Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Dear Fuchsia – Part II: The 20 Week Scan

Dear Fuchsia,

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.

—   —   —

—   —   —

—   —   —

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.

October 19, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. As sad as this makes you feel Mr Aaron, you sound genuinely like a proper human person with feelings and everything, it was really sweet.

    Now there is no excuse to actually name your child Fuschia, apart from the standard socially stigmatic ones.

    Congratulations to you both again.

    Comment by Craig Coates (@CaptainHaZ) | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. Congratulations Aaron. It just gets better from here (and much scarier, but much better too).


    Comment by Dave Taylor | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  3. Great post. I have 2 girls myself, and know what you were going through. One time during a check-up, the nurse was taking inordinately long to find the baby’s heartbeat. Feelings of panic started to well up, but I had to hold it together for the wife and to not make the doctor’s job harder (who at this point came in to give it a try). Finally IIRC they had to use an “internal” ultrasound (use your imagination here…) and were able to detect the heart. Doctor figures the baby had its spine to us, and was blocking the heart. Definitely wasn’t a fun time, but a relief at the end…

    Comment by Damon | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  4. Oh diddilly damm, its a girl! 🙂 This cause for celebration. Also I bought your novella, Aurelian Silver edition. I feel so cool right now.

    Also there is a question Ive been meaning to ask you. As an author, you get to see the deepest places of Warhammer 40k lore, the Black Library (Fluff-place where Eldar is located) in Black Library (the book company). Have you see secrets and fluff-things that the owners of the company said “Here, we’ll show you stuff you will never ever get to tell the public. Its for our eyes only. Our Holy Grail, our Area 51!”

    Say yes, no or “I can’t say!” as the lodges.

    Comment by Forkmaster | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. “Uncomfortably skeletonny”

    I’m hoping society progresses so that children don’t have body image issues by the time she reads this and draws the conclusion that her own father would be more comfortable if she was just a boneless flesh sack.

    Comment by Schafe | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  6. I became a father last year and I can totally understand these moments of “ohshitwhatthefuck” and “But that’s okay, right?”. I have reacted almost the same way everytime a doctor told me something new about the baby 🙂

    Comment by Henning Holstein | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  7. I can’t deny that reading these blogs and seeing the pictures make me feel more than a litle uncomfortable….but not in a wholy bad way because I’m so ridiculously happy for the both of you that I was feeling a little teary…and I’m pissed that I can’t knit a dragon for her…..the only pattern I’ve found that looks awesome has to be knitted like a sock….and I’ve not knitted socks before, and neither has my mum, who is the biggest help to me and making stuff out of wool. I could try but if it looks like garbage…I’ll be devastated. So I’ve had to go back to the drawing board on that one.

    But I’m so glad and happy that baby is healthy.

    Comment by Xhalax | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • I don’t know about baby, but I would totally fricking love a flawed sock dragon. I can almost certainly say so would Aaron. And she has to be even just a little like us, so I think that may be the way to go!

      Mind you. She might never see it, as we might end up fighting over it/keeping it.

      Comment by Katie | October 19, 2011 | Reply

      • I may have to at least try now. Shall buy the pattern tonight after Aurelian and see what I can do. 😀

        Comment by Xhalax | October 20, 2011 | Reply

  8. Just thought i would say that i think i know how you feel, and that it only gets better and weirder as it goes on. My little girl Ivy Aurelia (not named after your book, just coincidentally timed right to appear to be) is now ten days old and its the most wonderful time of my life.

    Reading these entries is a bit like reading about my last year, except funnier and better written than i could do (the fact that my wife is also called Katie also makes it a bit surreal).

    Good luck with the next few months and enjoy your sleep while you can!

    Comment by Spinny | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  9. Congratulations to you and Mrs. Dembski-Bowden! As a father of two little girls myself (the youngest of whom is five months today), I can sympathize with the experience, and must tell you, this will be a lot of fun. I suggest you mentally prepare yourself for playing tea party now, while there is still time! And trust me, you will never know what love is until you look at your newborn child for the first time – it is going to add a whole new level of “oh my god I can’t believe it’s for real”, and it’s going to be compounded when you hold her for the first time and realize not only how fragile she is, but also how fully trusting she is of you, with her life and future literally in your hands.

    And yes, it’s OK to tear up.

    Of course, within a month you would have a hard time believing things were ever different, or remembering what it was like “before”. Once again, congratulations! 🙂

    Comment by Midgard | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  10. I say one thing to you, Sir, and your good lady wife:

    You guys kick ass, and so too will your daughter.

