I didn’t want them to come, those two almost-strangers sitting beside me as I waited for my ultrasound. Lying on my back, I closed my eyes as the technician applied the lubricating gel to my stomach. The touch of the gel shot a shiver down my spine, its cold and slimy fingers reaching out to embrace my swollen belly. I tried to loosen the stiffness of my fingers, uncurling them from the unnatural clench that they were in. It was no use to appear strange and incapable, not after what they suggested over the phone a few nights earlier. I eased my bloodless lips into a smile, trying hard to merge those two strange faces into that of Chris’. The smooth touch of the detector on my stomach shocked me, and I craned my neck up to try and see past those two heads blocking the screen.
She was there, as perfect as ever, her familiar outline dominating the screen. I could see the silhouette of her hands, moving through the void of my womb as though trying to weave a hello. She was much bigger than how she was in my first ultrasound, her body now curled against the curve of my stomach. I followed her tiny movements on the screen, the black and white images completing the presence of her as I felt her foot kicking inside me. She was perfect, from the crown of her head to her smallest toes, and they noticed just as much.
“Isn’t she lovely?” crooned that woman, and I felt an absurd surge of hatred towards her for interrupting my moment.
“Look at those tiny hands,” said the man, his hands clutching his wife’s, “I think she’ll have your slender fingers and silk soft palms.”
“Together with your nose, of course,” she said, pointing to the turning image of my baby, “I hope she has your green eyes.”
I bit down hard on my lips as they continued their talk, angry at them for hurting me with their words and annoyed at myself for even caring. She was theirs after all, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise. Yes, the original copy of her first ultrasound was still pinned to the door of my fridge, the blurry outline of her body reminding me so much of my own Mika. Yes, I did make up a list of names, romantic names taken from famous novels especially for her. Yes, I was the world to her for that moment, the one who nurtured her life. Yet all this didn’t make me her mother, just another of those aptly named “gestational carriers” who had no control. As I looked at the couple in front of me crooning over their unborn child, the baby lying in my belly, I realised what an idiot I was.
“You are feeling well, Ms Conry?” asked the woman, her eyes shining with love for my baby, “Jacinta’s not being too much of a burden?”
“Jacinta?” I asked, confused, then realised that they had named my baby, “No, she’s a good girl. A perfect girl.”
“Great,” said the man awkwardly, his hands still wrapped around his wife’s, “If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to contact us.”
“No, I’m good,” I said, sitting up and nodding words of thanks to the ultrasound technician, “The obstetrician said my... your baby’s healthy so all seems well.”
They seemed to be at a lost as to what they should reply, and I turned away in pretence of fixing up my gown so that I didn’t have to watch them. It was as though each second I saw them made me disliked them more, even though they were innocent and I was the one who agreed to get into this mess in the first place. Finally I shuffled towards the door, and the man stepped over to open it for me. I nodded a stiff thank-you to him and marched out, ignoring the eyes of waiting mothers-to-be on the little procession that followed me. I guess not many people would take an ultrasound with the biological parents of their child, being a third wheel that couldn’t escape. As I finished talking to the lady at the reception and confirming my address plus theirs so that the films could be mailed to us, the woman stepped forward.
“Thank you,” she said simply, her eyes saying it all.
“It’s ok,” I whispered, then turned around to leave.
It was as though I was afraid she could see right through me, could see that my words held no more truth than Pinocchio’s lies. I was afraid that she could see that’s it’s not ok for me at all.