I have been holding onto this post for a while because it was a really scary experience. I may have mentioned this here, I really do not remember. But I feel like blogging about it.
My daughter is five months old now, actually more like 5.5. When you are older that is not such a big deal, but now every little bit makes a real difference.
It can be difficult to be the father during pregnancy. Our bodies may not be changing, but we are not in constant contact with the baby, with very few exceptions we have little to no contact with the children the women bear for us.
During my wife’s first pregnancy I found this to be very hard. It was so frustrating to be so close and yet be so removed from everything. Near the end I had nightmares of being trapped on the freeway and unable to get her to the hospital in time.
This last time around I swore to myself that I would do a better job of relaxing just take what came, and for the most part I did. But there came a time in which things got very tough. During a routine exam my wife was asked if she wanted to take what was termed a routine test. She agreed and did so.
This particular test is designed to check for genetic defects such as Down’s Syndrome and Spinal Bifida. Well, we tested positive and were asked to go meet with a genetic counselor who explained to us that it looked like our child was more likely to have Downs than Spinal Bifida and that we should be happy because between the two Downs was the better choice.
The news hit me hard. I felt like someone had punched me in the mouth over and over. I felt hollow and empty and tried to suck it up. The test was not a definitive answer, but a way for us to prepare for having a child with special needs or decide to abort.
I am pro-choice, but since becoming a father I am not sure that I could actually do it, but that is a different story altogether.
In order to get a definitive answer we were told that we would have to have an amniocentesis and then wait for about 7-10 days to get the results. It was a Friday afternoon and the earliest we could schedule the amnio for was for the Wednesday of the following week.
The memory of that moment is still vivid, we held hands and discussed our fear. We tried to be rational and calm, this was not definitive, we didn’t know for certain. And the uncertainty was horrible. I sat there thinking about the child I already loved and what might happen. The potential impact upon my son and the rest of us.
I knew then that unless they told me that there was something truly horrible, some kind of defect that would kill my child painfully I would not agree to do anything other than bring them into the world, but I was unhappy. Some of the magic of the pregnancy was taken from me. It is true, for a brief time it lost some of the glow as I contemplated the future.
Fast forward to the next week and we take the amnio which we are told holds some danger as it can cause the mother to lose the baby. We are reassured over and over that the danger of this is miniscule and we go ahead and do the test and hold our breaths as we wait to find out about our child.
A couple of days later my wife tells me that she cannot feel the baby moving. She doesn’t remember the last time the baby moved. She is pregnant and scared and I share her fear, only I am really frustrated because I have nothing to go on. Only she can tell me if the baby is moving. The lack of movement is not necessarily a problem, there are lots of reasonable explanations for it.
But it is another one of those times in which I am stressed out because my job is to protect my family and I feel powerless. My baby is locked up and I cannot reach him/her. The baby’s big brother thinks that I am Superman and looks at me with awe, but I feel like I am wrapped in kryptonite. I am a sham and afraid.
Time passes and the baby begins moving again. Who knew that I could hold my breath for 17 hours. It is not that long, but it feels like it. All I know is that I have confirmed that no matter what I am ready to have this child, problems or no problems.
More time passes and we find out that we received a false positive. I am overwhelmed with relief and feel guilty that I am thanking G-d that my child does not have Downs or anything like it. Some people cannot have children.
More time passes and my daughter is born. It is two days after my father’s triple bypass. He has just survived a major infection and coronary problem that the doctor’s thought would kill him. I am incredibly thankful for all that I have, but I still can’t help feeling like we dodged a bullet.
Every now and then when my daughter screams I pick her up and inspect her, checking again to see that nothing is amiss with her. My little girl is fine and I thank G-d for that, but the memory of the fear lives with me still.
I won’t miss 2004.