Everything is such a blur. There were so many doctor visits. So many. Between weekly Doppler monitoring sessions, frequent cardiology visits for echos and ultrasounds, and twice monthly ultrasounds at the perinatologist, I was in the doctors office more than I was out of it. I went to a lot of them by myself, which was never very much fun. I always felt a little more alone than I am comfortable with. I wanted to discuss the findings and conversations from each appointment with someone, anyone and immediately. I needed to talk it out as it was happening so I could deal with it all in "real time.". But, there were just so many damn appointments. It was nearly impossible for Joe to be at all of them because of his work schedule. I made do emailing all of my family and friends to tell them the news from the doctors latest fact finding mission. It was nice to let it out and I liked keeping everyone in the loop. Thankfully though, Joe was always there for the super duper important appointments. Like this happy little number called an Amniocentesis. Now that, my friends was NOT the highlight of my pregnancy.
For anyone who doesn't know, an amnio is done mostly for genetic testing in high risk births or women over 40. Searching for chromosomal defects, they remove fluid from the amniotic sac and test it for Downs Syndrome, Platau Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome, Larry, Moe and Curly Syndrome.. Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the picture. They look for all sorts of disorders with other seemingly pleasant sounding names to help them better understand what we may face after the birth of our child. Now, does anyone know how they get this little sample of fluid that contains all this valuable information? Wait for it..waaaaaiiit for itttt.. YES! They stick the worlds longest needle into your belly and directly into the amniotic sac all while being guided visually through an ultrasound. Oh, you want me to go back to the part about the needle? Okay, well they numb a patch of skin on the belly and then proceed to insert a long thin needle in through the abdominal wall. It punctures the amniotic sac where they can then withdraw fluid to be tested. Then, they remove the needle and give you a Hello Kitty band-aid. Or Scooby Doo. Whichever you prefer. Isn't that nice of them?
Now, this is a very serious procedure. Please do not think my sarcasm indicates a lack of respect for the severity of the situation. It is simply the way I process. I cannot help myself but to giggle nervously at bad news and wrack my brain for something dry or witty to say in order to compensate for the lack of air in the room. But when someone explains to you that you are going to have a procedure where they pass sharp objects into the parts of your body currently housing a defenseless human being, the nerves can be almost too much to handle. So they explain the risks. "Fetal injury can happen. Preterm labor/birth, infection, miscarriage." These are all documented complications from Amniocentesis, followed by "when would I like to have the procedure done?" well... um. How does a quarter to fucking NEVER sound? What a stupid question. "Are the benefits outweighing the risks?" "Well, we will be able to get a better handle on what we are dealing with. This defect could be a sign of a larger problem and we want to get the big picture. It will also give you the chance to do research. If she has Downs Syndrome, it would be good to know so we can have the correct support ready at the hospital. If she has something like Spina Bifida or any other neural tubal defect, we need to start you with pediatric neurologists and other specialists. If she has horns and a tail, we need to contact an old priest and a young priest, etc..."So basically what you want is to be as prepared as possible?" "Yes." "Okay then lets do it." I was already 28 weeks along and a baby born that early does have a good chance at survival. Oddly enough- and here is a real kicker-....that wasn't even my first concern. At all. All I could think about is, "Was it going to hurt?" How unbelievably selfish, I know. But it was all I could manage. How much was it going to hurt?
I just didn't want it to be painful. Partially I think because if it was, then maybe that meant that it was painful for her too and partially because I was afraid. I was afraid for her life. Afraid that we would get answers we didn't want. Afraid any sense of pain from the procedure may make it too real. Another ridiculous thought, but again, there it was. I know it sounds weird to an outsider, but as strong as I was trying to be, this was a toughie. It just made it so damn real. If they were only taking pictures and listening to heartbeats and performing general exams, it was like this whole thing wasn't actually happening yet. I was beginning to wonder if the baby could hear my thoughts as I could and if she understood them somehow. Was I freaking her out? What if all this energy I was devoting to worry would somehow cause her to be an anxious child? (Again, totally random and stupid thought.. I have them all the time. For those who know me, not terribly shocking, I know). We decided it was time to bite the bullet, grow a set and look at this with less heart and more head. We were having this baby no matter how she came out, so it mattered not to us if she was to be born with any other issues. This was merely becoming a medically necessary test to prepare us for what may come. We had to check our emotions and look at it logically, clinically. We had to detach ourselves from the personal side of the experience and view it as a doctor would. Is this what was best for "the patient" overall. You bet your sweet ass it was. To know all of this now, would only make their job easier later and in turn make things easier on us. So that was it then. The appointment was set and we went on with our lives like the entire thing never happened.
