December 15, 2008 by skwishface
Being pregnant is a bitch. Don’t get me wrong – I love being pregnant. Never have I been more interested in my own health and well-being, so ready with the silly grin, so soul-deep content as I have been while carrying both of my babies. But also! Never have I confronted such a mixed bag of extreme emotions, I mean really over-the-top stuff. And it’s not just the hormones talking. Examples!
– Protectiveness: Fierce, teeth-baring, snarling protectiveness of not just the baby I’ve already got out in the world and toddling about, but my own body. Because it also contains a baby? Anyway, strangers get closer than arm’s length to me, and I have to suppress the urge to growl at them. Anybody not of my immediate family who so much as waves an overly-dramatically-gesticulating arm in my vicinity earns a flinch and an involuntary glare. God help anyone who nearly hits me in traffic. Which isn’t to say I would actually do anything road ragey, just that I really really want to.
– Fear: A kind of low-grade anxiety that hums like white noise in the background of my brain, ready to spike into heart-chilling terror at a moment’s notice. Anything that happens that could be interpreted as having a negative impact on this pregnancy takes the volume knob on my adrenaline and cranks it up to eleven. Every time it happens, I can hear Samuel L. Jackson in my head, “You tell that bitch to be cool! SAY ‘BITCH BE COOL’!!”
I’m normally a pretty even-keeled person. Which isn’t to say I’m a paragon of pleasantness, just that I’m not prone to fits of anxiety or likely to sequester myself and my child far away from the big bad world. These emotions are uncommon for me in even the mildest form, so wrestling with the super-sized econopak versions that come with being pregnant? Not so easy for me.
In the first several weeks of this whole baby shindig, I had some pretty alarming spotting. Considering my medical history (I’ve had one miscarriage before, and had a leep procedure done to remove some pre-cancerous cells from my cervix), every time I saw red on the toilet paper I panicked a little. “Bitch be cool!” Since I’m talking to you now from the 6-month mark, clearly nothing bad came of this other than a few gray hairs for me and my ever-patient husband.
My volume never made it back to zero before some test results cranked me back up to ELEVEN and left me there for a few months.
We elected to have a First Screen test done, to check for certain possible issues such as Down Syndrome. What they do is they check the kid over on the ultrasound and measure the folds on the back of the baby’s neck (for fluid content – more fluid = more likely to have DS), and they draw blood from the mom to check for about a million different hormones and proteins. We had done this when I was preggo with The Boy, and had no problems, congratulating ourselves for putting our own fears to rest.
My test results this time came back with “an elevated risk” for having a baby with Down Syndrome.
Elevated risk? What, exactly, the FUCK does that mean? (“Bitch be cool!” Sam, go screw.) Basically it meant that, based on their findings from the bloodwork and the ultrasound, the calculated odds of my baby having DS were exponentially greater than a normal test result would be.
But then the question of “normal” came up. Literally, I asked “what’s a normal result?”, and got a lot of answers that all added up to a shrug and a sheepish admission that the modern medical field of obstetrics is mostly guessing. See, all they know about detecting Down Syndrome pre-birth is based on statistics gathered over the years. They take a look at women who did have babies with DS, and gather up as much info as they can about those women during pregnancy, and this gives the doctors a very long set of possible conditions that could maybe possibly somehow indicate that the baby will be born with the condition.
Which is all just a waste of time, if you ask me, when there is one (mostly) surefire test that will prove yea or nay. The amniocentesis. This is where they take a very long needle, pierce the mother’s belly, deep into the uterus, and carefully remove a sample of the amniotic fluid the baby is swimming in. The idea here is that the fluid will be full of the baby’s cells, which will show the chromosomes. Since Down Syndrome is a chromosomal issue (everybody gets 23 pairs of chromosomes in their DNA. babies with DS have an extra copy of chromosome 21, giving them 3 there instead of 2), all they have to do is grow the baby’s cells up in a petri dish and take a look at them. Coincidentally, this is also a (mostly) surefire way of detecting the baby’s gender.
Anyway, back to my initial test results, which terrified me. The doctors were very delicate about it, but I was made to know that I had …. options …. at this early stage of pregnancy (I was barely 13 weeks at the time). At first I didn’t grok to what they were saying, since the “option” of terminating the pregnancy had never occured to me. Now they’re not only frightening me about the health of my child, but they’re also telling me they’re willing to kill my child if I ask them to. I politely told them to take that option and shove it, that we would be proceeding normally with this mess. My husband and I would do research and discuss the possibility of life with a Down Syndrome child, and know that we would love the kid no less for having the condition.
Thus began a barrage of ultrasounds and blood tests and more ultrasounds. I was referred to a doctor of obstetric genetics, and had the very surreal experience of sitting in a waiting room that said GENETICS on the wall. It was all very sci-fi. My husband and I sat down with genetic counselor and had a more in-depth conversation about our family histories than we’d ever had. Who was born with what and who had how many kids when. Gah. We got the amniocentesis done and wow, the less said about that the better. Suffice it to say if you can avoid having one, DO SO. It doesn’ t hurt so much as feel very very odd, and also the combination of unborn baby and immensely long needle does not do pleasant things to the Protectiveness/Fear combo.
The end result? Normal healthy baby girl, as far as the tests show. We went through an awful lot of ELEVEN-level crap to find out that everything is actually okay. The feeling of relief at hearing those results was an odd one – I was so very glad to relax my death-grip on terror for my baby, but at the same time I felt almost guilty for being thrilled to hear that my baby won’t have DS.
Which is silly, and I blame the hormones.