Cameron, my 4 year old, has been asking for a new baby sibling for a while now. He has been through the whole getting-a-new-baby process and has watched aunts and friends’ parents grow babies inside of them so he understands that babies start in mommies’ bellies.
When we finally broke the news to him, he wasn’t at all shocked that there was a baby in my belly, even though I wasn’t showing yet.
When we told Gavin, our 2 year old, about the pregnancy, he told us that we were nuts. His response to us telling him that our family would have a new baby and that the baby was currently living in my belly was a resolute “No”. It wasn’t the kind of “No” that comes when you suggest that a two year old eat his vegetables, but more like the “No” that follows a ridiculously silly question. We might as well have told him that we were now a family of cows.
I suppose I don’t really blame Gavin. This is all so very new to him and the idea of a person is living inside of another person is frankly freaky if you’ve never considered the concept before. So while Cameron gently rests his hand on my belly to hopefully feel the baby kick (something he finally felt on Sunday!), Gavin backs away in horror when I even suggest he try feeling. For now, this growing belly is just a major hindrance to comfortable cuddling, in Gavin’s humble opinion.
I really wanted to help the boys experience this pregnancy a little more than they can by simply watching my belly grow, feeling kicks, and giving the baby-belly hugs and kisses. Cameron is already so very ready to care for this new baby and Gavin is beginning to understand that our family dynamic is changing. My husband and I are lucky enough to begin to get to know this beautiful new member of our family through our greater understanding of the pregnancy process and shared medical appointments to hear the heartbeat and see the ultrasound, but our kids don’t get to experience this pregnancy in the same way.
At our local hospital, children are not allowed to come for the 20 week ultrasound appointment, which is pretty much the only ultrasound for low risk mothers during a pregnancy. I did make sure to schedule a obstetrician appointment during the kids’ vacation so that they could come in and hear the baby’s heartbeat. But there is just something so very special about seeing bits and pieces of the baby growing inside.
It is for this reason that I knew I wanted to have a 3D ultrasound during this pregnancy. Booking an elective, 3-D ultrasound used to be very popular here in Halifax because up until a couple of years ago, it was the only way to find out the sex of your baby before the baby was born. Our hospital refused to share that information until just recently. But finding out the sex has never been a priority in any of our pregnancies. (And we still aren’t finding out this time, even though our hospital, and UC Baby were willing to tell us).
So, why go to a 3D ultrasound if you’re not finding out the sex of your baby (or, if you don’t even want to know?)
The experience of going to UC Baby is really so very different than the experience of going to a hospital for an ultrasound. First of all, I wasn’t ridiculously uncomfortable with a full bladder while I was kept waiting for an hour beyond my appointment time. No, UC Baby does not require a full bladder, and because they don’t have to deal with medical emergencies, appointments happen on time. But more importantly, UC Baby is family friendly. It is a place to go to enjoy your newest family member just for the sole purpose of seeing them. There is no medical checklist, no worries about what one measurement or marker means. And the enjoyment can be shared with whomever you want included; Like a four-year-old and a two-year-old big brothers.
I was surprised at how family-friendly UC Baby actually was. We went for a 3D ultrasound with my first baby, and I recall UC Baby being a very tranquil place, perhaps not suited for children. But the children’s things are just very carefully camouflaged. When we arrived, the boys were offered paper, crayons, and a drink (even juice was an option!). When it was time for our appointment, the boys found a box of toys to entertain themselves with when they got bored of the television screen. Somehow, the room still managed to be dark and peaceful, even with two little rascals running around.
(As an aside, UC Baby also does live streaming, so we decided last minute to share the ultrasound feed with the grandparents too. The receptionist was very kind and patient and helped some of our more non-technical savvy relatives figure out the live-feed over the phone. This is just more proof that they are able to accommodate all sorts of family dynamics).
There is a slight but obvious disconnect for children over how they can see the baby on a television screen when everyone knows the baby is in Mommy’s belly. But we had tried to prepare Cameron for this before our appointment, explaining that a machine would be able to see inside to the baby and then we would see what that machine can see on a computer screen. While a 3D ultrasound may look weird in still photos, it is so much more clear and obvious than a regular ultrasound. My four year old had no trouble making out the baby’s features, and our two-year-old could tell that we were looking at a baby. Because of my anterior placenta, we were only able to see the baby from one angle, so there was not much variation of images, but it was so very cool to see Cameron pick up the new baby’s eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet.
I always feel like ultrasounds are a special connection to my child that I will likely never again have. While I’ll soon be able to hold my baby and kiss his* face, I will (hopefully) never again see his heart beating or the bones in his body. And now, this is something that at least Cameron will be able to carry with him as well. Our whole family is getting this new baby, and I very much want the whole family to be involved in these beginning stages as well.
We will be going back to UC Baby at 30 weeks for a second peek at a soon-to-be bigger baby, and we’ll be bringing the boys back with us. It will be interesting to see how their understanding will be different after already having seen an ultrasound of the baby, and to see what differences they notice in the baby.
Pregnancy is a really cool time in a family, and it isn’t something I want to go through alone. I love that I was able to share in this first look of the baby with my bigger children. They keep calling this “their baby”, and it totally is. This baby is all of ours. It is our family’s. And just like the rest of the family, this baby is really cute.
*or her. But I’ll probably stick with “he” because that’s what I’m used to saying. And also, at this point, I’m not convinced that my husband and I can make a female baby.
The Halifax location of UC Baby very kindly offered my the this ultrasound session complementary so I could write about the experience.