“It looks like this is a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy.”
My OB shared these words with me Wednesday at my first “normal” prenatal visit in a long time. Urine test, check. Step on the scale, check. Blood pressure, check. Listen to my son’s heartbeat, check. I was out of there in fifteen minutes flat with a huge smile on my face. Thank you Lord.
Why the sudden change? How were we able to find out the sex of the baby at only sixteen weeks? And what about all of those odds and statistics that had become so all-consuming?
A week ago today I had an amnio.
We received the FISH results on Monday. Everything looks good chromosome wise. And it’s a boy.
How did I go from my “no prenatal testing” stance to suddenly having an amnio? Well for one thing it wasn’t sudden. The last eight weeks have been long. They have been full of prayers, tears, worries, thoughtful discussions, and finally the peace that comes with a decision.
Let me be clear. The results of the amnio, or any other test wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this pregnancy. But I was certain that I wasn’t up to any delivery room surprises this time around. Thus, kicking off the big debate of “is my need to know, worth the risk of an amnio?”
Why didn’t I start with the “safer” and non-invasive prenatal screening options that are available? Yes, there is an early ultrasound offered between 10-12 weeks looking at the nuchal fold (the neck of the baby, screening for Down syndrome.) Or I could have opted for the blood work that provides an odds and risk assessment for Down syndrome. Another option was to wait until my 20-week ultrasound and see if anything major popped up. While the nuchal fold screening is fairly accurate, it is still a screening tool. It provides a “best guess” when coupled with the mother’s age, and blood work. Further into this process (and after meeting with our genetic counselor and OB on the subject) I learned that because I would have to “check” the box stating that I have previously had a child with Down syndrome, any lab that assessed my blood work or other screenings would immediately flag me – putting me into the “high-risk” category with 1 in 100 odds – no matter my age, the results of my blood work, or screening. No, it’s not logical, but it’s the way things work in our “cover your hiney” health care industry. I guess I have some lawyers to thank for that one.
So why go through all that knowing that my results would come back flagged as “high risk?” And as my OB stated, ultrasounds and screenings can miss things. He was preaching to the choir. The amnio was the only way to know.
I have been outspoken about prenatal testing. And I still believe rightfully so – the statistics are clear. A large majority of those who test and/or screen and end up with “positive” results, be it Down syndrome or any other chromosomal, genetic, or anatomy issue terminate their pregnancies. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The facts show that 9 out of 10 women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome terminate. Why was I subjecting myself to a system that supported such a practice?
Was I suddenly drinking the kool aid?
Nope. I found myself in the minority camp – the small percentage of women who test because the want to be better prepared for what my lie ahead. I can assure you that there were many prayers said about this subject (and they weren’t just offered up by me.) I kept returning to the same conclusion – I was going into this with the right heart. This was our baby. I’ll admit that I had a bit of an advantage over other pregnant mom’s who enter into this maze of screening and testing – I had already navigated those treacherous waters. I was absolute – this was our baby. We already knew what could possibly lay ahead of us. Down syndrome wasn’t a scary unknown – the not knowing was the scary part. I made sure that my OB was on the same page. And I made my opinion very clear to the genetic counselor. We were simply gathering information about our baby – this process was not about making any “decisions.”
The amnio itself went well. It was a bit complicated, as my placenta was right across the front of my belly limiting the area where the perinatologist (a patient and kind woman) could actually insert the needle. She finally settled on a small pocket of fluid right next to the baby’s head. (They prefer to insert the needle near arms or legs, avoiding important things like heads…) I watched the entire procedure on the ultrasound screen. I think I held my breath the whole time willing the baby to not move near the needle that had entered his watery home (he didn’t.) Truthfully, I was actually more intimidated by the ultrasound before the amnio. “What are you measuring?” “Why?” “Does everything look OK?” Our ultrasound tech was great – she remembered us from my pregnancy with Charlie (and all those ultrasounds.) Once the proper amount of amniotic fluid had been collected, I left the hospital with Alex and a band-aid on my belly covering where the needle had been inserted. It was all a bit surreal.
The FISH results came back Monday afternoon and everything looks good chromosome wise…and it’s a boy (for sure!) (FISH is an acronym for the preliminary amnio results. We won’t get the full results back until next week (it takes 10-14 days for the full results) but the “trisomies” 13, 18 and 21 – the things we were concerned about were confirmed by the early results.)
Over the Easter weekend I kept to myself as I was supposed to rest. (Thank you to Poppy and Birdie, who gave me 24 kid-free hours to relax!) I was surprised at how crampy I felt afterwards, though my OB assured me that is a totally normal reaction, especially since there haven’t been any other issues.
Obviously this was a big event in my life. While I don’t want to think that it was all-consuming, I will admit I’ve been a bit distracted the last few months. I like to think I worked through this process in a nice and thoughtful manner, yet I can assure you that it crept into all aspects of my life. My marriage, how I mothered my children, bonded with my baby, and how I reacted and participated in life events as a sister, daughter, friend, and volunteer. And no, I never wrote openly about it, nor had I come out and told “everyone” about this process or the end result. I knew that I needed to process this on my own. To talk it over with a few trusted people. And to remain in a constant dialogue with the Lord. I didn’t want any other static (or opinions) to get in the way.
I’ll admit that previously, I might have thought that prenatal testing (and all that falls under that wide umbrella) was “the devil.” (And yes, I do believe he exists, and is thriving.) I’ve come to the conclusion that no, prenatal testing isn’t the devil. Perhaps instead, the devil is in the details. In the way that we are presented results and how we process the information we are given. It all comes down to what we do with the results. The lies that we buy into, thinking that only a “healthy” and “normal” baby will bring happiness. That we shouldn’t have to settle for anything else. Sort of sounds like plain ol’ life doesn’t it? How will I choose to handle each moment as it is presented to me? How will you?
I’m at peace with our decision. Clearly the news was good, but either way we have been given an opportunity to learn more about our son and how to better prepare for him. For now I’m praising our Lord for His mercy and basking in His grace. Thanking Him for the gift of my three son’s – each one unique.