A couple of nights ago, I felt you move for the first time. I was in bed, reading Stardust for the second time. Katie couldn’t sleep because you were, in her words: “So wriggly.” I kinda hate exclamation marks as a general rule, but the ones that follow really do represent the level of zeal in the description; the next morning, she even did karate punches in time to describing what it felt like. “Ka-pow! Pow! Ka-pow!”
Cut back to that night, about 3am. She asked “Do you want to feel?” and for the most bizarre moment, I really didn’t. Everything is starting to feel scarily like it’s all actually happening, rather than just something to think about as part of some nebulous future. Things are developing from “Katie is pregnant…” to “We’re going to have a baby and Jesus Christ the house needs decorating and shit we’re not ready and fuck I’m not earning enough for this madness oh God oh help should I get a real job oh fuck me where’re my car keys today…”
And there’s a difference, trust me. A really huge one.
I’d assumed feeling you first move wouldn’t be much of a big deal, to be honest. We’d seen you on the scan. We knew you were there. It was real enough (and funny enough) seeing Katie occasionally hold her tummy and look confused, or grunt slightly and say she felt something. But this week, in Week 20, you really decided to get into gear. When I felt the little push against my palm, the most genuinely painful grin spread hard across my face, in what was probably the most honest smile of my life. I think I said something like “Oh, fuck…” and started laughing, which is about my usual level of eloquence in moments of high emotion.
The day before that, we’d had the famous 20 Week Scan. Note the capital letters, there.
Let’s be honest, that looks like a mess. It’s hard to make out anything, and the parts you can make out are extremely – to use my phrase at the time – “very skeletonny”.
But we’ll come to that in a minute.
This ultrasound was one of the most tense moments of my entire life. I literally couldn’t force my muscles to relax. What if you had slitted eyes and prehensile claws? What if you were a reptilian dinosaur baby thing? And if you were, what did that say about a) my sperm, and b) Katie’s lovelife?
But there you were. The midwives kept pointing out a bunch of stuff I was too excited to take in, and managed not to roll their eyes when I kept saying “But that’s okay, right?”
Sometimes they were just talking to each other, and I’d totally interrupt. “But that’s okay, right?”
They checked for something to do with your skull, some bit at the front that’s important, or whatever. Your face, maybe? No, it wasn’t that. It’d make sense, though. Then there was something about your brain. Then different heart chambers, with coloured flashes to show blood flow. Then they mentioned you had your legs crossed, which was apparently “comfortable” and “Yes, don’t worry, it’s normal.” Then they checked your spine. Then the kidneys. Then some other stuff. Then even more other stuff. Not only do I not remember all of it, despite it being a few days ago, I didn’t even know all of it at the time since I was barely paying attention in my jaw-clenched panic. All I remember clearly is stroking Katie’s hair while she craned her neck to see the monitor; staring at the screen without really understanding how I’d reached this point of my life, and accompanying the entire half hour with a soundtrack of “But that’s okay, right? That’s normal, right? That’s good, right? But that’s okay, right?”
It was indeed all good, normal and/or okay. At one point, one of the midwives did scare me with some irritating wordplay. “If you look here, here’s the tail… bone,” she said, leaving just enough of a pause between the last two words to make my heart start beating like a bastard. “The tail?” I said, and for once didn’t add “But that’s okay, right?” because even though I’m not a doctor, even I knew that wouldn’t be a good thing.
But let’s go back to the scan photos.
The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes. During that time, we saw you clearly enough to install a whole new level of Oh Shit This Is Real to my previous plateau of terror. You opened and closed your mouth, like a real person. You kicked and wriggled and squirmed (Oh, fuck, did you ever kick and wriggle and squirm). You were… a baby. There. In Katie’s tummy and on the screen. The midwives showed us every inch of you, inside and out. Like I said, some parts were uncomfortably skeletonny.
At this point, when all the important midwifey scanning was done, Katie asked about your gender. Please note, she cited my impatience as the primary factor. “He wants to know,” she said, as if the hunger for knowledge was some kind of crime, rather than the motivating force behind humanity’s advancement throughout history. As if I was the bad guy.
The midwife moved the scanner. I watched the screen. The resolving image seemed almost suspiciously clear. I remember thinking, very clearly, “Well, that’s a vagina.”
“It’s a female,” the midwife said.
My response was to say (in a vicious little whisper – and with a secret fist pump) “Yesssssssssssss.” I then added “That crazy fortune-teller was right.” Because, clearly, she was.
Then it came time to actually printing the photo.
The screen became a mess of blurs. Some of the blurs were kicking. Others were wriggling. Several seemed to be squirming.
The midwives rolled the scanner around a bit more. Up. Down. Left. Right. East. West. Port. Starboard. All ahead full. Raise shields. Lock S-foils in attack positions. At last, the blurs stopped moving, resolving into an image of what was clearly a Russian moon landing. Or something.
“Hmmmmmm,” one of the midwives said, with the kind of narrow-eyed musing you never want to see taking place on the face of a medical professional. “She’s rolled over.”
”But that’s okay, right?” I asked by accident. My instincts wouldn’t quit. “I mean, that’s normal, right?”
They laughed, somewhat dutifully. I think they were bored of me by that point. The machine started making noises, and printed the photos shown above. The midwives pointed and nodded, saying things like “Her arm is in front of her face” and “Do you see?”
But I didn’t see. I didn’t see at all. After 30 minutes of looking at what was definitely a baby, I now had no idea what the hell was going on. I resisted the powerful, powerful urge to say “But that’s okay, right?” That sentence had served me well thus far, but I sensed we were reaching the end of its usefulness. Everything was obviously okay. These medical professionals weren’t agitated. I suspected if I kept asking the same question, there’d be a real danger of them starting the scan from scratch, checking to see if I’d actually passed down some previously unseen retardation.
Also, there’s a real danger of anthropomorphising here, but having you suddenly hide from a camera was ruthlessly typical behaviour for one of your shared bloodlines. The coincidence amused me.
Once we left the hospital, clutching the photos that Katie still insists make sense to her and that still mean absolutely nothing to me, I called my mum. That’s Nanny D to you.
“Mum,” I said. “We’re at the hospital.”
“Oh God, what’s happened?”
“…” I replied.
“Oh,” she clicked. “The scan. How did it go?”
“We just got out. It’s all fine. Everything’s fine – heart, lungs, spine, all that stuff.”
“And it’s a girl.”
At that point, she dissolved into tears and I wasn’t really sure what she was saying for another half a minute. The rest of the conversation, once Mum had calmed down a few minutes later, was about oil prices. Look, I never said real life was always romantic and wonderful. This isn’t a rom-com.
Hilariously, in the car on the way home, you started doing some kind of 20-Week Celebration Dance on Katie’s bladder. People often make funny faces when they’re trying not to pee themselves. I think it’s even funnier with redheads, perhaps because of the freckles, and perhaps because they’re so pale that when they go red from trying not to pee everywhere, they change colour with a speed and severity rarely seen outside cartoons.
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Life Tip #1: The most important speed is 88 miles an hour. Shout those numbers every time you reach it. Do not reach it in front of the police, or on icy roads.