Amnio Day. We arrive at the perinatologist office and are brought into an exam room. I lay on the table with my regular clothes on, no gown required, and stare at spot on the opposite wall. "What is that? A grease stain? Did someone have a food fight in here?" Inner dialogue is always so bizarre when you are under duress. Joe is with me, holding my hand and watching the staff bring in all its necessary accouterments. As I stare away I keep thinking, "Don't freak out. It never helps. Be calm. They know what they are doing." It isn't helping. I feel a little sick to my stomach and I squeeze Joes hand so tight he winces. "Just relax. You are doing the right thing." Oh. THERE it was. All this time I hadn't thought about whether or not this was the way to go. We weren't following the doctors advice blindly. We did our research, we knew the risks. But I never once felt any real doubt. Until right that very second. My eyes begin to burn and well up. I remember thinking, "No tears, damn it. Stop it. You are not going to cry right now. Joe needs you to be strong. The baby needs you to be strong. You need you to be strong. Don't let it get you. No. Fear". Swallowing, licking my lips, not making direct eye contact with anyone so they couldn't see me fight to control myself. It had to be and was going to be done and right now was the time to do it. End of story. I suck in a deep breath, let it out as slowly as possible, afraid to let it go that I may not get it back. I blink back a few rogue tears and say hello with a smile to my doctor when she walks in, reassuring her that I didn't need any further convincing that I was ready. After all, I needed her to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand, not worrying about me. They are ready to start. Am I ready? Sure. Why not. Never been more ready for anything in my entire life. I try to watch. In my head, it seems like a good idea. A way to maybe control the situation in someway. I don't know...Offer directions if they get lost? But at the last minute, I change my mind and I find that spot on the wall again and don't dare look away from it until they are finished.
It is done. After all that working myself up to get the nerve to go through with it, it is done. We have the test, no complications. A funny thing happened though. I had what my mother calls a "defining moment". It was when I finally realized and accepted this was all actually happening. Joe and I were going to have a baby. We were not getting married in the grand affair we were 6 months away from having when we found out I was pregnant. We were not going on a honeymoon to Hawaii. We were not going to bring our baby right home and start our new lives as a family in the way most others get to. We were going to have a little girl that was going to have to fight for her right to party from the minute she was born and for the rest of her life. She was going to need her mommy and daddy to be tough for her when things got heavy and as loving and accepting as possible. And we were going to do it. No doubts. No fear. No exceptions. We go back a few days later to get the results. Oh for the love of God, another damned conference room. I swear to you, my face begins to twitch every time I see a high-gloss, mahogany round table. Our results are negative. No other issues to worry about. Other than a bum ticker, this kid was fine. We could now focus on one thing, and one thing only. Thank ya Jee-zus.
We went to the Justice of the Peace. Me, 7 months gigantic in a dress I paid too much for at a maternity store and Joe in khakis and a tie. Quite the dream scenario, I know. It made me a little sad. The number one thing I had ever wanted to do in my life was become a mom. But number two was to have a big wedding with an even bigger reception and as each week passed that vision began to fade more and more and was being replaced by huge open-palmed slaps of reality. I had to get over it. I had already made peace with the fact that I was pregnant before marriage. Again, not my dream scenario. But I was okay with it now.I was just having a rough go at dealing with all this other stuff being handed to me. To us.
It wasn't easy for him, either. He was looking forward to seeing me walk down the aisle and saying " I do" and celebrating with our family and friends and making a baby on our wedding night. Joe had to get over it. No rings. No " I now pronounce you man and wife" or band to play " Stand By Me" for our first dance. No delicious finger foods at cocktail hour or amazing sunset pictures on the beach with the wedding party. It was quickly starting to sink in that our life together was not going in the direction we had intended it to. Every time something changed, it felt like someone was trying to cheat us. Life was catching us at every damn turn. It never felt like it was good change.We were having an epic pity party for a while there. It felt like I was in a great restaurant and I ordered the most expensive caviar on the menu, but for some reason, they bring out Clams Casino. I keep trying to send it back because it is not up to my standards and not what I wanted. But they just send it right back to me, trying to convince me to eat it. I have this inner dialogue about it. "Have you tried the Clams Casino? No, I hate clams. Have you tried the Clams Casino, though? NO damn it! I just said I don't like clams! I wanted the caviar. Well, if you haven't tried the Clams Casino, then how do you know you don't like them? Well... I don't know, I just assume and that is fine with me. Just try them. You may find you love them. I doubt it. Well stop being so rigid. You can't control everything, you know. Try them and maybe you will like them. FINE! Shut the hell up already. Bring out the motherfucking Clams Casino and let me try them!"....Huh.. Not bad. I guess I DO like clams...who knew?....
I was beginning to accept that a change wasn't a sign of my lost control. It was a chance for me to try something new. A new way of thinking. A new perspective. It was time to get ahead of all this. Time to stop thinking about what we weren't getting and focus on what was being given to us. This special little baby was being given to US. To love and care for and teach and support. Time for the pity party to be OVER. I had no idea then that this new frame of mind would set the tone for what was to come....