Demystifying the Anatomy Scan

I see a lot of confusion about this on the internet–anxieties about what it’ll be like, what to expect, and disappointment that what a lot of people see as their big Gender Reveal scan is sometimes a little…scientific. This is my experience with it, which hopefully can dispel some of those worries.

What is it? 

The anatomy scan, sometimes called a WellBaby scan or a Level 2 ultrasound, and popularly thought of as the Gender Reveal scan, is your big mid-pregnancy ultrasound. For some people, this may be the first scan they get. I had a lot of problems early in pregnancy, so I’d already had a handful of scans, but this was certainly the longest and most thorough. Generally thought of as your 20 week scan, the anatomy scan usually takes place anywhere from 18-22 weeks depending on your practitioner and schedule of appointments. Mine happened at 18w2d.

What to expect: 

This will be coupled with the usual routine you’re probably used to be now–weight, blood pressure, and pee-in-a-cup check. Depending on the practice, your practitioner might be in there with the tech or may be called in later to check on everything. If you had earlier transvaginal ultrasounds, you’re in luck–this one will stay happily on the outside.

Your ultrasound tech will ask you to bare your belly and will generously apply ultrasound gel. Mine used SO MUCH, because it evaporates relatively quickly and this one is little long.

My tech started with measurements of the circumference of the head and brain, which was rad as hell. 

Here’s the thing about this scan: be patient. While getting the sex of your baby may be super important to you today, this is not your healthcare provider’s primary concern–the health of your fetus is. Mine worked from the literal top down, so we didn’t get the big reveal until more than halfway through. Personally, I was transfixed by the nitty gritty of what she could see because it all looked pretty blobby to me without her guidance on what everything was.

Your tech will check the face for issues like a cleft palette and will work down to looking at the formation of the spine, lungs, stomach, arms and legs, and kidney and bladder function. Mine was thoughtful enough to show us a little black dot of pee in her bladder, which reassured her that all was working well. Likely, they will spend the most time looking at the heart–they want to see the four chambers and they will likely want to watch it beat several times to verify its function. Finally, they’ll check your placenta for placement and size.

The tech will also check the genitals to make sure that’s looking good, and if you want to know, will tell you what they think they’re looking at sex-wise. My tech has been doing ultrasounds for longer than I’ve been alive and is a PRO, but even she said that she could be wrong. They’ll most likely be correct, but know that there is some margin of error, especially if you go in on the earlier end of the 18-22 weeks, like I did.

All The Feels 

If I had to provide any other piece of advice other than patience, it would be to prepare yourself for this to be pretty emotional. You might have some worries that everything will look good, and you might be flooded with a lot of overwhelming feelings of joy and anticipation at what you’re seeing on the screen. Try to stay open to it–don’t be embarrassed about having reactions to what you’re seeing, and don’t be afraid to cry if it happens to move you that way. Your tech and practitioner have seen the gamut of human emotions, and you won’t surprise or unnerve them with yours. Likewise, encourage the same from your partner (PS–this is an appointment not to miss if they can help it). It was such a bonding experience to see all of it with my husband, and also made me feel so in community with my tech and OB.


Certainly, you’ll walk away with some print outs of your scan. My tech goes a little ham on these, and I have a 3.5 foot scroll of these on my fridge now. Here are some highlights:


This is what a fetus-face looks like from straight on in a 2D ultrasound. I think the tech thought we were a little weird for joking that she looks like a ninja turtle.


Little foot. These are the best.


This is a butt. It also somehow communicated that she’s a she to the tech–again, I’m endlessly impressed by their abilities.


I believe this one was a shot of her bladder functioning. The little black dot in the center right is pee.


My favorite, actually: fully articulated spine. There’s something really poetic and beautiful about carrying two spines.



My best pregnancy meltdown (so far)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fairly emotional person. My heart bleeds for everything and everyone, and I’ve never been to a wedding that didn’t make me blubber (even as a plus one who didn’t know either party to be wed). So, the threat of pregnancy mood swings put some pretty active fear of God in me–if I’m already vulnerable to fits of tears because the sunset is just so fucking beautiful, what was I in for?

I’ve had a few hormonal meltdowns, but this one takes the cake: Sunday night before a Monday off of school. We have plans to go to a haunted house with some teacher friends, but I’m feeling sick and crappy and am equivocating heavily about going or not.

And then it strikes: I need toum. Right now.

 Toum is a Levantine condiment made out of crushed garlic, oil, lemon, and often an extra secret ingredient like a bit of boiled potato depending on the maker to create a fluffy, almost mousse-like texture when it’s done right. Like any good girl who grew up on the wonders of Arabic cuisine, my soul bleeds toum. But I don’t live back home in Detroit anymore, where you can buy tubs of perfect toum next to the Mountain Dew at the gas station. There’s one restaurant here in town that has an authentic version.

And its closed on Sunday nights.

My husband comes out of the shower to find me on the couch sobbing. Full-on, ugly cry, snot bubbles flying sobbing. Because I can’t get real toum. And because I’m cancelling plans with friends, which induces a panic attack to the tune of “Am I boring now?! Am I this person who’d doesn’t do things anymore?!”

What resolution can there be for this? I can’t get my toum, I’m boring, I’m hyperventilating from crying so hard.

Long story short, we went out for garlic bread and toum the next night, but that was an unparalleled emotional experience if I ever had one. Bring on the emotional weight of labor–I’m ready.


