At first, it was just a headline on my phone. A shooting in Connecticut. It seemed a teacher had been shot in the foot. I didn’t click on the story as I sat in the IVF clinic’s waiting area, filling in time between our 12-week scan and our final visit with the doctor. Another shooting in the U.S. Hopefully one hurt teacher was the extent of it.
By the time we were in the car driving home, the news coming out of Newtown, Conn., was vastly different. Twenty children dead, six teachers with them. Six- and seven-year-olds. My palm rested on my stomach as we listened in numb horror, a feeling that has become disturbingly familiar as each year seems to deliver up another ‘worst ever shooting’ story from the country to our south.
My best friend warned me that news will take on a different tone once you start heading towards parenthood. She’s right. Those children. Their parents. The survivors. As an expectant mother, a new angle of sadness was carved onto the emotions, joining my horror as a person, unease as a citizen, and ambivalence as a journalist to breathless coverage of such tragedy (is it violent video games, or the good old six o’clock news, that sets other would-be mass murderers onto the path of destruction?)
And in this atmosphere, how exactly does one share the news that all is well in our part of the world? That our two little beans are growing perfectly, at the same rate, with good healthy heartbeats? During our scan, the technician had a smile playing on her lips as the little ones bopped and bounced. Trying to nudge one into the right position for the NT test to ascertain likelihood of Downs syndrome, the second technician kept prodding my belly, at which Pretzel B would wriggle around adorably.
The Husband and I were rapt, smiling at the screen as the little blighters moved, sucked a thumb, or just randomly waved a limb. We could see spines, feet, arms, heartbeats. (Although admittedly I did struggle to stay awake for a good chunk of it. Lie a pregnant woman down….)
And elsewhere, parents of all ages were grappling with the challenge of losing – or possibly losing – their child. It doesn’t stop when they’re little either. A good friend of ours is in ICU right now, and I spent a while with his mother, stress, worry and fear deepening the lines on her weathered face. Becoming a parent, I realised, opens you up to new depths of fear, new vulnerabilities, that will never leave.
For now, though, from here, the news is all good. Our NT scan results were low, so no more tests recommended. Tomorrow, we meet our OB and start planning the rest of our so-far-so-good pregnancy.
And my thoughts will be with parents of all ages, in all countries, as they hold their children a little closer.