How not to conduct an ultrasound

Yesterday we had our first official ‘booking appointment’ – when you go to the hospital where the baby will be born and have a scan, get blood tests and urine samples, explore medical history and potential risk factors, etc. In normal circumstances, this would have been our first scan and the first time we saw baby, but in our case it was the fourth scan. I had two very early in the pregnancy (5 weeks and 8 weeks) because of a scare which turned out to be nothing. We then had a scan done privately before I went on holiday for three weeks, because I wanted reassurance that all was a-okay before I went off on my travels. 

I am extremely thankful that I had that scan done privately, and that we were in a position to afford it (it was €120, which seems to be more or less the going rate). It was a wonderful experience. The ultrasound technician – who must have seen thousands of scans in her career – made us feel like our baby was the most important and special she had ever seen (and she was right, of course!). She shared in our excitement as she showed baby’s body, pointing out all the different parts and explaining the movements, letting us hear the heartbeat in the knowledge that it would be the sweetest sound for us. She told us exactly how many days old she thought baby was based on measurements, and gave us her educated guess about the sex when we asked (girl 😊). She understood that this was a beautiful and significant moment for us as a couple, and an important step on our journey to first time parenthood. When I left that scan, I felt so happy and lucky and excited. 

Our scan yesterday could not have been more different. The ultrasound technician was not unfriendly, but she was very matter-of-fact and treated the scan like it was essentially just a medical procedure. Gilchrist was not able to sit next to me, and although he could see a screen, it was different to the one in my view so I didn’t feel like we were sharing the experience. When the baby showed up on the screen, I asked if it would be possible to know anything about the sex (we wanted a second opinion!) but she brushed it off with a “no, too soon to tell.” Gilchrist asked about the size of the baby, to which she replied “no, we can’t tell that.” I wouldn’t like to question her authority on whether that’s actually even true, but it was discouraging that she had so little regard for our curiosity about our baby – and remember that, as far as she was concerned, this was our first scan. 

Baby was on the screen for about a minute or maybe two, and she didn’t tell us much about what we were seeing except that baby’s feet were right up over her head. She did mutter “congratulations”, but there wasn’t much sincerity in it. It was over fast, and when we got outside, I couldn’t help myself from crying a little. I know that the most important thing is that baby is perfectly healthy and developing correctly, and for that I am very thankful. We are so lucky, and I really don’t take that for granted. But I had been so looking forward to spending some precious time seeing our little one again, and it ended up being a very underwhelming and lacking experience. 

I know that in the public system, medical staff are under-resourced, underpaid and underappreciated. She was probably overstretched and overtired. Of course it’s perfectly logical and to be expected that our experience in the private hospital was nicer than the one in the public hospital. But I keep thinking how crushed I would have been if that was, as it should have been, my first scan. 

Maybe this is a normal experience, and we were spoiled by our scan in the private hospital. It would be nice to think, though, that these men and women who have the significant task of giving mums and dads their first glance at their baby, would stay mindful of the momentousness of their role on parents’ road to parenthood. 

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