I never got a reply, but even as I checked my phone when I sat filling out paperwork in the waiting room five minutes before my appointment, I hadn’t stopped hoping. Both Holly and India had offered to come for moral support, but I’d made up half a dozen excuses about why I wanted to be alone today.
I’d been filling out so much paperwork my hand was starting to go numb when I got to the last section: “Paternal Support.” The first question was easy, although Jude’s biting words rang in my ears as I checked the yes box: “Do you know who the baby’s father is?” The second and third weren’t so easy. “Is the father planning on playing an active role in the baby’s life?” and “Is the father supportive?” As soon as I was about to mark yes for both, I convinced myself the answer was no. After finding myself stuck on the same two questions when the ultrasound tech called my name, I created my own box of “I don’t know” for both.
“Hi, Lucy,” the young tech greeted me. She didn’t look too much older than me. “I’m Amy. Right this way.”
I followed her down the antiseptic-smelling hall, feeling like I was in a dream. Or a movie. My life no longer felt like my own, but like I was a passive spectator observing it, unable to control it.
“How are you doing?” she asked as she opened a door. The room inside was dark.
I was ready to answer with my standard as-of-late reply of fine when I stopped myself.
“I’m scared shitless,” I said, flashing her an apologetic smile.
Amy laughed. “At least you’re honest,” she said, motioning me toward the vinyl-covered bed. “I think that might qualify as the best answer I’ve heard all week.” She sat down on a rolling chair beside the bed and began tapping on a computer. “Go ahead and get comfortable and we’ll get started.”
I inhaled and tried to make myself comfortable as I reclined. Nothing was really comfortable about it, though. The room was too cold, the pillow was stiff, the paper covering the bed crackled loudly as I moved against it, and there was something so final about finding out if I was having a boy or a girl. I also knew I couldn’t get comfortable because Jude wasn’t here with me.
“Go ahead and roll up your shirt,” she said, grabbing a tube from her cart. “And you’ll be happy to know that some genius invented a warmer for this belly lube gunk, so you won’t hit the ceiling when I squirt some on your tummy.”
I almost smiled as I pulled my shirt up. “Belly lube gunk? Is that the technical term for it?”
Amy shook the tube and squeezed a good-size blob just above my belly button. “As technical as I’ll ever get,” she said, grabbing the ultrasound reader and lowering it to my stomach. “I’m going to take a quick look at your baby’s lungs, heart, and spine, and then we can determine the gender if you like.”
“I want to know,” I said, as she distributed the blob around.
Amy pressed a button on a remote and the TV in front of me clicked on. It was nothing but a bunch of darkish static, until all of a sudden a white little bean-shaped thing with arms and legs showed up on the screen.
“There’s your little peanut,” she said, rolling the instrument to give a different view.
I choked on a sob that came out of nowhere. It was primal—everything about my reaction to watching the baby inside me on a TV. Amy handed me a couple of tissues right before my first tears fell. She was an old pro.
These tears had nothing to do with hormones or me being one giant hot mess for the better part of a month. These tears were the kind that came from deep within your soul. They were the tears when life was created or taken away, and I wasn’t sure if they’d ever let up.
“This is one healthy little baby you’ve got cooking in here, Lucy,” Amy said after a while. “Everything looks great.”
Another assault of tears.
“You ready to find out if it’s a boy or girl?” she asked, shifting the view yet again. I nodded, because I was past words.
The door creaked open, filling the room with a ray of sharp white light as a body slid inside.
“Am I too late?” Jude asked, closing the door.
“No,” Amy answered, “you’re just in time.”
“Luce?” he said, coming toward me. “Am I too late?” he repeated with a whole lot of meaning between his words.
It took a moment for my eyes to readjust, but when they did and I saw the expression on his face, my heart kind of broke and burst at the same instant. He’d made it. He hadn’t let me down. He was here for me when I needed him most, looking tortured and anxious and as scared shitless as I was.
It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen.
“No, Jude,” I said, extending my hand toward him. “You’re not too late.”
He took my hand and knelt down beside me. “I’m so sorry, Luce,” he said, wrapping his other hand around mine. “I love you so damn much. And I love that baby in your belly so damn much.” He paused, biting the inside of his cheek. Seeming at a loss for words, he leaned his forehead into our entwined hands and closed his eyes. “I had so much else I wanted to say, but I’m sorry, and I love you . . . both pretty much sums it all up.”
I was convinced that this past month my tear ducts had taken it upon themselves to revolt and catch up on eight years of trying not to cry. “I’m sorry, and I love you, too,” I said. He was right: Those two sentences really did say it all.