8. The 20-Week Scan
While the most important thing is finding out if your baby’s developing normally, there can be another exciting discovery at your 20-week scan. So did Rosalind Sack find out the sex?
One of the best tips I've been given for tackling huge projects, is to break them down into manageable chunks. That way, you work towards a series of smaller goals rather than heading, all guns blazing, towards a mammoth end objective, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Whether exam stress at school, delivering a big project at work, or renovating a house, those wise words have stood me in good stead so far.
Which is probably why my partner Ed and I have been subconsciously setting ourselves little milestones throughout the pregnancy. As the end goal in this case is a painful few hours in hospital, followed by being in sole charge of keeping an actual person alive – while having pretty much no idea what we're doing – It's no wonder we've packed that terrifying realisation up in a neat little box, tied it with a bow, and chucked it forcibly out of the window... for now.
Today, we reached another of those smaller goals, one that had filled us both with equal amounts of excitement and anxiety, and by far the most significant of them all to date – the 20-week scan. The one where they check the baby's anatomy, take measurements and look out for any abnormalities. The one where, and I'm quoting the slightly terrifying NHS leaflet we were given about it, “we sometimes find very serious problems, and this can be very shocking and upsetting”. No biggie, then.
As the black-and-white image appeared on the monitor, all the emotions of the first scan came rushing back, and it was overwhelmingly brilliant to see our little baby again all these weeks later, its tiny heart racing away. I was keen to keep the sonographer talking, convinced that as long as she was speaking, everything was well. If she fell silent, it was time to worry.
In her soft voice, she started explaining the areas she was studying. “That's the brain looking fine... there are the four chambers of the heart... and two eyes in the sockets... its little feet crossed over.” We were transfixed by the incredible detail we could make out on the screen.
To be honest, she did also point out some indistinguishable shadows, which could have been anything, but we continued happily nodding and grinning at the screen as tears trickled down my face.
“Your baby appears to be developing normally,” she summed up. And as we emerged from the calm and quiet of that dark little room, into the bright chatter-filled hospital hallway, I managed to hold myself together for the few minutes it took to duck out of view of the others in the waiting room. Then my emotions took over, and I had a little cry in Ed's arms.
Everything had been as good as we could have hoped for. It was another small milestone and, in that moment, we were quietly overjoyed. It wasn't just being reassured that the baby seemed to have all the right bits in all the right places that felt amazingly moving, we found out another exciting detail, too.
Without a doubt, the question we've been asked more than any other since announcing our news is whether we're going to find out the sex. It's one of those questions everyone asks expectant parents, a bit like asking taxi drivers if they’ve had a busy night, or quizzing your gran about the weather on the phone. And it seems a lot of people have strong ideas about whether or not you should find out too – particularly older relatives.
So yes, we did find out the sex. And no, it wasn't so we can paint the nursery pink or blue. In fact, I don't really know why we chose to – we had no preference either way – it just seemed far too exciting not to find out when we had the opportunity. If nothing else, it will save us hours of debate over a name we won’t end up using.
Such are other people's wishes that we don't plan to share the news, although we have a disclaimer that if it accidentally slips out (which it probably will, knowing us) then we can't be to blame. But for now, just Ed and I (and the sonographer... oh, and the cat) know. And it's the best little secret I've ever kept.