Renaissance Column

NOVEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 11



CRIS COHEN

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CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and four online humor magazines.


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Too Candid Camera

CRIS COHEN

So Michele, my wife, and I were visiting with our friends Kari and Kendall, and they were showing us their recently taken ultrasound. And although it was very interesting, I didn't know how to politely convey the term "Yuck."

An ultrasound is, of course, when doctors take pictures of the baby developing inside the mother's womb, which essentially gets parents slowly used to the idea of giving their life savings to the people at Kodak. Parents take pictures of everything their kids do a nd unfortunately no one ever has the nerve to tell them to lay off for a while. I mean, if you're snapping photos of your kid's first bout with motion sickness, it's time to put the lens down.

So we're sitting there watching the ultrasound, which I'm pretty sure gets its name from the fact that many people almost scream when they first see one of these, either out of joy or a sudden need to leave the room and breathe into a paper bag. Personally, I've always been able to handle the ultrasound still shots, mainly because I am usually never able to see anything anyway. To me it's always this gray blob. It looks like someone was running a test pattern on a black and white television set.

But for some reason the parents are damn proud of the test pattern and they really want to show it to you. Not only that but they want you to see exactly what they see. Thus it becomes this impromptu Rorschach test. Because God forbid you honestly tell the parents that you don't see anything. Have you ever made this mistake? Parents can't let it go. They're determined that you see their kid. Never mind that it's still in that stage where it looks like a large salamander, they're going to make you see it no matter what it takes. Even if it means bringing out pens, hi-lighters, charts, graphs, and hallucinogenic drugs. You're not leaving until you say that you see the baby. It doesn't matter if they made a mistake and are showing you an overexposed picture from their trip to Argentina. Tell 'em you can see the baby. Otherwise you might not leave the house alive.

So by now I'm an expert at bluffing my way through the still photos of the ultrasound. It's to the point where I could start making money giving false testimony at trials.

LAWYER: And do you swear that you saw this man walking down a dark alley wearing a black hat and trench coat?

ME: You bet. He looks just like his mother.

But ultrasound technology has advanced over the years and now they don't just give the parents some still shots to take home. Now they give them a video tape of the whole thing. I'm not kidding. The next time you can't find anything interesting at Blockbuster, try the office of the local Ob-gyn. The thing is though, the technology has gotten so good that you can actually see the baby in all its three-dimensional glory. On the one hand this means I have to lie a lot less, but on the other hand it's really freaky. If you don't believe me, then take some horror film devotee, pop in the ultrasound tape without telling him what it is, and watch him run for the exit.

And I know that many people consider this a beautiful moment and it's a fascinating look at the evolution of a human life, but is this really something you want to put on after dinner? Our friends essentially invited us over for pie and an ultrasound. Although this might be an effective new weight loss system. Nothing kills an appetite better than those first home movies of junior.

So I'm thinking "yuck," but being quiet because I don't want to be mean, when Kendall, God bless him, says, "It kind of looks like an alien." Wow. You talk about the relief of finding out that you're not alone in the universe. It took me no time at all to second that motion. I practically leapt to my feet, saying, "Yes!" I mean, it's footage of a head and a spine squirming around inside what looks like a collapsed bean bag chair.

I just think that maybe there's a reason people don't traditionally see their baby until it comes out. At least, I never thought anything would make me yearn for the days of just ultrasound stills.

"Your baby looks great in this one."

"That's a picture of the Grand Canyon."

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GRAPHIC mixed media by Kevin Ridolfi.
PHOTO of ultrasound by www.ob-ultrasound.net.