Yesterday was the 20-week scan.
Despite the coronavirus restrictions in place at NHS hospitals across the country I was able to attend. The purpose of the 20-week pregnancy scan is, my wife tells me, not really to find out the sex of the baby. That is just a happy by-product of it for those who wish to know, and is (obviously) why the 20-week scan has become commonly referred to as ‘the sexing scan’.
It’s actually ‘the anomaly scan’. The truer purpose is to check whether things are okay and that the baby’s development is as it should be. Even under current guidelines and regulations both parents are permitted to be present at that, not just the mother, in case things are not developing normally.
There was no concerning news for us. And nor did we discover whether our child is a girl or a boy.
We made it clear to the sonographer at the outset of the appointment that we didn’t want to know. A couple of times she told us to look away as she was scanning the legs and abdomen. She was very discrete and had possibly undergone RADA training before signing on with the NHS. If she saw something she gave not a hint. Not even a micro-hint. Not even a sub-atomic flicker of a hint. Nothing. Perfect.
For the majority of the appointment we peered in wonder over our masks, never leaving the monitor except to make eye-contact with each other. Here, again, was our child. Hands. Lips. A nose. Eyes. A spine. A heart, beating. A magnificent pulse of beautiful light on the screen.
However, our child was “awkward”, according to the technician, and wouldn’t position appropriately for a complete scan. They like to check the heart from three different positions and could only do so from one. So my wife is going to have to go back for a short appointment during the next fortnight to finish off the final bit of the procedure. I hope I can go with her.
After we’d finished at the hospital and walked back to my car I sent my Mum a photograph I quickly took of the scan picture, via Facebook messenger.
She replied immediately: “Hello baby… It’s your Nan here. I can’t wait to meet you”. Of course, I felt overwhelmed. More by the message than the scan procedure itself this time, if I am going to be completely honest.
There is an air of reprieve and a sense of release in our lives, and I will explain why…
March 2020 (to who knows when) is likely to be remembered as the oddest era of modern times. Of that there is no doubt. Round our way, a global pandemic and the pregnancy.
These are two of the three things which have dominated the days of my wife and I over the last few months. We have tried our best to minimise the effect on mood and outlook brought about by the lockdown and the change in how we go about our lives. I think we’ve done quite well, domestically.
This last week my wife’s period of vulnerability shielding has been deemed to be over. She has stopped working from home and has returned to the medical practice. It seems utterly pointless to me. Her employers have set her up in a small room on her own, away from other people.
And I was asked to begin going back into the office for two days a week. Again, utterly pointless. I cannot begin to describe how much I resented it – in part because of the almost-an-hour each way travel time I had got used to being able to call my own, and the ‘extra’ money saved by not buying fuel.
In workplace terms, though it was good to see one or two of my valued colleagues after a long ‘absence’, I was scared by my lack of trust in the company’s half-hearted social distancing measures. In work itself terms, I was demotivated, distracted and unfocused – and less productive than if I had been at home. Interesting.
During lockdown it has been rare to see our favourite people. We’re both quite tactile and it has been odd to not have been able to hug or kiss or pat or punch our friends on those rare occasions we have seen them. And, as I have said before, there is an electricity conducted during physical presence that you just cannot mimic in a Zoom or Skype or FaceTime call.
Yes, they have been unusual and often difficult, the six months just gone in the year so far. And I am tired, so tired, not least because we have actually had a close encounter with the pandemic.
In March my 75-year old Mum was rushed into hospital with a serious condition (unconnected to coronavirus). I accompanied her into the A&E department and sat beside her for several hours as she lay shrivelled and pathetic within a tatty blanket on a gurney.
Seventy-two hours later the country went into lockdown. And then, a couple of weeks after that, a terrible ‘phone call from my stepfather to tell us my Mum had contracted Covid-19.
There were many moments in which I was absolutely convinced I would never see her again. Four months dragged on and on. Her 76th birthday passed. Messages were brief, ‘phone calls were difficult and her voice was unfamiliar, no longer even sounding like my Mother’s.
No opportunity to be at her side as she faded away. The guilt, the longing.
When my wife and I discovered the pregnancy and rang to tell her, it was not lost on me that she may not survive to meet her first grandchild. She cried. We cried too. Tears of joy but there was also an elephant in the room. I don’t know whether the news acted as some sort of motivator, a well-timed spur, but I strongly suspect that it did.
She rallied, but it was a long and difficult haul.
In the last four months my Mum has been hospitalised for a serious condition, contracted and then recovered from Covid-19, gone rapidly downhill and then back up again, and then back down again and almost died. One Sunday night she became extremely weak – in no condition to undergo surgery. But without it she would die, and possibly that night.
The doctors felt they had an obligation to at least try. Remarkably, she pulled through.
Eventually she left hospital and went into a convalescent facility for a few weeks, where she received intensive physio and human kindness. We were able to stand outside of her window and talk to her, one evening. She and my wife looked into each other’s eyes and cried.
Three weeks ago she returned home to her husband and her faithful dog (who has been depressed for months) to begin the process of rebuilding her life. She is doing very well. She even put on a little bit of make-up and some lipstick ready for my wife and I visiting her last week, and she has managed to accompany the dog on a slow and gentle walk outside the back of their house. Sure and steady.
She can’t wait to meet her first grandchild.