Twenty weeks. Given that the generally accepted gestational period for a human being is forty weeks, twenty weeks - a full five month investment in the ongoing clusterfuck that is pregnancy - is generally accepted as pretty far along in the process.
And so it was at twenty weeks - back in the long-ago, far-away time that I like to think of as early February, 2005 - that TheWife and I drove to her friendly OB/GYN practice for our first ultrasound on kid #2.
I had just returned from a weekend away in DC, where I'd attended a wedding shower for my own onetime best man Demoncrat and his terrifyingly brilliant and much-too-cute-for-him bride-to-be. It was a great time, not only because it began to provide me with inspiration as to how to sabotage my friend at the altar in the same way he'd sabotaged me, but because it was also my first weekend away on my own since kid #1 (that'd be TheHurricane, for those keeping score) showed up back in 2003. Which isn't to say that I didn't savor every tender moment with my wife and child... but it felt pretty damned sweet to get away for three days free of any responsibility above/beyond that of "do I have enough cash to buy another beer?"
Anyhow. I returned to my growing thermonuclear family with a smile on my face and love in my heart, believing that it was actually possible to balance this whole kid/family thing with something resembling a fulfilling adult life. TheWife was flying through knock-up #2 with flying colors, as all previous pregnant chick check-ups (I know there's a proper term for 'em, but keep in mind that I'm not too perceptive) had offered nothing but thumbs-up and intimations of good times ahead.
And so it was that I left the craptastic offices of my fledgling company (remind me to tell you sometime about what happened to those offices after we moved out) to pick up TheWife and head in together in for our first ultrasound, which we hoped would provide us with more thumbs-up, hearty pats on the back, and perhaps even definitive word on whether our son was destined to have a little brother or sister. All bets were on "sister," and our name options to that point were weighed heavily on the girl side (in fact, we'd already basically decided on a first and middle name if the answer was "girl"), but ultimately we didn't really care about anything beyond the "everyone's healthy" thumbs-up itself.
We checked in at the front desk, then sat our asses down in the uncomfortable and too-narrow chairs that, ironically, seemed to define every OB/GYN office we ever visited -- as if OB/GYN office managements region-wide had come to the strangely embittered decision to select office furniture custom-designed to make legions of pregnant women even more uncomfortable than pregnant women generally are. We looked nervously at other women at various stages of knock-up, wondering how far in they were and how they were doing. At the same time, we felt ourselves being looked at nervously by women clearly there for a GYN visit alone, as if by peering at our darting eyes and squirming, chair-enhanced discomfort they might somehow gain insight into the strange and terrifying world of pregnancy that might someday become theirs.
We looked at our watches a lot. OB/GYN practices - especially busy ones located on hospital grounds - always run late. I took a lot of deep breaths, and tried not to think too much about what we might find out at our visit. TheWife was mostly quiet, thinking deep and inscrutable pregnant chick thoughts.
(To clarify: I would never dream of referring to someone who I don't know as a "pregnant chick" or as being "knocked up," but when it comes to friends, family and/or someone foolish enough to marry me, sarcasm and suggestions of shotgun weddings are well beyond inevitable.)
After a looooong, uncomfortable wait, they were finally ready for us. The ultrasonographer led us down a winding hallway to a tiny room, which held barely enough space for a stool, desk and computer (for the ultrasonographer), one of those OB/GYN table things (you can guess who that was for), and a small round stool for me. She gave us a moment alone so TheWife could change into one of those stylish johnnies, and then we all hopped onto our respective pieces of furniture.
The ultrasonographer dimmed the lights, asked TheWife to lift her johnny north to expose her not-insubstantial expanse of belly, and then said the words that all women in that position love to hear: "This may be a little cold." And with those magic words, she squirted a clear (and apparently chilly) gel onto TheWife's abdomen - industrial lubricant? mango chutney? nutrogena conditioner? I have no idea - and then pulled out her magic U/S wand. And with no spoken Freudian implications... we were off.
Things proceeded more or less as we expected. The ultrasonographer moved the wand all over TheWife's abdomen, took some pictures, typed in some data and measurements, and didn't say much of anything. TheWife and I stayed quiet, trying not to disturb the tech's concentration or somehow jinx what was, we deeply hoped, a fairly standard and thumbs-up-resulting ultrasound exam.
