Archive for October 14th, 2011

Elderly gravida

Well, by now I have circulated word that yours truly is with child. Note: new parent category above! Baby stuff! I waited some time before outing myself completely because I’ve been extremely nervous that things wouldn’t work out. While this has been our first attempt at a pregnancy, so I can’t say I have had any ‘bad experiences’ previously, I just feel all too aware of the million and one things that can go wrong that I wanted to be further along before publicly exposing myself. So, at over 18 weeks of gestation, here I am, telling you: I’m preggers! Hooray! And, if that news isn’t good enough for you, here’s something even better: she’s a girl! Yes, ma’am, it has been scientifically, amniocentesis-y verified that the little mango inside of me has two X chromosomes. I am just delighted. And AO is, too.

So, since I have waited so long to write about this, I am very behind on sharing my thoughts on being pregnant in general and, specifically, being a geriatric (36 years old) and expecting. As you may remember from a previous post, I was conflicted on the idea of bringing a baby into this world. In many ways, I am still conflicted, but my own wishes (along with AO’s) have won out over reason and fear. I say ‘reason’ because I maintain this world is a pretty crazy place and the future is so unknown (will there be an economic meltdown? will there be an environmental meltdown? will I have a meltdown?). In addition, I am not sure we can afford a child — there’s day care, diapers, food, clothing, summer camps, sports, activities, all of the stuff, college and more. And, unlike many people, I believe that if we are going to bring another person into this world that our job will be to support that person — financially and emotionally — for as long as she needs it from us. Although of course I believe that one of the most important jobs of a parent is to prepare your little one for a satisfying and happy independent life, I do not believe that the checkbook is closed at age 18. Or 22. Or 25. I mean, I hope to raise my little girl to cure cancer and win the lottery so that she can support us and many others, but should that fail to materialize, I consider myself on the financial hook for the foreseeable future. And, let’s face it, if we keep getting a pay cut every year, we may not be able to give her the childhood I hope to. Anyway, I say our own wishes triumphed over ‘fear’ because good God, what is there not to fear? In addition to all of the reasons not to have a child is the fear of having a child — which includes the reasons and adds to them the following plus a million more things I am sure I will think of in the coming seconds/days/weeks/months/years: what if I’m a terrible mother, what if the kid has no face, what if the placenta detaches, what if the kid is blind, what if the kid develops a horrible disease, what if the kid is hit by a car, what if the kid never learns to talk, what if she suffers from depression/schizophrenia/bipolar disorder, what if she doesn’t like dogs, what if she doesn’t like sports, what if she likes sour cream, what if she just doesn’t like me? The list goes on. And on. And on. And every time I calm myself down about say, lupus, up pops another concern like, say, autism. I think I have boarded the fear train and it doesn’t appear to be reaching the station any time soon.

Anyway, ok, so despite all of the above, we decided to go ahead and try anyway. And then, on Wednesday July 6, two pink lines appeared on the stick and I started shaking – with joy, with fear, with trepidation…And then I had no idea what to do. AO, ever the sage, suggested I call the doctor’s office. Interesting, I thought. Why hadn’t I thought of that? So, I called my doctor’s office — a general practitioner — and was directed to call an actual ob/gyn office. Genius. These people really had it together. Anyway, to make a long story short, I went into the doctor’s office about three times over the next week to have blood taken to assess my levels of HCG, a hormone produced by pregnant ladies. The numbers immediately indicated that I was preggers, but they monitor these things to make sure the numbers continue to rise and, once they reach a certain level, we were invited in for an ultrasound so they could attempt to date how old the little sac was (I had not had my period for several months before I actually came up positive for pregnancy — I think this had to do with having recently gone off of the pill — so dating by my last cycle was not helpful). Well, they did not have to ask us twice! In we went, and in the probe went, and out we came with a date of about 4-5 weeks. Our due date has changed a few times in the past months, but we seem to be consistently staring at mid-March.

So, I was pregnant. We released the news slowly. First, we told a few of my closest friends and then I told my mom (whose first words were, “On purpose?”) and then we pretty much waited. Tick tock. This is a really hard thing to do because (a) I like to drink so abstaining during happy hours took covert action or declining invites and (b) who doesn’t want to share this news (when it is, indeed, on purpose)? But we did wait. We waited until about 8 weeks along before we put the news in wider release: to my close family and to AO’s close family. It felt much better to be out of the closet about it! And then we waited until about 12 weeks to go public, which included telling our boss and other friends. During this whole time, I must tell you that I felt completely fine. I really had no nausea or any other symptoms other than serious sleepiness. I felt like I could fall asleep at almost any given time. I am already a pretty damn good sleeper, but I was really outdoing myself during this time. I still am, if I’m going to be perfectly honest with you.

And then came week 13 and the first trimester screening. The screening combines a blood draw and an ultrasound; the results from both are synthesized to give you the odds that your baby has Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy-13 or Trisomy-18, all of which are chromosomal disorders. The test was done on a Thursday afternoon.  At this same appointment, due to my advanced age, I was also instructed to drink a bunch of orange-drink-type substance in the span of a minute and, again, another sample of blood would be taken from me. After drinking the kool-aid (almost literally), we got to have the ultrasound and were able to see the first pictures of our little girl now that she was no longer a sac! Of course we didn’t know she was a girl at this point, but we could certainly tell she looked perfect. A wonderfully normal looking nuchal fold, we were told, and arms and legs and a head and fingers and a stomach to boot. Her heartbeat was great: 159 beats per minute. We. Were. Stoked.

And then we went away for the weekend and gleefully showed off our black-and-white, glossy pics of our little one. All was bliss. And then on Monday morning I got a call from the genetic counselor who told me that I had been “flagged” as having a baby with an elevated risk for Down’s Syndrome. I started to cry. I listened to her words — “You’ve come up with a 1/87 chance of having a baby with Down’s; at 36 years old, you started with a risk of 1/200, so this is higher than that” — but there was a pit in my stomach and, while I tried to control my tears, she could certainly tell I was shaken and devastated. She tried to be reassuring, “I like to think of this in a different way,” she said, “1/87 is about a 1% chance, so there’s a 99% chance your baby is just fine.” I said, not too snappishly, I hope, “It’s a greater than 1% chance.” “What?” she asked. “It’s more than a 1% chance that the baby has Down’s,” I replied. “Yes, she said. That’s true. It’s a 1.149% chance.” I nodded into the phone. Because the ultrasound revealed the baby was about a week further along than we had thought, we were now past the 14-week mark of gestation so a CVS would not longer be an option. Instead, we would have to wait two weeks to have an amniocentesis performed in order to find out whether the baby had Down’s Syndrome. We knew we wanted to do this invasive test – we could not make it 26 more weeks waiting to find out something so important when the knowledge could be made available to us within 3 weeks — but the waiting was going to be torture. But wait we did.

Next up: My Experience with an Amniocentesis and Other Stories from an Elderly Gravida


October 2011

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