There are certain big, life-changing moments that I remember in vivid detail: where I was, who was there, what conversations were happening, what I was wearing, etc. For example: the living room I was sitting in when I got the phone call that my grandmother had a stroke, the first time we saw Future President at my 20 week ultrasound, and the moment right before I walked down the aisle, full of anticipation and joy.
And now there is last Wednesday.
I was joking with my boss as I left work, “I’m going to get an early ultrasound, because of my advanced maternal age. Hahahaha.” And I was really, truly joking, excited to see the baby for the first time, glad my husband could get out of work early to come with me, and I was so glib.
I actually had no idea why I was having an ultrasound this early, except for the vague reason of genetic screening. I had no idea what they were actually looking for, and marveled at the two arms and two legs, the brain and the heartbeat. But I started to get worried when the ultrasound tech left the room to speak to the doctor, and eventually the doctor came in to get a very important measurement. I had no idea what the tech or the doctor were talking about: nuchal translucency and nuchal fold were not phrases in my vocabulary. But there she was, taking a measurement of something at the back of the baby’s neck.
And then she said, “Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go to anther room and talk about what I saw and explain what your options are.” And then she left the room.
She was dressed in a super cute pair of pink capris, with a bold print silk blouse tucked in at her slim waist. Her necklace was adorable and matched the ensemble perfectly. I kept staring at that necklace, thinking she was impossibly chic, and why wasn’t she wearing a white coat?
She came back into the sterile examination room with a blank yellow legal pad and wrote: 2.7mm=95%. And then proceeded to tell us that our baby had an enlarged nuchal fold, which could be an indication of a chromosomal abnormality: it could be Down syndrome, or something much worse, an abnormality that causes 100% stillbirths. It could be something else entirely, a very rare genetic disorder. But we had to make some decisions.
She outlined our options while I cried. My husband asked careful, analytical questions. After about 15 minutes, she told us she wanted us to meet with a genetic counselor, who would go into much more detail about our options and possible outcomes. And let me tell you, she did. The last time I thought about chromosomes was in high school biology class but all of the sudden, here in front of us were print outs with chromosomes and explanations of abnormalities. After an hour (an hour!), we were told it was time to make a decision. Blood work? CVS? Wait a few more weeks to have an amnio and detailed anatomy scan?
I couldn’t make a decision. As I drove home, I could barely see through my tears.
I decided to have a procedure called CVS the very next day, and then we waited. Waited for the results that could change the outcome of my pregnancy.
My heart broke when my husband told Future President that little baby was sick. “We should take him to the doctor!” he replied. “That will make it all better.” I had to leave the room so he wouldn’t see my tears.
We asked every question, the hard questions I never thought I would have to face: should we terminate? Could we live with ourselves if we made that decision? Which result would causes us to make that decision? If we do terminate, does the baby go to heaven? Do we want to know the gender if the results are bad? We decided one thing for sure: if the outcome was bad, we were never, ever doing this again.
On Monday I got a call: the baby did not have Down syndrome or trisomy 13 or 18. Did I want to know the gender? Yes! The genetic counselor was cautiously optimistic that the final results looking at all 46 chromosomes would come back okay, since that screens for very rare abnormalities. Yesterday, we got the good news that the baby’s chromosomes are normal.
We are not out of the woods yet. There is a possibility that the enlarged nuchal fold is caused by a heart defect and we won’t be able to rule that out for a few more weeks.
This has been the longest week of my life. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without Future President, because he is the best distraction around. The few people who knew what we were going through have been incredibly supportive.
During my first pregnancy, I took a lot of things for granted, including that the baby would be fine. And thankfully for us, he was. The early part of this pregnancy was exactly the same. But this past week had me questioning every decision: why didn’t I take folic acid earlier? Why did I take the cough medicine and allergy pills (that my doctor approved)? I scrutinized every action, blaming myself.
If you are going through anything like this, please know that you have my utmost empathy. Whatever your outcomes and whatever your decisions, you are making the right choices for your family. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.