There's a story I feel the need to tell. I just have to get it out of my head. Some might relate, some I might offend, and if I do I apologise. But this is an experience I want to share. I just do.
For months I've been planning 'the announcement' post. One filled with cheer and happiness and blissful joy. This is all of those things, with a touch of reality thrown in.
We are having a baby. Yes, it is joyful beyond words! We are super excited about it and feeling completely in awe of such a blessing.
This is the story so far. Please bare in mind that as far as we know all is perfectly fine, but I write this based on my state of mind throughout...
The day I found out, admittedly I was in shock. Worried about the impact this new little being was going to have on our family, our life. But it's a baby! How could I be anything but thrilled!
My husband hugged me so tight. He was happy. Shocked, a little anxious but happy, and so excited he was already picturing those squidgy cheeks and that new born baby smell, oh that smell..
Our boys embraced the news, almost expecting it. Asking questions, preparing their little minds, setting aside toys to keep special and making sleeping arrangements.
Then came the Doctors visit, to make everything official. In my mind, to make necessary appointments and discuss the pregnancy generally. I was still a little shocked, but joyful and excited. What I didn't expect, and perhaps I should have, perhaps I was being naive, but what came next, to me, was a barrage of statistics and doom based on my age alone! Things did not look good.
I was shown graphs and figures and given pamphlets to read because "we just have to make you aware of the risks.." I was referred to speak with a midwife in pregnancy care who might be able to discuss this with me further and cover general concerns or questions I might have. So I went along, hoping to be put at some kind of ease, for things to be made clearer, put into perspective. But no, it seems the facts were clear, more doom and gloom and statistics.
When I got to my car I cried so hard. I cried for this baby, who in my mind, we had little hope of having without abnormalities. I cried for my breaking heart and for how sad this was going to be for our family. I called my husband who tried to make sense of what these statistics were, where do they come from and upon what facts are they based? The logical questions you ask, which I didn't. It was really all very straight forward. These are just the facts.
After that, it didn't really matter what he said to console me, to help me see reason and focus on the possibility that there may in fact be nothing wrong, that we may have a perfectly healthy baby. There was nothing I could do but hope and pray. I booked in for the 1st trimester screening. I just have to be strong and positive until I knew more. But emotionally, I'd already detached. I couldn't think about the future, imagine our life with this new baby, because what if it didn't happen. I couldn't bare to think of the pain. I would go through the motions of day to day. My little people talking about the baby, thinking of names. My husband touching my tummy so lovingly.
Being my 4th pregnancy, my body was already changing. My belly was growing and at 10 weeks I looked close to 5 months. So hiding it and keeping it to ourselves until we were certain was difficult. We had to tell people, physically it was so obvious. For those of my dear friends I haven't told, I'm sorry, I just haven't been able to make those calls. I have been a bit numb to peoples congratulations, putting on the happy face I should have, the one I longed was real. I'd agree it was wonderful and, yes, we are very excited. But all the while my head was thinking about how to tell everyone when it all goes wrong.
I suppose what I'm trying to get across here is that the delivery of and emphasis placed on those statistics needs to be very clearly thought out. You can't just share these facts and not expect some emotional turmoil. Maybe I re-acted differently to most. I don't usually see the dark side of anything. This has been torturous. Irrational maybe, that this has been my reaction to such information. Maybe its because I'm older (40 by the way) and wiser and realise just how miraculous it is that I've been given 3 perfectly healthy babies already. Who was I to expect this could happen a 4th time. Who did I think I was to be so deserving.
After a couple of weeks waiting, and regular phone calls chasing the results to the 1st trimester screen, they still weren't in. I had my first appointment at the pregnancy care unit (I've had all my babies in the public system, I've like it, it's always worked for me considering I'd never had any complications). The midwife I was seeing was lovely. She asked about the results and went to track them down when I told her I was still waiting. She left me in the hands of her trainee to go through general paperwork. My husband wasn't with me at this appointment. I didn't even think of planning for him come. From memory it was just a 'welcome', check blood pressure, urine and give you some information on what to expect when you're expecting kind of visit.
When the midwife came in with the doctor and the doctor's trainee (it's a training hospital, I'd forgotten that) there were 4 people in the room, and me alone without my husband. After doing loads of my own research during the last couple of months I was bracing myself. I understood that being 40 I may be at some risk, so I was prepared to hear this..I thought. As soon as the doctor sat down, she went through the basic facts I already knew inside out based on statistics and told me that the chances of me having a baby with abnormality is 1:147....
I don't really know what she said in detail after that except that low risk was anything above 1:250 so I was thinking I was quite high. When I burst into tears and uncontrollable sobs, she did say that I should keep in mind that I could be one of the 146 people who have a healthy baby.
As the results had taken so long, I had missed the opportunity to have a CVS to investigate in more detail early on, and if I wanted to go ahead with further testing I would need to wait until 16weeks to have the Amniocentesis. I then have to wait a further 2 weeks for those results, making the baby around 18 weeks and if anything serious is found and our decision was to terminate, if in fact we had that choice, I would need to go through a normal birth at this stage.
The doctor tried to be sympathetic and handed me back to the midwife. She was kind, and doing her best to offer comfort. She made appointments for my next visits and talked a little about their birthing suite, and how lovely it'll be to have my three little helpers and on and on. But all I could think was what does any of this matter? Why are we making these appointments and talking about the birth when it might not happen that way at all?!
I could hardly breathe. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I felt so hot and sweaty and I just wanted to cry out loud! When finally I got back to my car, the crying was hard and loud and the ache in my heart was almost too much. And all I could think was that I would never, ever have considered or allowed this baby to be conceived knowing that this could happen. My husband had been trying to contact me all this time but I hadn't heard the phone. I had to pull myself together. I had to call him and tell him. I had to be brave and change my mindset. Either way, healthy or not healthy, I have to enjoy this pregnancy. It is the last. I want to love this baby and give it every hope. I need to be happy and positive and not stressed.
When I got home my own doctor called with the test results. I said thank you but I already received them in my pregnancy care appointment that morning. Fortunately, she wanted to go through them with me anyway and went on about this and that and 'so it all looks pretty good'. I was so confused. She said my risk sat at 1:256. This was above the cut off point, although she said the cut off was 1:300. Still, better than before. It turns out that the figure I was given earlier was only half of the test, it hadn't factored in the combined blood tests.
While I feel enormous relief and legitimate hope, I have serious concerns about how women are given this list of 'facts and stats'. I know they have to make you aware, but shouldn't this be approached with a certain amount of care and council. And perhaps before blurting out all these figures, they should also have some background information on the mother to be too. Her health status, history, something??
I do not take for granted that this baby will be perfect, we still don't know for sure, who ever does! But what I do know, and have to take some comfort from, is that I come from pretty good stock. I'm not kidding myself, I know this doesn't count for everything and things can still go wrong, unexplained, whatever will be will be. But, yes, I come from a good line of breeders (my family is huge!), we were born to do this. Mothering and having babies is in our DNA, we're good at it. We love pregnancy, we don't get sick during pregnancy, how lucky! Several women in my family have had perfectly healthy babies after 40, my beautiful mum included.
I'm fit, I'm healthy, I rarely get sick, I've never abused my body, I've never suffered illness and I've only ever been in hospital to give birth. What about those odds? Surely it's got to count for something..
I have to believe that it does.