“Those numbers mean nothing to me,” I politely say to the genetic counselor during our visit a couple weeks ago. Somehow, hearing the odds of having a second baby with Down syndrome…or any other genetic condition…don’t matter. So it’s weird I’m here. Needing to know. But here I sit. Nervous. Petrified. Getting real personal with this stranger, nice as she may be.
So how did we get here? Let’s back it up a notch.
My feelings about our third pregnancy haven’t exactly gone as I thought they would. Or should. People often describe emotions as roller coasters; mine are more like a trip through Hell on a canoe captained by Willy Wonka. The Johnny Depp version. Yeah, I know. Scary.
Think of my poor husband.
The first wave of panic hit me during our first doctor’s visit. No surprises, right? This ain’t my first rodeo, after all. Then I read it on my paperwork. “Of advanced maternal age.” Or, in my mind, “This obvious 70-year-old woman who already has a child with Down syndrome is really pushing her luck.”
I’m 34, and as most women know, the magic number (for some scientific reason that I don’t pretend to understand) is 35. THAT’S when your odds change. THAT’S when maybe you should think twice about bearing a child. And since I’ll be 35 before #3 makes his debut (don’t get excited; we don’t know the sex yet), I’m part of that population. Advanced. Maternal. Age. *sting*
Let me get this straight. As a society, we have concerns about teen pregnancy. And now old lady pregnancy? (Whatever you call it). If I’m doing my math right, that leaves a fairly small window of opportunity to do this thing “right”, whatever that means. And here’s the kicker. Even when you’re not of “advanced maternal age”, things still may not go as expected.
I had Olivia when I was 30.
The odds of Ds were extremely low.
And now we’re back to, “Those numbers mean nothing to me.”
Confession time. I’d like to tell you that I said that statement for no other reason than this: “It doesn’t matter, because no matter what happens or what may go wrong with this child, I will be excited and jump in with both feet. After all, we’re already well-versed in Down syndrome. What’s another syndrome? Or two of the same, for that matter?”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
The truth is, we sat with that counselor for nearly an hour, going over testing options and odds, because I am worried about the possibility of having a second child with any sort of serious issue.
Now you might be saying, “Then why on Earth did you get pregnant?”
I honestly didn’t know I would be so terrified. This was a surprising wave of emotion, Willy Wonka boat ride and all.
Others of you might be saying,”But don’t you love Olivia? How could the possibility of adding more joy like that to your life be so scary?” Oh, and you might point out, “You’re always saying how Down syndrome has blessed your life.”
Yes, of course. To all of the above. Including the scary part. But scary doesn’t always mean easy.
So what did we decide on the testing? It really doesn’t matter, so I won’t disclose. I realize that’s an odd conclusion, considering the personal nature of this post.
All I will say is that I’ve moved past being terrified of this pregnancy. As my belly grows, I’m constantly reminded of this gift. This amazing gift who makes me vomit and pee my pants regularly.
Boat ride’s over, Mr. Wonka. Let’s have some chocolate instead.