The week before the July 4th weekend, I was having a really rough week. I was feeling very stressed at work, it was so hot, I wasn't sleeping well. To top it off, I kept having really bad stress dreams. Things I don't want to type for fear it will set them into motion. So, I guess it's no surprise that in the middle of that week, I woke up from a sound sleep in the middle of a ridiculous panic attack, which sent us scrambling to the ER at 11.30 at night.
I've never experienced a panic attack before (and would love to avoid them in the future), but it wasn't the first thing that was different about this pregnancy. I've felt all the things you expect - the exhaustion, the overheating, the heartburn. But this time, I had more nausea, continue to have more food aversions and then this panic attack.
The next day, I planned to alternately work and sleep from home and just as I was about to lie down for a rest, my cell phone rang. Our genetic counselor was calling to say that on my second blood screening, our risk factor had changed for the worse for having a baby with Down's Syndrome (Trisomy 21). The odds were still on our side with a less than 1% chance of it happening, but if I did want to have an amnio, she had scheduled one for the next afternoon.
As Ed so rightly pointed out, we were still in the information gathering stage, but I fell apart anyway. Was this why this pregnancy felt different? What if my panic attack was caused for a good reason? And of course, that nagging thing that lives in the back of every mother's head and heart at all times: did I do something to hurt my baby?
I had never wanted an amnio. The process felt alien and wrong to me. And I planned to never get one... unless my genetic screening gave reason for alarm. Then, of course, you are confronted with all the thoughts surrounding your pro/con list, the biggest of which being: "What will I do with this information once i have it?"
Let's get two things straight right now:
1) I am pro-choice. Always have been, likely always will be.
2) I *hate* the idea of having an abortion.
I know that some people would abort after getting results that show any of the Trisomy conditions and I'm not in a position to judge them or say what's right. I can only speak to what would be right for me. And the "quickening" started with this baby around 16 weeks. I can feel the baby. The other night, I got a small kick and I tapped back and got another kick in response. It's my baby.
So, why find out at all? Why risk introducing infection and the chance (albeit slim) of a miscarriage? I think just so I could have a better chance at sleeping thru the night without anymore panic attacks. And so I could feel relief flood thru me when my incredibly favorable odds did in fact work in my favor... or so that I could rally my troops and set up all forms of support for our family if those odds worked against me.
I didn't really realize how long I'd been holding my breath or how possible it was to walk around and live your life while the odds are playing themselves out in a petri dish I don't get to see or examine.
And I know that I am incredibly lucky in my life. I have a husband who is incredibly wonderful at supporting a pregnant wife... those that know him might not realize how in tune he is to everything that is happening in my body or how well he knows how to support me when I'm guilt-ridden or crazy or crying or screaming. I think seeing him in the day-to-day, you don't get to see all the gentle, beautiful things that live and breathe inside him. And I do. And that makes me lucky.
Plus, we have good jobs, great benefits and a house we're working the kinks out of slowly but surely. In this day and age, so many people don't have any of those things. And that makes me lucky.
And of course, we have Chloe. I don't know if she is the most beautiful, smartest, silliest, sassiest, coolest 18 month old on the planet or if Ed and I just think she is... but we do think she is and we get to be her parents. And that makes me so lucky.
Did I really deserve to get lucky AGAIN? After finding my soul mate, marrying a little later in life and having a baby late in life who was completely healthy, do I really get to be that lucky for a second time? When so many others don't?
I don't know how or why it is possible that I should be... I just thank the good Lord that I am.
Amber Katherine has 46 chromosomes in every single cell and no sign of anything wrong with her at all. And that makes me lucky.
(P.S. I probably should have said that 46 chromosomes is the "normal" number for each cell - I forget that not everyone is reading about this stuff as obsessively as we are. LOL)