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Ultrasound Is Ultra-Disturbing
by Cris Cohen

The other night my wife and I met a couple who paid a couple hundred dollars for a 3D ultrasound of their unborn child. My first thought was that, you know, if they had waited until she was born they could have gotten prints made at Costco for about 20 cents a shot. And if they had waited another year or two, I'm sure Costco would be offering some sort of ultrasound service by then.

"Excuse me. Where's the sonogram machine?"

"Just past the rotating chickens."

The couple did the 3D ultrasound because the wife wanted to make sure that the baby did not have the father's nose. I'm not sure how she subtly relayed that message to him. "Well, you know, honey, as long as the baby is healthy. And by 'healthy' I mean 'looks nothing like you.'" And I'm not sure what they would have done if the baby did have his nose. As I understand it, once you get to the ultrasound stage, there is a pretty strict no-return policy, even if you still have the receipt.

When my wife, Michele, was pregnant, we never got a 3D ultrasound. For one thing, I don't think my nose scared her in any way. Also, years before we had seen another couple's 3D ultrasound and I thought it was one of the scariest things I had ever seen. What appears in a 3D ultrasound does not look like a baby as much like some creature that will swallow your cat whole. It makes you think that the technology was invented by people looking to drum up business for exorcisms. So while I did not want one of my child, I might like to have other people's for Halloween decorations. Pull out an 8x10 of one of those when you answer the door and I guarantee even the parents would wet themselves.

While ultrasounds might be precise, there is a lot that they miss, like the ability to make your child look human. They take what should be a bundle of joy and turn it into a poster for one of Sigourney Weaver's "Alien" movies. Really, instead of an ultrasound, the lab technicians should just describe the baby to a police sketch artist. What he draws might not be terribly accurate, but it would at least look like something from this planet. "Well, that's either our child or the guy who robbed the liquor store last Saturday."

More importantly, when a couple tells you that they had a 3D ultrasound because they wife wanted to make sure the baby did not have the husband's nose, what do you say to that? Do you just agree with the wife? "Woof. I see what you mean. Maybe you should just conceive with someone else next time." Do you try and defend the husband? "I've seen much uglier men." Or do you try and steer the conversation in a new direction? "You know, maybe you could save some money by swimming near a naval shipyard. They use sonar all the time."


When not working or spending time with his wife and son, Cris enjoys anxiety and depression. Cris believes these count as forms of exercise, since they often involve exhaustion and occasional sweating. For several years, Cris wrote a weekly column that ran in various California newspapers. He now practices that form of therapy here. Contact Cris.