Tuesday, July 24, 2012

little things

Today's little things are actually quite big to me! This will be a long-ish post. I hope you'll stick with me.

First, the little things:

1. Seeing a big, fat robin preening himself on the fence around our side yard. I just stood and watched him for about a minute. There are also little, tiny blue flowers growing at the bottom of the fence - I will have to take a picture for you.
2. Holding my husband's hand in the car. Something extra safe and secure about that - no seatbelt could ever make me feel so protected.
3. Sunshine streaming through closed blinds - the promise of another pretty summer day
4. Unlimited access to clean drinking water and to a fully functional bathroom. And nice-smelling soap and soft towels. This is high priority for pregnant women.
5. Friends that care to check in on me and find out how I really am
6. Fresh blueberries from the public market - directly from the farmer who grew 'em. So sweet.
7. Maternity Shorts. Capital. What a wonderful idea to put a soft, stretchy panel in a cute pair of dark denim Bermudas. And thank you to the sweet woman who dropped them off at the thrift store instead of the pricier consignment shop across the street.
8. Feeling our baby boy move - little kicks and punches that feel like bubble wrap bursting in my belly.
9. Reassuring doctors who take time out of their vacations to update us on test results
10. Knowing that our baby's genetic tests show that he's normal and healthy

The last three "little things" have been huge to hubby and me this past week. Exactly a week ago today, I went to the follow-up appointment with my ob/gyn after my 19 week sonogram a week before (two weeks ago today). Everything had looked great on the sonogram - the technician called what she saw "textbook" for development, commenting again and again on how well kidneys, heart, brain, bones, and even the umbilical cord were formed. We were confident that Baby was doing great - wiggling, kicking, scrunching his little fists, and making faces. I left the sonogram and had a routine blood test done, feeling happy about our little one and never doubting that anything could be wrong with our precious boy.

So, at the follow-up appointment, my doctor came in the room to discuss the blood test results. All of my other test results have been normal thus far, and I have no predicting factors for making this one any different - but it was. This was the "quad screen" test, which looks for levels of different proteins that serve as potential markers for physical abnormalities in the developing baby. My test came back with low levels of a certain protein, which indicated that I had an increased risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. Evidently, the normal risk factor for a woman my age is something like 1 in 950, and mine was calculated at 1 in 250...about the risk for a woman 10 years older than me.

I'm pretty sure my heart went into overdrive. The rest of the visit - listening to the statistics, hearing the baby's heartbeat (normal rate), carrying the paperwork to the check-out desk - all of it is a blur, except for this clear, strong voice in my head that said, just once, "he doesn't have it." I had been praying the whole time, and trying so hard not to cry. I'm pretty sure I was pale.  My ob/gyn made a call to the specialist immediately, and got me an appointment for just two days later instead of the two weeks I would normally have to wait. I was thankful for that. I told him so.

I made it all the way through the grocery store and back home before I cried. I left a message for hubby to call me - and then I spent most of the next two days crying. And praying. And trying so hard to believe the voice I heard. Wanting to hope, wanting to know, wanting to believe - but so afraid that if I did, I would be wrong. It was so hard to trust. I spent hours reading the psalms, trying to sing, and throwing myself into housework so I wouldn't cry. I felt Baby move more often in those two days than I have before - I wonder if he could feel how stressed and worried I felt. I'm pretty sure I ate healthy foods, but I don't really remember. There are still chips left and the salad is gone, so I guess I did.

On Thursday last week, we went to see the specialist. Hubby got a couple hours off of work to come with me (we're sharing a car right now), and I was so glad to have him with me. The specialist looked over our ultrasound pictures again, and reassured us that he believed that Baby was one of the 249 babies without DS, not the one with the extra copies of chromosomes (for that's what causes Down's - it's having multiple copies of the smallest chromosome). He explained all the physical markers and showed us that our baby did not have those physical signs - that everything looked normal. He said this knowledge, along with our other previously normal-looking tests, added up to a risk that was probably closer to 1 in 400 - but still a risk. Do you know how comforting the word "normal" is?

The specialist gave us three options to consider. 1. Wait until the baby is born to know for sure, 2. have an expensive, not paid by insurance, brand-new-in-the-last-6-months blood test done to analyze my DNA and the fragments of baby's DNA in my blood - an almost definitive yes or no, or 3. Have an insurance-covered amniocentesis done: a definitive test. The first two options both carried some what-ifs. What if we didn't know about the disorder, and baby had it? That could complicate the birth process, for one, and leave us a bit unprepared for what laid ahead. What if the blood test said he had DS, but he was born normal and healthy? We'd worry and prepare for no reason. The only definitive answer would be from the amniocentesis - and that procedure carries with it the risk of miscarriage - about 1 in 400.

The specialist left us for a few minutes to talk and consider what to do. I almost burst into tears when he left, but hubby was holding my hand. We talked about the risks, and decided that we needed to know if Baby was okay. We told the doctor that we would do the amniocentesis, I signed paperwork, and hubby had to go back to work. I texted a friend to come and pick me up from the procedure - she was wonderful to come and get me.

The procedure for an amniocentesis involves drawing a few tablespoons of fluid out of the amniotic sac around the Baby. The needle goes through the mother's stomach and, guided by ultrasound, into an area where Baby isn't going to be inside the fluid sac. I couldn't watch. It only hurt a little at the insertion point, and it was over quickly. They checked Baby's heart rate afterward, and it was normal. He was wiggly as usual. I was so very emotionally and physically tired. I walked slowly to the door of the hospital, rode home, thanked my friend, and slept for two hours on the couch. Baby was kicking like crazy - that felt reassuring to me.

And then we waited. The specialist promised to call us with results on Monday, even though he would be on vacation all this week. Friday was a long, long day! I don't remember much of Saturday, except going to the market with a friend. I think I slept a lot. Sunday, we prayed, worshiped, sang, and heard a sermon about the dangers of pride, of self-reliance - the danger of not trusting God. We held hands, and prayed that God had made our baby perfectly, that there had been no "mistake" in chromosome copies, that he was healthy and normal. We were scared, but thankful for the specialist's confidence.

Monday, I waited almost all day, until the call came a bit after 4pm. I picked up the phone, my heart racing, blood pumping in my ears. "Good news," the specialist said, "your baby does not have Down's syndrome." There will be further analysis of his genetic material, but this big question is answered. The doctor is confident that no other disorders will be revealed. Baby looks healthy and normal. He doesn't have a major chromosomal disorder. We are so relieved! And thankful. And full of love for our gracious God and our tiny Little One.

We went out to dinner to celebrate (with a gift card, of course) our little (BIG!) blessing. May we never take for granted that our boy will be able to eat well, sleep well, fill a diaper well, learn to use the potty without trouble, speak well, think well, run well, play well, get messy, make mistakes, make friends, learn quickly, play an instrument, go to college, get married, and have a family. May we remember that normal life - normal, everyday, sticky mess filled, auto-pilot life - is a blessing.

So thankful for the little things, and for our Little One. Full of joy!

1 comment:

Andy and Kristen said...

Oh friend. I had no idea you guys were going through all that. I'm so happy to hear that you received good news!