Renting a Baby Doppler Was a Horrifying Experience

When I was pregnant with my first son and heard that you could rent those baby doppler gadgets online in order to hear the fetal heartbeat in the comfort of your own home, I thought it sounded kind of cool, but rife with the potential for obsession. I didn't want to be constantly poking a goo-slathered microphone around my belly, intently listening for sounds of distress, not that I even knew what a fetal sound of distress might be. (A tiny voice begging me to stop already with the Haagen-Dazs?)

Then I sort of completely changed my mind and ordered one. I'm not really sure why—maybe because during those early weeks I felt ridiculously gassy and bloated (an overabundance of frozen dairy can do that to a person), but also weirdly not pregnant at all. I decided that being able to hear the heartbeat would be soothing, and that listening to it with my husband would be a special, loving ritual we could share together as we bonded with our unborn child.


The discreetly printed package arrived one Monday afternoon, and my husband and I instantly rushed off to the bedroom to tear off my pants, charge the device's battery, and bust out the lubrication.


There I was, lying on my back, my belly all a-glisten with ultrasound gel, and my husband started sliding the wand around. Right away we could hear a heartbeat, loud and clear.

About 10 minutes later, we finally picked up the baby's softer, much faster heartbeat, and I began to recover from the massive panic attack I had been experiencing from mistaking my own heart's slow-ass adult WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH sound (that could be picked up all over my belly, just about) and jumping to the conclusion that there was something Horribly Wrong With the Baby.

Let me tell you, when you read, "The normal fetal heart rate (FHR) is 120 to 160 beats per minute" and you count 88, you start wishing you'd never heard of the effing doppler because all it brings is FEAR and MISERY and A REALLY, REALLY DRY MOUTH.

In fact, during those awful minutes while I listened to a heartbeat that was clearly not at all what the baby's should have been sounding like, I became absolutely convinced I had caused irreparable fetal harm by helping my husband paint the (well-ventilated!) nursery the week before. I don't know why my brain fixated on that possibility, but I started crying and begged my husband to go look at the (low fumes!) Sherwin-Williams can to see if it said anything like, "MAY CAUSE FREAKISHLY SLOW HEARTBEAT, FLIPPERS, OR FONDNESS FOR NEWT GINGRICH."

We eventually got it figured out, and after that initial bout of pants-filling terror, the doppler was thrilling and fun and sort of miraculous. I have to say, though, I didn't even consider renting one with my second baby. I guess I'd had enough heartbeat-related excitement the first time around.

Have you ever rented a baby doppler? Would you recommend it to other first-time moms?

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