During the final few months of pregnancy, my emotions were pretty steady. Even though we had decided not to find out for sure, we felt better prepared to assume that the baby did have Down Syndrome. That way, there would be nothing that we weren’t expecting. I was still planning to birth at the Birthing Centre and it was a requirement that we have the baby’s heart checked beforehand.
This was understandable. The Birthing Centre is for low risk pregnancies. Babies with DS are at a greater risk of heart conditions, most commonly a hole in the heart at birth. Approximately 40-50% of all children born with DS will have a congenital heart defect. Usually atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) or ventricular septal defect (VSD). These either correct themselves or require surgery depending on the severity. If the baby had either of these, I would need to birth at another specialist hospital. I booked in for an Echocardiogram at around 28 weeks. Now I was nervous. The baby felt fine, everything felt fine, I felt fine, but every time I’d had a test or scan so far, I’d been given bad news. I knew a heart defect was treatable but I was already a mother and the thought of the baby suffering at all was tugging at my heart strings. This brought all the same negative emotions back up. Back on the roller coaster for another ride.
My pregnancy was definitely a roller coaster of emotions where I questioned my resolve, my decisions and my sanity every time I got a new test result. But right from the beginning, all the way through till now, I had reasons why I didn’t want to test for Down Syndrome. This post is not about what I think everyone should do, it’s about what I did and how it helped me get through the turmoil of prenatal diagnosis. Even though there were ups and downs during those 9 months, by the time Wade was born, I was ready and happy and waiting there with open arms to meet him whether he had DS or not and if any of my thought processes help other women in similar circumstances then its achieved its purpose.
From the outset, I want to say that I am not fundamentally opposed to abortion. Everybody’s circumstances are different but I feel that we have a huge responsibility to think about it carefully and get as much information as possible. For me, it was important to “go there” in my mind on both sides of the argument. For me, considering all of my options and really thinking about it meant the right decision for me was so much clearer. As I contemplated my options, the right path to take kept leaping out at me. I chose to keep my baby and these are the reasons why.
During my pregnancy, I was working as a waiter at Marios’, a cafe in Fitzroy. The cafe has been there for 27 years and has many regular customers who have been going there for years. It’s the kind of place where you need to get along with the customers as well as the staff and owners, as they are as much a part of the furniture. It’s one of the things that I loved about the job. I had returned to hospitality after 5 years away from the industry and I was really enjoying it. I had worked at Marios from 2001 to 2005 when I left to go and find a career. I’d had a quarter-life crisis and after racking up 10 years as a waiter, I decided I needed to do something meaningful with my life. Whatever I did, it had to be noble and worthy. That is something that has always been important to me. I have always shied away from the corporate world of money, ambition and power. I have never wanted to be defined by my job.
I left Marios’ to join the police force. (Bad choice if you don’t like issues of ambition, power and being defined by your job!!) After 2.5 years of stress, heartache and anxiety which was mainly due to the size of my IN tray of paperwork and less to do with the horrors out on the street, I resigned. It wasn’t for me. Yes, I was earning slightly more money than waiting tables but I was drowning in paperwork and the job was consuming every waking hour of mind and most of the sleeping ones too. I couldn’t find a reason to stay so I left.
Then I worked as a sub contractor for a company installing eftpos machines. The money was fantastic, I worked for a great company but again, the work was taking over my life. I worked long hours on the road only to come home and spend a lot of the night preparing for the next day and doing all my own paperwork. After that job ended, I discovered that I crave the simple life.
Before I start telling the story of my 20 week scan, I want to tell the story of what happens when I take Wade out in public. Today I went for breakfast at Marios’ in Fitzroy, where I used to work. If you want to know what the world looks like when everyone is smiling and happy….push a pram with Wade in it. Walking along the street with my happy bundle in his blue glasses who makes eye contact with almost everyone he sees, turns complete strangers into a gooey mess. Almost everyone smiles, some people comment, a few ask questions about the glasses, children giggle at him. Trying to walk along or do the shopping usually results in me having a few conversations with complete strangers, which is lovely. I sat in the front window and sat Wade on the bench so he can look out the window. Watching people’s faces light up as they walked past the window and lay eyes on him and smile, makes me realise how many days he brightened, if only for a minute.
There’s a language warning on this one because sometimes “golly gosh darn it” doesn’t convey the gravity of the situation!
The time between my 12 week and 20 week scan was spent mostly searching forums on the Internet trying to find examples of when test results meant nothing. I would swing wildly between positions of being completely at ease with the possibility of the baby having Down Syndrome then completely in denial about it. These things happen to other people and all that. Continue reading
Counting down the days to my 12 week ultrasound was excruciating. I was so excited to see my baby growing inside of me, I thought the day would never come.
After being called in, we were asked about the blood test and the dating scan. I told her that we hadn’t had either done as we did not want any Down Syndrome testing. And with that, I lay back and watched as my baby appeared on the screen. Just like that. As soon as she put the instrument against my belly, a little person appeared on the screen and I wept openly.
I watched through blurry eyes as she took this measurement and that measurement. Then the same measurement again…and again…and again. I was cooing and sighing and looking over to Mick with the look of wonderment at the miracle I was observing. The baby was kicking up a storm, wriggling and twisting all over the place.
Mick didn’t say much, and the sonographer didn’t say anything. Continue reading
So, post number 1. A blank canvas. An endless sea of blank white virtual paper in front of me……..
I am starting this blog when Wade is 14 months old. So finally, after the first year is over and maybe some of the lost brain cells that drained out with my breast milk are starting to return, I have got it up and running. So many things have happened up until now and more amazing, beautiful or frustrating crazy things are happening everyday. I want to tell the story from the beginning but I will also put in little stories of things that are happening right now.
Let’s start with my favourite photo of him at the moment.
I had wanted to have children for a very long time and when I met Mick and knew that he was “the one”, having kids was always in the front of my mind. There were things we needed to get done first like buy a house, get settled, plan a wedding and so on. It started to feel like it was never going to happen and I’m far too impatient for my own good. When I want something, I want it there and then. People always say that life is about the journey but mostly I thought that was crap. Once we finally got ourselves together to have a family, it took another 8 months of trying. I know this is actually a reasonably average time for it to take but I wanted kids so badly and every month that went by that I wasn’t pregnant, felt like torture. When I was young, I was constantly told about how easy it is to fall pregnant and you have to be vigilant!! Now, I want to get pregnant and apparently all the planets have to align while someone waves a red flag to the east or something before it will happen. I will admit to not being the loveliest person to be around during this time…. Continue reading