When does a something or a person properly come into being? When it is physically present? When it is imagined, or when it is imaged? When it's provably detectable? When an impression is left, a picture or scan taken?
Tomorrow we go to have the twelve-week scan for our first child. Discounting the twin lines on a pregnancy kit (the doubled twin lines, for it seems that everyone does two tests to be sure), if all goes well this will be the first of many times our child will be seen and imaged.
The first visual evidence of a growing foetus will be a live sound-movie: noises, echoes, translated into images for the comprehension of our savannah-bred eyes. I imagine a heart purring, throbbing, a four-limbed animal growing into a child, tucked calmly into bed inside an amniotic sea, inside its mother.
It suddenly occurs to me that, for all my talk of art made and seen, this will be the most important image we have ever seen, or at least the most important since we first opened our own blurry, euglenoid eyes to imprint on the shapes and sounds of our own mothers. All of the other "most important images" we'll ever see will be dominated by the same subject or its siblings. As parents, do we fix or imprint in the same way? Seeing is believing.
Is there any other type of image that bears such a broad as spectrum of response - of meaning and significance found - as the ultrasound picture? Yours is a blurred, pixellated field of shadows, ours clearly heralds the arrival of a deity among men.
29 January 2009
We are up early, nervously giggling, and take the 326 TK bus to the hospital, managing to arrive half an hour early. We have a coffee and pretend to read the newspaper. We go to the ultrasound unit which, confusingly, isn't near the maternity unit. We get to the right room, announce ourselves, sit, wait. Opposite us, a dark-haired woman there for a twenty-week scan, holding the hand of a mini-me daughter. To the right a young couple. Wait.
Now. J gets onto the bed. Next to the bed is a large ultrascanning machine. It's called the GE Volusan E8, and has a flat screen on an articulated arm, above a control panel that could be the offspring of a keyboard and a flight deck. "We've only had it for two weeks", says the sonographer proudly.
The gel goes on the abdomen, the paddle is dabbed into it and the screen suddenly flickers. Movement, chunks of black and white drifting across the screen, he and we watching avidly. Focussing the machine, focussing the eye.
A black and white sonar image of the maternal sea-bed. Shape, contour. We're above it.
Then the sonographer changes the angle or adjusts his position, and something snaps into view. And it is thrashing.
Happy imageday, Ada.