After the initial shock of my first positive pregnancy test wore off, my mind started racing with questions. Is this really happening? Am I really down for this? How will I tell my partner? Like, a whole big production, or a low-key, “By the way, you knocked me up,” kinda deal? What kind of mother will I be? How will our friends and family react? What will my baby look like? There were so many unknowns. So, I was so excited when my doctor scheduled my first ultrasound because, well, ultrasound visits are the absolute best.
Most expecting parents in America can anticipating having two to four ultrasounds during pregnancy, possibly more if there are specific concerns. While 2D ultrasounds are generally accepted as safe, most medical practitioners don’t recommend getting more scans than are deemed medically necessary, and they definitely don’t recommend having at-home or 3D ultrasounds done purely for keepsake purposes. Yes, technology is cool, but this stuff is powerful folks. Leave it to the professionals. Besides, it’s totally worth it to have a trained technician who truly understands what they’re seeing guide you through such an amazing process. For all the reasons that an ultrasound can be nerve-wracking, it’s far better to be at a visit with a doctor or technician who is qualified to tell you when to worry and when to relax, than with some random person running a novelty shop at the mall.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you just say that ultrasound visits are the absolute worst?” Yes, yes I did. Because it’s true, and I contain multitudes. Ultrasound visits can be terrifying and sticky and awful, there's no doubt about it. However, they’re also the greatest, because:
You Get To See Your Baby
Especially in the early days, your not-yet-a-baby is mostly an idea that has taken over your mind the moment you peed on a stick. Getting to actually see something on a screen is pretty awesome proof that no, you haven’t turned into a nauseous pile of sore boobs for nothing. Your body is actually taking a bunch of cells and turning them into a person.
How lucky we are to be alive right now! We have machines that let us see inside our bodies and watch what’s happening. It’s easy to take that for granted, because we’re surrounded by pretty amazing technology all the time, but for most of human history this ability just wasn't possible. That’s why there’s eleventy billion weird ways to interpret your pregnancy symptoms and guess what sex your baby will be. Apparently, before ultrasounds, folks were just swinging rings over bellies and trying to find meaning in their vomit.
They Can Be Reassuring
Learning that you’re pregnant, and then deciding to keep that pregnancy, initiates you into a world of worry that is next-level for even the most practiced worrywarts among us. So, while ultrasound visits are often nerve-wracking, it can be so reassuring when you get to see that your baby’s still in there, sprouting body parts and looking cuter every time. And even when they're not reassuring, they can at least give you a sense of clarity so you can begin to understand what to expect, instead of stewing in your own uncertainty.
It's A Close-Up Lesson In Human Development
Witnessing the blob at your dating ultrasound transform into a little human-ish creature at your nuchal translucency screening, and then into the miniature baby you see at your anatomy scan over the course of a few short weeks is just fascinating. At no other time in our life do humans grow so quickly or change so profoundly. We actually get to see it happen.
Your Baby Does Funny Things
Because I’d only ever seen ultrasounds in movies or on television shows, before getting pregnant, I didn’t realize that a baby could do anything besides lie in repose and give clear images of their silhouette. So when my own baby was in there, flip-flopping around and occasionally looking like a terrifying ghoul, it was extremely entertaining.
Learning A New Thing About Your Baby Is Your First Non-Ridiculous Reason To Cry In A While
At one visit around ten or eleven weeks, I remember being on the verge of tears because I was so worried about getting bad news. Then, as soon as the ultrasound started, my little fetus came onscreen and waved its still-forming little hand in a perfect arc, as if to say, “Hey, Mom! Look what I made since the last time you saw me!” I did cry, but out of total joy at this spectacular little being. It was nice to cry about something as significant as the wonder of creation, as opposed to the last thing I’d cried about: the fact that tomatillo salsa continued to exist after my pregnancy hormones made me hate it.
Physical photos? Of my child? That I don’t have to fight with that weird kiosk at Target to get? Yes, please!
You Get To See What You Normally Can Only Wonder About
It can be hard to visualize what’s going on in your belly on a day-to-day basis, so it’s really cool to be able to look at your baby’s movements and start to learn the various parts you feel moving around. Plus, getting to know exactly how fast your little one’s heart is beating, or seeing them suck their thumbs or play with their feet, is just too amazing for words.
It's A Break From Your Routine
For me, pregnancy made it so hard to focus on normal, grown-up stuff. “I’m making a person right now. My baby could be growing a kidney this very second, but I have to go to the bank and pretend to care about money.” Ultrasound visits were a welcome break from, in a way, adulthood. I had a reason to ditch work that would allow me to think about the only thing I wanted to think about: what’s my baby doing right now?
It Makes Everything Feel More Real
Especially if you’re a first-time mom, pregnancy can feel really abstract at times. (Doubly so for your non-pregnant partner, if they’re in the picture.) Getting to actually look at a tiny human-in-progress, who may even start displaying your or your partner’s features, is great reassurance that yes, this is really happening.