Pregnancy and Eating Disorders

This is hard to write about, as ED always is, but there’s a dearth of resources on this, and I hope to add my voice in a way that could be helpful. What follows here is personal experience and personal advice, and not medical advice in any way. At the end of this post, you will find links to resources that I have found supportive and helpful.


I have struggled with body dysmorphia and disordered eating for most of my post-pubescent life, with a particular crescendo in my late teens and early 20’s. What was unusual about my experience and what made it easy to experience in a vacuum was that I was always pretty “overweight” growing up, so efforts to “control” my weight were celebrated and my methods largely unquestioned. My particular pattern of issues was mostly restriction down to 500 or so calories a day with occasional episodes of binging.

During graduate school, an emotionally abusive relationship drove me into a particular spiral–weighing 260 pounds but restricting to 500 calories a day. My doctor lauded the weight loss that followed–I remember one appointment wherein she literally said to me, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” After graduate school, when my relationship really bottomed out and I could feel a blackhole coming that I might not be able to climb out of, I sought help in the form of outpatient therapy and the use of a holistic nutritionist.

After a long struggle, I’ve been able to mostly manage my darkness with the tools given to me through those services. Bouts pop up, but these are mostly episodes of extreme self-criticism and dysmorphia that don’t usually lead to harsh restricting any more. The truly untenable part is that along the road, my body did come down to a “normal” weight, where it has stayed throughout the subsequent years. I still get comments asking “Wow, what did you do!” to which my honest response is a can of worms few people truly want to open.

My Pregnancy and ED: 

When I first found out I was pregnant, my complete joy had a shadow–the shadow that we all get (“How will I pull this off?” “My cervix is going to be how big?”)–but on top of that, the shadow of extreme anxiety about my changing body. At my first appointment, upon hearing my weight gain plan, I repeated that number over and over again in my head like an image I couldn’t wash out.

Advice I sought initially was really ambiguous–the NEDA hotline told me that you never know how you will respond until it’s actually happening, which I found to be true but also how do you act on that? All I could do was wait and see, and be ready to try to manage whatever reactions I might have.

First trimester was physically horrible–all day nausea, exhaustion, and food aversions. Meanwhile, my body wasn’t gaining weight at that point. In fact, I lost some and was prescribed Diclegis to manage the sickness. But I was so happy for myself because I was thinking, “Wow, I’m not at all freaking out about my body right now!” It took me weeks to connect that I wasn’t freaking out about it because not being able to eat was a lot like my old and horrible friend–restriction.

Second trimester has been a totally different thing. My hunger came back with a vengeance, with cravings for things that ranged from Quarter Pounders w/ cheese and dozens of apples. And with that hunger, as well as a rapidly growing baby, weight has come on. Moments of intensive highs at my adorable bump and feeling the movements of this loved little creature have been paired with lows that bring on old habits, like obsessively taking my measurements and checking the circumference of my wrists and fingers. These activities are especially triggered by comments from others or around the time of OB appointments.

But, I’ve managed. I’m still here, and my habits have stayed positive. These tips and ideas have really helped me do that.

Tips that have been helpful for me: 

  1. Be upfront with your OB about your history or anxieties if they don’t know. During my first appointment, I told the OB that I have a history with ED. She still gave me my weight recommendation, but I have yet to have an appointment since then wherein my weight has been brought up at all. You also do not have to look when they weigh you.
  2. Be upfront with your partner. I have not always personally been super transparent about this with my husband, but pregnancy has created real necessity around it. I am so glad that it has because that honesty has saved me from myself on about a zillion occasions.
  3. Stand up for yourself if people make comments. I’m a teacher, and kids can be unintentionally horrible. I’ve heard, “Wow Miss, you’re getting big!” and “Why are you always eating?” and the only course of action, truly, is to set them straight on things its okay to say and things it isn’t. If you struggle with that, a simple, “That isn’t really your business,” will get your point across.
  4. Try to trust your body and your baby. It knows better than our disorders and our anxieties do about how to make a baby. This is so hard, but it’s really worth the effort. Know that what you crave is your body letting you know what you need. Try to really, really know that. Repeat it and own it.
  5. Focus on that awesome baby. Think about that baby–not just in regards to keeping them healthy, but also the warm fuzzy stuff–how loved they are, how much they love/will love you. Your baby will love you despite your demons. Relish the movements, and invite your partner to do the same.
  6. Do not track food intake. I wanted to do this to keep myself “on target,” but it’s a trigger wormhole for me. Just don’t.
  7. Get maternity clothes as soon as you need them. I’m a broke teacher, so I thrifted a bunch as soon as I could notice a difference in my body. Not only will this keep you comfortable as hell, but it will also save you from the stress of dealing with your pre-preggo wardrobe.
  8. Surround yourself with positive media. As soon as I could feel myself spiraling, I started adding very pregnant-body-positive accounts to my Instagram feed. Users like @birthwithoutfear and @takebackpostpartum, especially the latter, have been everything for me in showing how beautiful and diverse our pregnant bodies are.

Other Helpful Things: 

National Eating Disorder Association

The Body Positive

Welcome Post

Hello! This blog is meant to be a home for my personal thoughts, tips, celebrations, angst, and general rants as I navigate my way through a first time pregnancy and baby while balancing a very demanding career. While this is a space inspired by my own need to let it all out, I hope it will become a resource for other people too.

About me: I’m Amy, an elderly-Millennial English teacher and writer living in northern Indiana with my husband Peter, a Ph.D. candidate, and our St. Bernard, Homer. Our first baby is due on March 6, 2018. My students have referred to me as a “hipster vampire” and “tiny but mighty”–two descriptions that probably do a better job writing my bio than I can.