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.
At the end, I asked her if everything looked ok and she said that the hospital will go over the results with me and off we went with photos and the DVD in hand.. I was gliding along beaming terrifically and rambling on to Mick about how amazing it all was. I was a bit annoyed that Mick wasnt skipping down the street on the same cloud of elation as I was but he gets excited in his own little way and I left it at that.
Bursting with excitement, we drove straight to my parents house and watched the DVD together. As soon as we got home, I put the photos on Facebook and announced to the world, “13 weeks and Baby Chicken is all good”…..
The very next day, I received a call from the Birth Centre about the test results. I was told that the Nuchal Translucency reading was high and put us in a high risk category for a chromosomal abnormality. They recommended I have the blood test done and that it needed to be done before a certain date for it to be accurate. I had around a week and needed to make the decision quickly.
My immediate response was anger and frustration. I thought to myself, here we go…. Intervention, scare mongering, blah blah. I naively thought that because I had said that I didn’t want any testing for DS, that the scan would have just been an opportunity for us to see the baby. It didn’t occur to me that if they found signs of chromosomal abnormality, they would have to tell me. Seems pretty obvious now but I was so angry that I had been put in this position. I buried myself in the Internet and started looking for examples of when these results mean nothing and the baby turns out to be fine.
And then I got frightened. What if I was wrong about all this. Maybe I couldn’t deal with a child with a disability. Maybe the blood test would show that everything was fine and all these tests are just designed to scare people. Women have been having babies since the dawn of time and we shouldn’t need all this testing and interfering. What if the baby does have DS…. Can I really do it? And on and on and around and around. These opposing questions rolling inside my head like a bingo barrel, each one coming up with more clarity and worth at different times.
I decided to get the blood test done. I felt certain that it would come back normal and would prove that all of this stress was unnecessary worry being heaped upon me by the medical profession. But I was also worried. Worried that in the face of bad news, I wasn’t as strong in my convictions as I thought I was. And I kept attached to google…. At every opportunity. Reading stories of women who had been told all sorts of things and found out that their baby was fine, others who had no idea during pregnancy then the baby was born with DS.
The blood test came back as high risk also. The combined test of the scan results and the blood results gave me a risk factor of 1:69 chance. The risk factor should be 1:354 for a woman at my age. Again with the risk factors! So it’s apparently 5 times more likely that the baby has DS but by my calculation, 1:69 chance is 0.014% chance…. A 99.986% chance that everything was fine. And this is high risk? Come on.
I was advised to have an amniocentesis to find out for sure. I have since read some horror stories about women being pressured in to having the amnio and/or terminations. Although an amnio was recommended at every stage, I can’t say that I ever felt pressured. No one ever recommended termination and I believe that any information I was given HAD to be given by the doctors in order to ensure that I was informed of all my options. I know this has caused problems for other women but I appreciated having all the information on the table in order to make my decision. On the other hand, my good fortune in this respect had a lot to do with the incredible midwives at the birthing centre who had a wonderful way of delivering bad news. They were a lot less clinical than most doctors I have met.
I had decided I wouldn’t have the amnio because there is a risk of miscarriage to the baby. It’s an invasive procedure where a needle is inserted through the abdomen wall, into the uterus, into the fluid filled cavity where the baby is. A small amount of the amniotic fluid is removed. This fluid has some of the baby’s cells floating in it and these can be tested for chromosomal abnormalities.
I was 35 years old and had been trying to get pregnant 8 months. What if I miscarried and there was nothing wrong with the baby to begin with! How would I ever forgive myself. But what if I was being neglectful and petulant? What if I was declining a sensible, well tested and safe procedure unnecessarily?
I couldn’t see a clear path to the right decision.
Everywhere I looked, I saw an unacceptable outcome or a risk I just wasn’t prepared to take. Also, I was still convinced that all of this intervention was all part of the “just in case” stuff women feel pressured into having and so I decided not to have the amnio, and to wait it out. I was sure all of this would be storm in a teacup.
It was much later that Mick told me that he knew there was something wrong during the scan. It was during this time that Mick started to grieve. He knew there was something wrong with the baby. I refused to give the results much credit but the uncertainty about how much our lives were about to change was creeping in and lying like a blanket over everything.