Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Details, Follow Up, Ultrasounds, and the Awfully Scary Genetic Counselor.

First, I felt like talking to you all. Because really? I want to hug are all awesome and amazing and supportive and the best kind of internet people there are.

Today was the Big Day. The follow-up to this. I had no idea what to expect.

I knew we were going to see a perinatologist - a doctor for high risk pregnancies, I knew I'd be getting another ultrasound, and I knew I was supposed to drink a bunch of water.

The appointment wasn't until 11 a.m., which meant I spent two-and-a-half hours at work, completely unable to focus or do anything productive. I think I added a few items to my baby registry. (Which: its very creation and existence led me to break down in tears this weekend because "I don't know what I'll neeeeed, Mike! And how am I supposed to know what our baby will like?" It was pathetic and I have somewhat moved on. Somewhat. I still maintain that wedding registries are SO MUCH EASIER. And way more fun. I totally registered for bottled Starbucks frappuccinos at Target when we were getting married. And someone bought them for me. It was glorious. I was thinking of registering for a Wii and Wii Fit, but don't think that will go over so well.)

After my initial day of crying and fear, I've been very reasonable about It. This song has been my mantra and I haven't spent much time worrying. In fact, I'd convinced myself that nothing was wrong. That I was young and healthy, and my baby is, too. The statistics were on my side. Everything is fine. And if it wasn't? That'd be fine, too. Truly.

As we got closer to the medical building where the appointment was, though, the wonderful peace I've so enjoyed this week started to leave me and my heart started to race. Fear and worry rooted themselves into my mind, and I confessed to Mike that I was scared.

"Me, too," he replied.

We sat in our car in the parking garage and I listened to the song one more time, squeezing Mike's hand tightly. Squeezing his hand with all the fear I felt.

So why do I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need
You know what I need

We entered the building and I filled out the appropriate paperwork in the small office, then a woman came out to get us. She introduced herself as a genetic counselor who would do a consult with us. I'd always wondered what a genetic counselor does.

After asking us in a you-are-so-fragile tone, "Do you know why you are here?" she took family, healthy, and pregnancy histories and spent the next twenty minutes scaring the crap out of us.

Diseases! Defects! Disorders! SO MUCH CAN GO WRONG WITH ANY BABY OMG! Risks! Tests! Fractions! Screenings!

It was quite unsettling and a bit disturbing. As Mike said later, "She scared me out of ever having children again." It seemed as though the point-of-view was: Unless proven otherwise, every baby has a problem. She then told us about our specific issue - the hyperechoic echo on the left ventricle - and how it is a soft marker for Down syndrome. (Google was actually right about it all. Uh, thanks, Google.)

She explained that lots of babies have the light spot on their heart, but there is a higher rate of incidence in babies that have Down syndrome. So, the ultrasound today would look for more signs (markers) of Down syndrome - shorter legs, a curved pinkie finger, underdeveloped nasal bridge, and so on. (I KNOW. Isn't medicine sort of amazing? In a slightly freaky way.) Ah. Finally, some information that actually, you know, applies to us. Unlike the spiels on the other billion problems babies might be born with. (Can you tell I'm still scarred?)

As I lay in the dark room on the ultrasound table, the ultrasound technician showed us all the baby's anatomy and then got down to business - measuring bones, my cervix (which she praised. It as odd.), and whatever else she needed to do. Meanwhile, I enjoyed seeing the baby move - I've felt him move for a month now, but seeing him move made it that much more real. I was overwhelmed buy a desire to hold him, to see him. I teared up looking at him roll around, push at my stomach, and open his fists (after the ultrasound tech tapped my stomach a bit - they needed to see his pinkie finger).

The doctor came in the room and asked us in that same you-are-so-fragile tone, "Do you know why you are here?" and then reviewed the baby's measurements.

"Everything looks great. He is measuring right on - there are no other markers for Down syndrome. He looks perfect."

Perfect. (And he weighs an entire POUND. WHAT.)

Mike squeezed my hand and a sense of relief rushed over me.

Just thinking about how wonderful Mike is makes me tear up. The entire ultrasound, Mike held my hand, stroking the back of my hand with his thumb reassuringly.  As we walked into the building for the appointment, I held on to Mike and said, "I can't imagine doing this without you." And I can't. Any of it. Not the "Will you PLLLLEEEASE go get me some chips and salsa??" emergencies, the breakdowns over my fears, and especially not this whole scary-what-ifs part. He is a good guy.

My baby is lucky. And so am I.

There is still a chance for the baby having Down syndrome and I am waiting on some blood work to get finished to give me an even clearer idea of the chance. I understand now that every woman is at risk for having a child with birth defects and disorders - it's just a matter of how great or how little that chance is. As a 25-year-old, my risk of having a baby with a chromosomal disorder or birth defect is 1 in 378. And I don't have to tell you that we will love our son no matter what he's like when he's born.

I am thankful that he looks healthy, but am now far more aware of just how vulnerable being a parent will be.

I also have a small taste of how much I will love this little baby when he is born.

And I can't wait.
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