Just over two years ago, I went for an ultrasound.
I was nearly 8 months pregnant with my son, Connor, and things were going exactly as they should. I was round, I was comfortable, I was excited. This ultrasound—a purely precautionary measure recommended by our midwives after a very slight fender bender—was to be done at the walk-in clinic just minutes from my house. The clinic was, as almost all walk-in clinics are, unremarkable. Beige and windowless, never without the pall illumination of fluorescent lights overhead.
But when I think back to that ultrasound, I don’t remember the beige or the bland. I remember the Happy Ultrasound Technician. He was a small man, with wirey hands and thinning hair, but his eyes were bright, and his smile was big. From the moment the ultrasound began, The Happy Tech beamed. While the whole process was old hat by then—brace for the cold gel on my stomach, place the pillow in the small of my back— the man beside made that beige room light up.
“A Christmas miracle!!” He said.
“…Oh gosh, I hope not!” (I was, after all, a good month from my due date).
“Even better then! A New Year’s baby!”
“Haha, let’s hope.”
“Such a blessing, such a blessing.”
Looking back, he didn’t diagnose anything, of course. That’s not what ultrasound techs do. But his warm congratulations, the way he ushered me out of the office, and his parting smile as I went on my way, reassured me that all was well. And it was.
I remember telling Matt about The Happy Tech. Commenting on his sweet demeanour, grateful for his pleasant presence. But the cynic in me had to wonder, just a little, why he was so happy. Was it his first day on the job? Did he have a baby coming himself? Maybe he just got a raise! Or ate a really good breakfast?
Nearly two years to that day, that question got its answer.
On January 3, the Happy Tech conducted a very different ultrasound. He did not greet an 8 month-expectant mother. He did not see a soon-to-be-born baby summersault across the screen. And he did not talk of Christmas miracles.
Instead, he greeted an 8 week-expectant mother. And things went very differently. He had to look closer, and search longer than he expected for what he wanted to find. In the end, he could only note not where things were, but where they should have been. He offered no blessing. He gave no smiles. He only looked away, as the woman beside him barely disguised the panic in her voice.
“…but everything is OK, right?”
“I…well…you will have to discuss the results with your doctor.”
He could not wish her well. He could not smile. He could only go back to his office, and listen to the muffled sobs of a confused conversation between the woman and his receptionist.
“But…when will I know?
The Happy Tech was not happy that day, of course, because he already knew.
1in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. These are the statistics you never bother to learn until you join the ranks of the 1. And only once I had, did I realize that that technician must encounter anxious eyes and empty screens almost as often as he does the opposite. At first, this made me tremendously sad. Comparing our happy meeting with the one that confirmed our miscarriage only heightened the sense of loss.
But that is not what it does for The Happy Tech, and that’s not what it’s done for me since.
Because here is what I’ve realized: It is only because of the darkness he must encounter, and the heartbreak he must bear witness to, that he is able recognize the wonder when he sees it. On that day two years ago, as he caught a glimpse of Connor rolling around the screen, he knew, more than I did, that the ultrasound monitor was a window into something miraculous: a mystery, a marvel, a blessing.
Of course our miscarriage broke our hearts. Of course it altered the vision of our family. Of course we grieve it still. But as I do that, I will try, everyday, to be a little more like The Happy Ultrasound Technician. I will not be defined by the dark days, instead, I will freely talk of miracles when I see them. I will fervently thank the Lord for grace he’s already bestowed. I will recognize the blessings in my life and remind myself to not take them for granted, not for a minute.
I will try, as he did, to make even the beige rooms bright.