beautiful woman.