    Comment by Tim Kenyon | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  11. That’s nuts! Glad everything is going well with your daughter 🙂 And this advice at the end is very sound. Every child should learn about 88 miles per hour.

    Just note, I’m reading these blogs about child development and using you as a research subject. That way I can keep all the details in the back of my head and use them when I make a little munchkin (hopefully not for another five years or so. . .).

    Comment by Christopher Meyer | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  12. It’s amazing that they were able to tell all that from the scan. I can kind of make out a baby on the top and bottom, but I’m getting nothing on the middle one.

    Also, you totally got a ticket, didn’t you?

    Comment by G | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • The middle one is the easy one. You can’t miss the spine.

      When they took these, she’d rolled over and covered her head. We’d had 30 minutes of decent scannage beforehand, so it was a lot easier for them to make stuff out.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  13. My mum also sends her congratulations to you both as I’ve been showing her the pictures of Katie’s insidey bits!

    Comment by Xhalax | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  14. Do you plan on getting the super-ultrasound pics in the third trimester?
    I saw them do it on nat geo mind blowingly clear pics.
    Way better than the standard Predatoresque pics that are standard

    Comment by Bigwill | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  15. Wow! that’s some thing very special you have Aaron! congrats to you both or should that be all 3 of you now 🙂 wishing you the very best of luck and an amazing life ahead for all 3 of you. as for getting a real job, YOU DONT NEED ONE! your with out a doubt one of the best writers that i have ever read! keep up the good work. 🙂

    Comment by squirrelino | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  16. On the trying hard not to pee whilst baby is bouncing on your bladder issue… I always remember the look of relief on every patient’s face when they came out from their 20 week ultrasound.

    ‘Look at the picture,’ the doting dad-to-be would say, waving it around serenely.

    ‘Screw that,’ the mother would say. ‘I’ve just had to have some maniac pressing down on my bladder, which was full due to being forced to drink an entire ocean before we went in… I’m going to the bathroom.’

    You have your princess. I am thrilled for you both.

    Comment by Sarah Cawkwell | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  17. Wait a minute… you have feelings? No way!

    Anyway, congratulations on the healthy baby. When will indoctrination begin?

    Comment by Jos Mertens | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  18. Just had a baby boy 3 months ago and I still can’t believe it. Wait until your daughter pops out and three weeks later your holding her in your arms trying to write some insane story about blood and destruction, then you feel your arms getting all wet and sticky and realize she pooped all over you and is smiling. Its unreal. Congrats man! welcome to the life of being a Dad.

    Comment by zAngle | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  19. *sheds manly tear*

    Comment by Tim Sweeney | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  20. Happy for you man! So as i see it – now we get more pancakes in Night Lords colours =)

    Comment by Anakwanar | October 21, 2011 | Reply

  21. Hmm, now you’re going to have 16 years or so to learn how to use a shotgun so that when some young ruffian decides to take your daughter on a date you can sit on your front porch cleaning it!

    “Taking her to the Olive Garden? Seriously?” *pops back the pump, starts cleaning the barrel* “I suppose that’s better than Denny’s. Now take a seat while I explain to you how she’s a noble and virtuous woman.”

    Comment by John the Great | October 23, 2011 | Reply

  22. When we were expecting our first child i was cheering for a girl too. Im not entirely sure why i was so reluctant to the idea of having a boy now. All the wierd fears about how a boy can “turn out” or how they behave has evaporated and i cant even conjure up anything that feels like those memories or fears no matter how hard i try. Following your letters reminds me that i once felt something similar but the feeling is definitely gone. Who knew being a dad could be this awesome? I dont think my dad knew.
    Now that we are expecting a girl (in less than 3 weeks!!) something new and alien is creeping up. Annoying…
    Congrats and all the best whises!

    Comment by Andreas Fabricius | October 25, 2011 | Reply

  23. Hey Aaron just received Aurelian today due to dinkus down at ups. Thought it well to give thanks for the inspirado, and in near future may come back to get some insight on motives of sorts. I was in disbelief over some of the detail, couldn’t bring myself to jump in right away. Also really into the art direction of shane’s, tons of other cool things with NL’s as well. Anywho much appreciative of the goods. Thanks again! \m/ Dave

    Comment by Dave Edwards | November 1, 2011 | Reply

  24. Congratz on the little one. They are a real bundle of everything!! Just think about 8 weeks to go before she is due, and all of the preparations you have yet to complete!!!

    As a new dad expect to get pee’d, spitup, and poop’d on. Don’t worry, it sounds worse than it really is. That is unless she has explosive poo, and it blasts you, and everything in her firing arc.

    Comment by exsulis | January 9, 2012 | Reply

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