Peeking into the Womb
When I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first child, I chatted with a friend about our upcoming ultrasound. "We find out whether we're having a boy or a girl tomorrow," I said.
She nodded with a slight smile, and responded, "And you find out if your baby is healthy tomorrow. I hope it's good news."
I later learned that my friend's previous two 20-week ultrasounds had displayed a baby with anencephaly and then a baby with a severe heart defect. Neither lived.
But for me, that ultrasound was an exciting day of discovery. Not only did we find out that we were having a girl, but we also watched her suck her thumb, marveled as we saw her swallow amniotic fluid, and gazed upon her profile—the upturned nose and full lips I later came to know and love in person. I treasured the black and white photograph they printed out for us that day. Eight years later it sits in the bottom of Penny's memory box—a reminder of the day we named her, the day we celebrated her existence, the day we didn't discover that she has Down syndrome.
Ultrasound technology was first used to look inside the womb in the 1950s. By the 1980s it had become a conventional aspect of pregnancy in America, intended to provide information about the health and growth of the baby. In particular, ultrasounds could identify neurological conditions, heart concerns, and even Down syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies. Patients could use this information in a variety ...1