Modern technology is truly amazing. I don't often take the time to appreciate it, but sometimes I'm hit with the realization of just how awesome modern technology is--the ability to see and hear events that are occurring on the other side of the world, or right in front of us but so small that our eyes can't discern them; the ability to record and play back images of all kinds; even the ability to cool an entire residence to a comfortable temperature when it feels like a furnace outside (an ability for which I am becoming increasingly grateful as summer approaches!).
I am in even greater awe of the intricacy and majesty of God's creations for which He did not use human minds and hands as His tools--rugged mountains, beautiful meadows, delicately balanced ecosystems.
And then there are those times when modern technology and God's creation intersect. The ingenuity of man--enabled by God--allows us to see a side of God's creation that wasn't possible a century ago, a decade ago, or in some cases, a year ago. Those times truly fill me with wonder.
The most striking examples of those times recently have occurred as I'm lying in an exam room looking at a large screen mounted on the wall opposite me--staring in awe at my daughter as she rests, squirms, and hiccups inside me.
During this pregnancy, Jeff and I have had an opportunity that I doubt we'll have with any future pregnancies--the opportunity to watch as our daughter grows and matures before her birth. Most of these ultrasounds were obtained for less than desirable reasons, as you'll read, but the result is spectacular. So join me now as I offer you a glimpse through the window into the womb ...
The picture above was taken on 12 December 2009, when I was around six weeks along (around four weeks once you realize that the first two weeks of pregnancy are before ovulation even occurs!). We had an early ultrasound because of the cramping and bleeding that I was experiencing, which raised fears of an ectopic pregnancy. The purpose of this ultrasound wasn't actually to see the baby--that was impossible at this point--but to see the gestational sac and determine where it had implanted. The gestational sac is labeled on the above image as "GS," and as you can see, it was located within the uterus, much to our relief.
This next picture was taken on 20 December 2009, at almost 8 weeks. Because of my symptoms, my medical providers wanted to see evidence that the baby was still alive before they began any routine prenatal care. During this ultrasound, we saw the baby--I think they called her an embryo at that point--and the characteristic flutter that indicates the beating of a developing heart. The baby is the light spot inside the black area, with the two plus signs indicating her length. Although this ultrasound was just over one week later than the first, that one week plus the benefits of more sensitive equipment enabled us to go from "no baby" to "baby," albeit "tiny tiny baby." And there is no way I can describe the joy and relief of seeing the rhythmic flutter that showed that our baby was alive.
This picture was taken on 24 January 2010, at almost 13 weeks. We had this ultrasound because we wanted nucal translucency screening. This early screening gives a good indication of several possible problems with the baby--we knew that we would have this child even if she had problems, but we also knew that if that were the case, we would need time to prepare ourselves for the arrival of a special needs baby. So we opted for the screening. The opportunity for another ultrasound was a bonus! It was during this ultrasound that we first heard Alexa's heart beat and saw her move. You can see in the picture above that she definitely looks more baby-like here, with a recognizable head and body. We also saw her little arms and legs waving as she maneuvered--her high activity level during this ultrasound had me comparing her to a jumping bean.
For this next one, I just had to show you two pictures. These were taken on 30 January 2010, at almost 14 weeks. We discovered after having the previous ultrasound taken that the hospital where we had been referred for that couldn't actually do the nucal translucency screening. They did the ultrasound but they didn't draw the blood or presumably have the connections to send the blood for testing. So we went to a different clinic, repeated the ultrasound, and had the blood drawn and shipped to the UK--or maybe it was Germany; I don't remember--for testing. The results eventually came back that there was little likelihood that the baby had any of the disorders that this test detects, and we were able to see our daughter in 3D for the first time. These are my two favorite pictures. The top one shows Alexa's big head, her face, and her little body, all facing left. I like how she appears to be praying. The bottom one--my all-time favorite--shows Alexa facing us. I'm not sure if the structure on the left is the placenta or what, but I love how it appears to cradle her as she rests comfortably against it.
I just had to show you two from this one as well. These sonograms were taken on 17 March 2010, around 20 weeks. This is the ultrasound that most people get, in which they find out the baby's gender. Our daughter was being modest that day. The doctor told us that he was "almost certain" that she was a girl, but his voice and body language was a little less confident than I would have found assuring. She wouldn't show us "the goods" that day, but she did let us get a couple of pictures of her face. In the top picture, you can make out her eyes, nose, and mouth as she lies on her back. You also can see her arms and legs, but she has a leg or foot strategically placed. The bottom picture had Jeff making cracks about Skeletor for a while. I admit it--I didn't get offended and even joined in the Skeletor comments some; it's an apt description of how her face appears in that picture!
Okay, I admit it--this picture also was taken on 17 March. We had our last ultrasound on 5 May 2010, just last week, at around 27 weeks. There was no medical reason for this ultrasound. We wanted confirmation on the gender, and when the doctor suggested another ultrasound, we saw no reason to decline. We also were hoping for a nice view of Alexa's face, since it should have a little more fat on it now and look more like a baby than a skeleton. However, she absolutely did not cooperate with that. The picture above shows a side view of the position that she stayed in pretty much the whole time. Her legs are up, in a pike position, so that her legs and feet cover her face. We can't even get a side view of her face because her arms were blocking it. During this most recent ultrasound, we didn't even get this view. We got the view that showed us her backside and the backs of her legs, hiding her face. I don't feel comfortable posting that picture online, because her backside is clearly discernible, and even though she is still in the womb, a lady is entitled to her modesty. She did shift position just enough for the doctor to say that she is definitely a girl--either that or he's "imagining things," in his words. He seemed confident enough this time to reassure me that all of our cute baby girl clothes will be put to good use. (Although I did wake up two mornings later from a dream in which our little girl turned out to be a boy who had to go nameless for several days because we hadn't picked out a boy's name.)
So there you have it--a sampling of the glimpses we've been given of Alexa's development so far. I don't think we'll have any more ultrasounds, unless something unexpected happens, so these will be the last pictures of her until her birth. It looks like the curtains have closed on the window, to take the analogy too far :) But I always will be grateful that during this, our first pregnancy, we were able to watch as our baby developed from a tiny bean-shaped embryo into a full-fledged baby.