Day 31, Friday: A vivid memory
Ok, I am getting ready to get to some extremely raw emotion for me. My memory I am getting ready to share is not going to be an easy one for me to write. I am going to write about the day I found out about Trisomy 18.
A little back story before the memory: My husband had just graduated college and accepted a job at NASA. We packed up our dalmatian and our Chihuahua and headed 9 hours south. This was December 27th. Two weeks prior we had found out we were pregnant with our first baby. My cycles were never regular, so I didn't think anything of it that I hadn't had a period in a couple months. Turns out I was about 3 months along. We were excited and so were our parents. Moving to Houston was fun at first. We were excited to explore a new city (even though it was HUGE). We lived right by the NASA base in Clear Lake. We were starting to make friends. I found a great OB/GYN. She is a no nonsense straight shooter; no sugar coating. We figured out my due date by my last known period. She scheduled us for an ultrasound for mid-Feb. We were going to see a ultrasound specialist because my husband was born with a bilateral cleft lip and we wanted to make sure our baby didn't have that. This was before all the high tech 3D technology out there now. We were also going to find out the sex of our baby.
February 19, 1999
We woke up very excited about finding out the sex of our baby. We were happy to get to see our baby on the screen. We drove an hour to get to the ultrasound place. My appointment was at 2. I happily filled out all of the paperwork and we were just generally excited. Finally, they called our names. I went back and laid on the chair. There was a tv monitor in front of me and the machine was to my right. The ultrasound specialist Dr. Adam came in. She was a tall woman with a pixie haircut and British accent. I loved her already. She spreads the cold gel on my stomach and gets out the doppler. I am laying there with a smile plastered on my face looking at my baby on the screen. I couldn't believe that I had another life growing in me. She pushed some buttons and moved the doppler around and pushed some more buttons. She didn't speak for what seemed like a half hour but was really about 7 or 8 minutes. I will never forget the first words she said to us: "How do you feel about terminating this pregnancy?"
At first I thought I had misheard her and she was asking if I had ever terminated a pregnancy before. I said no, I had never been pregnant before. Then she repeated the question. All I can remember is busting into silent tears and my heart stop beating. I was stunned and shocked to say the least. She proceed to tell us that she couldn't even see our baby's facial features because of the extreme swelling called edema. She couldn't tell us if the baby had a cleft lip or not, but she said that would be the least of the baby's problems IF it made it full term. She couldn't tell us the baby's sex either. Devastated is an understatement. What she could tell us about our baby is the heart was underdeveloped. The left side of the heart basically was not developed at all. Our baby had half a heart. The heart rate indicated that the baby was in distress and the part of her heart that was developed was doing triple the work. There was extreme swelling around her kidneys and the abdominal area. Dr. Adam recommended for us to get an amniocentesis (all I had ever heard about this is that it is an extremely long needle that goes in your stomach). By this time we had been there for about an hour and a half. I had cried until I was empty. How quickly one phrase can change your entire life.
Dr. Adam sent us to see a genetic counselor before we agreed to the amniocentesis. We talked with this really nice lady about what the doctor had suspected our baby had. Trisomy 18. This was pre-google (which I am glad for now). She gave us literature. Trisomy 18 is a chromosome abnormality where there is an extra chromosome in the 18th pair. Other Trisomy's are 13 and 21. Trisomy 21 is Down's Syndrome. Trisomy 18 and 13 prognosis is: Incompatible with Life. Another life changing phrase.
We went back to Dr. Adam and signed the forms to get the amniocentesis. I laid on the chair again, this time flat on my back. Tears are rolling down the sides of my face. this woman brings out the largest needle I have ever seen. The needle part was at least 9 inches long. My husband almost passed out from the sight. She put a numbing medicine on the area where she was going to insert the needle. I felt slight pressure, but it didn't hurt. She collected the amniotic fluid that she was going to use and it was over. We would have our results in 5 to 7 days. We drove home in silence. Both of us trapped in our own private prison on how this could be. We were both young and they usually found these things in older women who have babies. We got home and I basically could do nothing for the first 24 hours. I didn't want to do anything anyway. I just wanted to cry, which I did, a lot. We called our families and broke the news. My mom was pretty much distraught. This would have been her first grandchild. My mother-in-law didn't understand so she wasn't that emotional. She called back later and it had hit her what we were saying, that our baby was not going to live, if it even made it to the due date.
That is how I learned about Trisomy 18. I can still relive every single emotion and see the doctors office down to the green kleenex box. I will eventually write about what happened after that, but this was hard enough. Very very few people in my real life know about these events. These emotions are very raw. I didn't want to end the challenge on such a sad note, but it is something I wanted to share. Thank you for reading.
I have really enjoyed this challenge. I have met a few new people and got to know my other friends even better. I cannot wait to continue reading your blogs well after the challenge. If you are interested I am joining my friends Paula over at Paula's Place and Allison over at What if this is as good as it gets? for a pretty informal June challenge and Photo Challenge. Those can be found here and here. I like having prompts to write about each day. It keeps me in check and from neglecting my blog.
This is the final entry for the Blog Everyday in May Challenge found at Story of my life.