We’re having a baby.
It’s now week 17.5. A lot has happened.
First, to all my adoring fans: Yes, it’s happening. I wanted to tell you lovely people way back in November when I peed on a little plastic stick. I brought the evidence into the bedroom to show my sleepy husband and asked him if he saw two blue lines. He looked at me in surprise – really?
As my friend Mary once told me, it’s weird going from a Big No to a Big Yes. Life wasn’t about kids five, ten, fifteen years ago. It wasn’t about getting married, or being engaged, or even dating. It wasn’t about moving to England, finishing grad school, or figuring out what to be when I grow up. It was about establishing my career, passing flight school, learning to fly an attack helicopter, and deploying to do my bit in the war on terror.
And now this. A kid. A little bean (turnip) inside me that I wasn’t sure was going to happen because, let’s face it, working around aircraft and possible radiation and exposure to crazy things in foreign countries and all the vaccines in the world injected into my body over the years (including anthrax), meant I wasn’t even sure my body would function normally. Let alone my husband’s experiences with most of the same exposures as me. (We’re both rotorheads.)
I wanted to tell everyone, but I felt pressured not to until after our first scan. So, like good parents-to-be, we formulated a plan and executed over the holidays. We told both sets of parents on 23 December, Skyping my mom and dad while my in-laws were visiting for a few days. My husband poured the champagne for toasts and “forgot” mine in the kitchen. When he brought mine out – white and flat – everyone but my mom figured out it was milk in a champagne flute. “Mom,” I said, “it’s milk.” “Yeah,” she said. “You like milk. I know.” “Moooom… I’m pregnant!” She got there in the end. We told the rest of both of our immediate families on Christmas day to much congratulations.
We went into our twelve-week scan, our first ultrasound, excited and nervous. I have never been pregnant before; I had no idea what I was supposed to be feeling, much less thinking. I hadn’t had much morning sickness, the worst of it being on Christmas in the form of feeling hot and tired, and not wanting to eat bread. But in my entire first trimester, I never threw up and never really had nausea. The only thing I felt – besides more tired than normal – was like someone was pressing their thumb into the soft, fleshy bit of my jaw back behind the jawbone. Go ahead and try it, like you’re feeling your tongue through the bottom of your jaw. That was it. That was my morning sickness. (Don’t be jealous.)
The scan went really well. The sonographer said bean was healthy and everything looked good. We wanted to wait to know the sex until birth (we plan to keep it that way). Since I didn’t really feel pregnant still, even though it had been months already, seeing that squidgy thing on the screen really hit home for both of us. And, of course, settled the argument of whether we’d be having twins (or triplets!). There was just one little peanut happily kicking away. I had to submit blood and urine for testing, and then we went home with our first ultrasound photos in hand.
Two days later, I missed a phone call. It was from the hospital. They said my blood results had come back. Our baby was in the high risk category for Downs Syndrome. I immediately called my husband.
What do we do? I’m coming home in thirty minutes. Make an appointment with the antenatal department for a consultation. Okay, it’s scheduled for 12:30.
I knew my chances of having complications went up as I got older; it’s mostly all on the age of the mother. I don’t smoke, I haven’t had alcohol since we started trying, I’m not obese or overweight. My chances of having a Downs Syndrome baby were 1:475 as a 33-year-old. But my blood work had lowered that to 1:39. Shit.
After our consultation with the midwife on duty, we learned that there was another blood test we could have (for a fee) that would give us a 99.6% confirmation of not only Downs Syndrome, but a handful of other potential chromosomal abnormalities as well. We immediately decided to do the additional test. It’s only money. We wanted to know for sure. The results would take up to a week.
No one talks about all the options when you find yourself in a hard situation in pregnancy. Not many people anyway. The odds went from 475 to 39 – a drastic drop. But the odds were still in our favor: 38 of 39 is still over 97% that everything would be normal. Yet we found ourselves somber and stressed. Do we tell family? Do we cause worry when there might be no need? And what if the enhanced test comes back positive? Do we have a child with Downs? Do we abort? Can we even talk to people about these options? What sort of stigma would that bring? What sort of responsibility do we as potential parents have to raise a kid with a confirmed disability? Or to bring a child into the world that might be a drain on society, that might never be independent, that might never contribute to society?
We talked about these issues as we waited nervously for the results. We Googled new medical terms, read foreign blogs. We cuddled more than normal at night.
The email came the day after I had flown to the States for Reserve education. I had cleared plans with my boss to leave on the next plane if I had to. He knew the situation and he supported me wholeheartedly.
Everything came back negative.
It’s been a few weeks since those days in limbo and it’s made me think about pregnancy, parenthood, babies, and life a lot more. It’s made me realize that life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s made me understand that we’re a lot stronger than we think, especially in the face of adversity. And it’s made me realize I married the right man at the right time in my life. I’m eternally thankful for everything that led me to him, even the bad bits. I know we can do this together.
I’ve got my twenty-week “anomaly scan” when I get back to England in a few weeks. Things may not go well. There are thousands of complications that could arise. There are so many unknowns that it boggles my mind. But, ultimately, I know it will all work out in the end. We’ve got good genes on our side, good health. We have (relative) youth. And if my family tree, and my husband’s, has anything to teach us, it’s that we should look forward to a healthy, happy little baby at the end of July. This kid will be kick ass, that I can promise. Baby B, we are so excited to meet you.