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.
We arrived and went into the room. The sonographer was lovely and chatty and wanted to know all sorts of things like what we did for a living, what our hobbies were, what we were doing over the weekend….
I answered politely but what I really wanted to say was, “I’m lying here finding out whether my baby has a heart defect. Can we drop the bullshit and get on with it!!”
It was taking ages and then he says he is going to get the heart specialist to give a second opinion and leaves the room. I started to panic, there’s something wrong, I know it.
When he comes back with the doctor, I am beside myself. I lay back and they put the instrument back on my belly. As I listened to them talking in gobbledygook, I started crying. I felt for sure that there was a problem. They took forever going over everything in doctor speak while tears are streaming down my face and I am sobbing while trying to keep still.
The doctor says, “I can see you are a bit worried.” (Der.)
FINALLY, after ages, the doctor says, “The heart is fine.”
Are you kidding me???
You let me lie there heartbroken and sobbing this whole time while you knew there was nothing wrong?? Bloody doctors. Why couldn’t he have said something earlier, jeez. There was an unusual vein structure but it was nothing to worry about. He also agreed with the suspicion that the baby had DS. He said the baby had a relatively short femur which was another soft marker.
The soft markers I had up until now were;
High 8 week blood test
High Nuchal Translucency reading at 12, 20 and 23 weeks
Inconclusive whether there was a nasal bone at every scan
Choroid Plexus cysts
Delayed development at 20 weeks
Short femur length
One or two markers doesn’t mean much, 6 on the other hand….
The doctor said our risk was now up to 1:10
It felt more like 9:10
It was nothing I didn’t already know but without having the amnio, there was always a little part of my brain thinking that maybe the baby wouldn’t have DS. That little part of my brain got smaller after every visit to the doctor but even right up to the day he was born, I wondered…
I was incredibly relieved to know there was no heart issues and we were clear to go the Birth Centre. Now there were no more tests to be had and I just got on with being pregnant. I worked up until 30 weeks until I couldn’t physically do it any more. Man, serving tables in the third trimester is exhausting! I’m sure I looked ridiculous too waddling around carrying coffees and perching on bar stools every 5 minutes. I did lots of reading and preparation about Down Syndrome and then I just stopped.
I couldn’t read another thing. Every bit of information talked about the risk of this, the chance of that. Whenever you read about the characteristics associated with DS, there seems like a lot. Some people may have a few or a lot. Some also express these characteristics more severely than others. It is impossible to know what to expect and I was sick of it. My child would be what ever it will be and trying to pre-empt everything was driving me crazy. For the last month or so, I forgot about DS altogether. It was great. I was pregnant, excitedly expecting my first child, just like any other mum-to-be.
And besides, it was too bloody hot to think about anything else. Wade was born at the end of January, traditionally one of the hottest times of the year. I was huge, hot and over it. My legs were swollen and enormous, my back hurt and I was too busy moaning and complaining about how uncomfortable I was to think about anything else.
I had a wedding to go to towards the end of January. I was 38 weeks pregnant and had been looking forward to going as I felt like I’d been in hibernation for weeks and was keen to see some of our friends. I wore a long black dress and felt properly dressed for the first time in weeks. The temperature on the day was in the high 30s, I was out in the sun and sweating. Within 10 minutes of being there, I wanted to go home. I was fat, hot and tired and convivial chit chat just wasn’t doing it for me. Not being able to have a drink at a wedding was the real kicker.
The next day I wrote a piece I had been rolling around in my head for a while. I guess I just needed to get angry to get it down on paper.
(BTW; Before Wade was born he was known as Baby Chicken. Early in my pregnancy I asked my 2 year old nephew what I should call the baby and that’s what he said. I couldn’t argue with that.)
Dear Baby Chicken,
I write to notify you of the imminent expiry of the agreement under which you occupy the premises. While your initial occupancy was mutually beneficial, this situation has rapidly become untenable.
In general, your presence at the premises has resulted in the facade becoming unsightly with the render browning in patches, stretching and sagging, requiring regular maintenance.
Your unauthorised extension at the rear has proven to be a public eyesore. A variety of oversized tarps have been stretched over the rear so as to remain inoffensive to its environment.
While the installation of the new drink vending machines has been generally well received by the local community, it appears that with ongoing use, they will become unsustainable to the upper balcony. This will require life long reinforcement and underpinning after your use of them has ended.
Most of the occupation of the premises has occurred in the front room and the wild parties that have been reported, most often during the night, have not only caused disruption and sleeplessness for others, but it also appears to have seriously compromised the sub-floor which in turn has had a detrimental effect on the plumbing. The reliability of which can never be trusted again.
As the latter part of your occupation has coincided with the warmer months, the foundations have swelled and contorted to such a degree as to cause the upper stories to shift and sway awkwardly.
Overall, your presence at the premises has been generally welcomed but it is now required for other purposes that don’t revolve around an all-consuming tenant. I am proposing an exit strategy that is mutually beneficial to both parties. It is requested that, upon eviction, special care is taken to avoid damage to the foyer and the front door. While this is a purpose built facility for your exit, the laws of physics dictate that doorways can only be widened so far.
Pleased be advised that if you have not vacated the premises by the 15th of February, I have been notified by the relevant authorities that forced eviction will be required. I am led to believe this may involve, but not limited to, the administration of chemicals, medieval style implements or excavation through the walls in order to vacate the premises.
In order to optimise our future relationship, I advise this notice be complied with expediently.
Yours in anticipation,