Janis Jaquith
496 words


Finding out the sex of your baby before birth -- doesn't that spoil the surprise?

A quarter-century ago, when the depths of my swollen belly were plumbed with sonar, my twin sons looked a pair of high-pressure areas on a weather map. We had to assume that what we were seeing was human -- discerning whether they were boys or girls wasn't part of the picture. And, anyway, I always figured that gathering detailed information about what was inside there would be like peeking inside a wrapped-up present before Christmas. You COULD do it, but why would you?

And then, my son sent me an ultrasound image of my first grandchild.

I knew that Tricia, his wife, was scheduled for an ultrasound that morning -- she was four months pregnant. Jackson called me and announced that he'd just had a first look at his daughter (a daughter!). I congratulated him, promised to check my e-mail for the ultrasound photo he had just scanned for me -- and oh, by the way, he says they will name her "Ida," after the heroine of Maurice Sendak's story, "Outside, Over There." Ida.

Before I could even take my hand off the receiver, fragments from Jackson's childhood shot through my mind like splinters of lightning: Worrying about him and his twin before they were born, worrying about him when he lost a kidney to a tumor, worrying that he'd end up being a father before he was old enough to be a husband.

But here he is, 25 years old, married and -- my eyes stung, my knees buckled and I sank to the kitchen floor, allowing the sobs to pulse through me -- and he and his wife are bringing into the world their first child, a daughter. Ida.

I'd had no idea that this mid-pregnancy revelation is now one of Life's Big Moments. Right up there with, "Will you marry me?" and "The tumor was benign."

I sat down at my computer and clicked on Jackson's message: Up popped a crisp image, a profile as clear as if it had been conjured by a psychic in her crystal ball, revealing that my granddaughter will have her father's forehead, her aunt's nose, her mother's chin.

With a few elegant lines, the ultrasound made palpable this child who is still blossoming inside her mother -- a child who won't find out what WE look like until Christmas Eve, Tricia's due-date.

I sat there for a long time, entranced by this surreal image: a distilled, exquisite profile of a tiny head -- the familiar tilt of the high, brief nose, the long upper lip, the curve of the back of the head (a head that I will soon cradle in my palm, savoring the warmth and weight of it). A contour that whispered: Little girl -- Ida -- you are one of us.

Copyright ©2023, Janis Jaquith. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.