It was dark and quiet. We stared at the screen and tried to understand what we were looking at -- as if we might somehow, suddenly, magically decipher a leg or a hand or the soft beating of a heart among the shifting gradations on-screen. The room was quiet, except for the steady click of the computer. We watched, listened, and waited. Click. Click. Click.
I don't know how long it was before she finally spoke. But when she did, it was words I would never forget.
She turned to us, chart in hand, and said, "There's something wrong here."
The world dropped away from us. I felt like all the blood drained from my body, and all the air left the room. I couldn't even think to look at TheWife -- I just stared incredulously at the ultrasonographer.
She continued: "My paperworks says one, but I see two."
(You know those moments when your mind goes totallly blank? This was one of them.)
She looked at us. We looked back at her. There was a loooooong moment of awkward silence.
Eventually, TheWife summoned the energy to respond. "What?"
The ultrasonographer clarified: "Well, I mean I only have paperwork for one baby, but there are two on-screen."
I think it was at this moment that my jaw actually bounced of the floor. TheWife's expression must have been similarly... uh... surprised, because at that point the ultrasonographer's expression changed substantially.
"You do know you're having twins, right?"
We stared at her for a moment, and I remember slightly shaking my head - and it took all the concentration I had at that point to manage that feat - and say, "No."
We could see the gears turning in her head as she processed this. She took a moment, cleared her throat, and then said, "Um... I probably could have told you that in a better way."
My head shake turned to a nod, and I murmured, "...Yes."
She nodded her head strongly in response, said decisively, "I'm going to give you a moment to absorb this. I'll be right back." Then she stood up, and before her embarrassment could overtake her she fled the room.
I wish I could tell you what happened next, but honestly it's something of a blur to me. I'm pretty sure I fell on the floor and curled up into a ball. TheWife just kept saying over and over again, "I can't believe it. Twins." She asked me a couple of times how something like this could happen, but my position on the floor - and shared understanding that we had no family history of twins or fertility drug stuff at work to make this even an assumed possibility - prevented a relevant response.
I'm pretty sure I said something to the effect of, "We're so fucked" seven or eight times. But that was probably obvious on my part.
Eventually TheWife's OB/GYN came in, rained congratulations down upon us, and talked us (somewhat) back down to earth. She gave us the good news that everyone seemed healthy, that all systems still seemed pointed toward a successful launch, and that this was still a thumbs-up scenario -- just one involving more thumbs than we'd anticipated. I don't recall specifics, although I was able to eventually climb back up onto my stool.
At some point, TheWife got dressed, and we left the office. As we got into our car and started heading home, TheWife started thinking about how we should tell our families the news. Apparently (I'd forgotten this until TheWife recently reminded me), I suggested something to the effect that we shouldn't actually tell anyone -- as if, the twin thing wouldn't really be real until we started to tell people, and that if we kept it to ourselves maybe this whole thing would turn out to one of those crazy, ultra-vivid pregnancy dreams.
Yeah, that... uh... that didn't work so well.
Anyhow. We came home, made some calls, shared our bewilderment, and finally I went back to work.
According to my colleagues (as they now tell it), I walked in as white as a ghost. I didn't say a word to anyone -- just walked back to my desk, sat down, and stared into space. They just looked at me for a minute or two, and then finally started asking questions.
TheCEO: "So? How did it go? Everyone healthy?"
Me: (long pause) "Uh... yeah. Everyone's good."
ElPresidente: "So -- boy? Girl?"
Me: (long pause, then deep breath) "It's a girl..."
Everyone: "That's awesome!"
Me: (continuing) "...and another girl."
Everyone: (stunned silence)
TheCEO: (after a minute) "Twins? You're having twins?"
Me: (still staring into space, then finally nodding)
Everyone: (hysterical laughter, accompanied by lots of finger-pointing and then more hysterical laughter)
Honestly, if it hadn't been me... I would have been laughing at me, too.
(Note: The first and middle names we had in mind as we walked into the medical office that day? Each girl ended up with one as a first name.)