Monday, November 14, 2011

Divine punishment or Godsent gift?

I have been meaning to write about our little adventure with progress and all the wonders of new discoveries in medicine for a while now. But I could not simply because it was hard enough actually living the whole thing. So why write about an ordeal I wish never happened?

Well because other parents-to-be out there might go through the same, and although I have no remedy, it is always good to know others have experienced what appears to be your own personal divine punishment.

The advancements of modern medicine have made "prevention" key in healthcare issues. Not so long ago, it was not possible to know silly information such as the sex of a baby, let alone possible dramatic issues such as anomalies or genetic diseases. After all, my mom, only a few decades ago had to listen to our heartbeats through a stethoscope stuck on her belly! And that was only possible in the last trimester.

Today, you can find out all the great things you dream of way before your baby can even hear you in the womb. 

Problem is, the same goes for all the bad things you fear and obsess about at night.

I am one of those worriers who quickly turn into paranoid freaks and make everyone around them as miserable as they are. Of course two miscarriages and a very difficult pregnancy did not make me the merriest of moms-to-be so all the while I was waiting for Mia, I was in fact loosing my mind! Thankfully, Mia was perfect throughout the nine months and I was blessed with the easiest of deliveries.

That should have been enough to reassure me for at least two or three pregnancies to come. And honestly, being under 35 and given our families' medical history, I never thought I would have to go through any advanced testing during my current pregnancy.

Having children is a lifelong responsibility and parents never loose the fears and worries, ever. But when it comes to paranoiacs like myself the stress begins far earlier than that moment when you hold your baby for the first time and you are suddenly hit with all that is to come!

Let's just say, each baby brings new surprises along the way. And to me, each surprise from the womb is yet another reason for concern. 

A few weeks ago, I was at my regular check up and as usual we had the pleasure of waving at our little one through the ultrasound live video. Beats any beer-drinking cat on YouTube, I tell you that much! 

We were enjoying every second and our OBGyn took his sweet time which felt like a gift. Verdict: healthy baby on the way. Followed by the casual request for routine blood tests done at this stage of the pregnancy. I honestly did not pay attention to what the tests were but having done plenty of those when pregnant with Mia, I figured, there was nothing alarming there.

When I got to the laboratory, the nurse started asking me questions:
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you consume alcoholic beverages?
Not very unusual...
  • Date of birth?
  • Exact date of your last period?   

I give an approximation. "No, no I need the exact date". So I mention it is somewhere on my iPhone and I can look it up when I get home. And here goes the red flag: "Please do, it is very important I get the exact date". 

Why "red flag"? Well simply because I was never asked these questions during my first pregnancy. So I enquired about the nature of this blood test. The nurse answered with a relaxed "Triple Test" which aims at identifying any possible risks for chromosomal abnormalities. "Chromosomal abnormalities"? And she says it like it is the most normal thing in the world! 

Now I was certain I never underwent that kind of screening with Mia. So I mentioned it to the nurse and asked if the OBGyn could have seen something in the ultrasound that prompted him to request this test. She calmly replied not to worry as this has become a standard procedure for all women, regardless of the pregnancy specificities.

Of course that did not appease me. Far from it. Especially given that the ultrasound lasted longer than usual and it felt like the OBGyn was looking for something. So we Googled a little bit (big mistake) and worried even more but decided it was silly before we get the results.

And came the results. On a Thursday. Over the phone. "Rouba, your test is positive. It is nothing to worry about but I will need you to come to the clinic on Monday at 8am so we can do the amniocentesis". The what now?! Why? How did we get to that point? Wasn't I too young for such invasive procedures? "Yes, these are usually done with older women, but your test came back positive and so it is advisable to go for further analysis. Don't worry, the Triple Test is notorious for false-positives and I am confident you and the baby are both healthy. But it is the standard next step for us".

OK then. That gave me an entire weekend to freak out. Completely. When I finally reached the ultimate point of insanity, my mom called the doctor and asked for help because, and I quote "Rouba is panicking and losing her mind". The OBGyn said something along the lines of "This is unacceptable. It is not healthy for her or the baby. Tell her to calm down because there is nothing alarming. And if she doesn't believe me, tell her I won't do the test. It is not mandatory. Tell her I've done this test to 90% of my patient and never got upsetting results".

Well, as expected that only helped enough to keep me from banging my head against the wall, at least until that damn Monday morning. Which took its sweet time to finally get there! Needless to say that waiting was way easier than the eternity that the week after felt like. 

Just for those who are wondering: the test is absolutely painless. I was worried about the needle at first but I honestly did not feel a thing. And everything is monitored via ultrasound, which is quite important to supervise the baby's heartbeat during and immediately after the procedure. That may be the only possible instant concern. The following couple of days must be dedicated to resting because there may also be risks for miscarriages. But I was assured both eventual complications are quite rare.

Finally we got the amniocentesis results back and everything was OK. The doctor did mention that this rapid test only identifies specific chromosomal abnormalities and that a complete karyotype would be delivered in a month time. We got that one only recently and thankfully, it was also normal. 

So are we happy and relieved to know our baby is healthy?

Of course.

Were these results worth all the stress and emotional roller-coaster caused by both tests?

I am not sure.

Modern medicine is truly amazing. It can do wonders. And from a scientific perspective, I can totally understand the importance and magnitude of such procedures. 

But when you are the one lying in a doctor's office, with a needle in your belly, staring at your baby on a black and white screen and just thinking of nothing else but praying for those heartbeats to remain normal; well, it is certainly another story.

In any case, I am grateful for everything. Truly. And as for the stress and worrying, well I am a mother now. Stress and worrying will never leave me again. No matter what. I know that. I have made my peace with that. And that will be the lifelong price I have to pay for being so blessed. Ultimately and all things considered, a heavy but small price.    

Mamma Mia

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