I asked Bruce last night whether he wanted to come with me for the ultrasound at Cornell. He’s got a hectic and stressful job, and while he seemed to want to go, he‘s currently juggling several projects, all of which need his attention.
“I want to go but…” I don’t remember if he finished or if I didn’t hear the end because I knew what he was going to say. “….next time. Definitely.”
“You don’t have to go, you know,” I said, adding, “I just thought you might want to hear the heartbeat.”
I felt like my mother walked in the room. I had served Bruce some guilt wrapped in bacon. It’s not always obvious its guilt til you take a bite.
“I do want to hear it,” he said.
“I know,” I said.
We left it at that.
After my morning walk, I caught a ride with Bruce as he drove to work. His office puts me closer to the New York City train lines than leaving from my house by the shore.
“I’m going to be really early for the train,” I said as we got closer to his office.
“It’ll take about eight minutes to walk from the church parking lot to the station,” he said.
“You’re not dropping me off at the station?”
“I’m going with you,” he said.
Elation. And then as often happens, it morphed into fear. The last time I dragged Bruce to an ultrasound was when I was pregnant three years ago, and it was at that ultrasound that we could see a fetal sac had developed, but there was no fetus inside it.
“I hope I haven’t lured you here under false pretenses,” I said.
When we arrived at Cornell, I went to the bathroom. I always do before an ultrasound. I’m always afraid I’ll start peeing when they stick the wand in, like you see little boys whizz all over the place when they’re having their diapers changed. Before I could pull my pants down, Bruce was knocking at the door.
“They called your name,” he said.
I came running out and ran to the front desk.
“Did they call me?”
“No. There are a couple of people in front of you,” the receptionist said.
“Novice,” I said to Bruce.
I went back in the bathroom, and just as I was pulling my pants down, I heard my name called. I came flying out of the bathroom again, grabbed Bruce and headed toward the examining room. As I lay on the examining table waiting for the doctor, Bruce sat behind me reading a newspaper article about a hgih school band teacher who was selling the band’s instruments off to a second-hand store in order to make extra cash. He’d only earned $1,300 and was now being charged with theft.
“He probably could have made that in the summer giving kids private lessons,” Bruce said.
Just then, the doctor arrived. I felt like I was about to give Bruce a show. I hoped I could perform. The doctor inserted the ultrasound wand and voila. The brine shrimp growing inside me appeared on the monitor – though it was larger this time, perhaps as large as a gulf or tiger shrimp. It looked like it was riding inside a banana-shaped spaceship. The doctor turned on the sound and I could once again hear the heartbeat. Buh-duh buh-duh buh-duh-buh-duh. I don’t know if it was the sound of the equipment or because the receptor for the sound was stuck inside my uterus but the heartbeat had that muffled sound of things under water.
“Do you see it?” I said to Bruce.
“I see it,” he said.
I asked the doctor if I could finally stop worrying about the pregnancy. Was there not a time when I could breathe a sigh of relief?
“Once we hear the heart beating like that, the probability of a miscarriage is less than 7%,” the doctor said. The crowd breathes a sigh of relief. “Aahhhhhhhhhhh.”
But he added, “I’m reluctant to give you the 7% now, because of the spotting.” The crowd lets out a communal moan of disappointment. “Ooohhhhhhhh.”
The doctor handed us a photo of the ultrasound and we were on our way. As we left the building and emerged into the baking July sun, I felt a mix of relief and uneasiness. The ultrasound had allayed my fears, for the moment, but my doctor gave me one of those moments where you’re about to write off one of your fears as paranoia, and then somebody walks up to you and says, “Actually, your fear is warranted.” One of the last times I felt that was 10 years ago, when my father called all of his children at work to say his doctor was 99% sure he had esophageal cancer. I spent the next 24 hours crying until my eyes swelled, and when I looked at Bruce, I suddenly felt silly. Bruce is a straight-shooter-doesn’t-suffer-fools-lightly kind of guy. When I looked at hm, I said, “I know, I know. They said he has cancer. It’s not like they said he’s dying.” And Bruce looked at me and said, “No, this is serious.”
As we headed toward the subway, Bruce looked at me and said, “Since when did you start walking like Tim Conway?”
“What?” I said and laughed.
Sometimes Bruce knows just what to say.