The Rorschach scan

Ultrasound scan image

We’re having a baby. It’s wonderful, exciting and scary. The child (gender remains unknown and will stay that way till the birth) is due on Jan 1st. A new life to see in the new year.

As is standard in the UK, we’ve had a collection of ultrasound scans to check on the baby’s development (bless the NHS). Truly these scans are a breathtaking example of how medical technology has developed. To have a window into the womb and see something so small, so unknown defies description.

I do have a confession though. When you’re sat looking at the light and dark shapes on the screen it isn’t easy to see the the true image. An expert is trained to see the real picture. Me, I just guess.

“You can see the heart beating.” says the ultrasound operator whilst Clare and I sat nodding. Then they point at a completely different part of the screen to where I was concentrating.

Like the proud would-be dad I am, I show the 12 week scan to a friend.

“What’s that?” he asked.
“Er, the nose?” I replied.
“Bloody big nose.”
“Maybe it’s an arm then.”

The truth is, an ultrasound scan is in some ways a Rorschach image. The viewer projects onto it what they think they see, not what is there.

Not just the physical development of the featus. Emotions, expectations and ideologies are all extended onto that small picture.

Some people look and see a person, waiting to join the world. A kick of the leg and they’ll be a sports star. A roll onto their side and they’ll be someone who enjoys a snooze on the sofa “just like their father.”.

Some don’t see that They may see something with the potential to be a person, or they may see nothing at all. Just patterns of light and dark.

I’m not here to judge what people see. For the record, I’m for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I just find it interesting how the same image can be viewed in different ways, and how much of our own outlook we project.

A baby scan tells us much about the development happing in the womb. It tells us just as much about the people observing.


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