To test or not to test by Lisa Kelly

I was barely 8 weeks pregnant when I found myself in the middle of a conversation between coworkers about older mothers. No one knew I was expecting so I couldn’t fault them for their remarks about “water headed retards” and other anomalies that sometimes affect babies born to older moms. The language was harsh but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already said a million times in my own head. On one particular day, I had even convinced myself that my baby would be born with everything wrong that could possibly go wrong and I called Planned Parenthood for an abortion appointment. I don’t have guilt for thinking that way but I will never forget the password that I had to give them when I called to cancel an hour later. When I hear the word, it takes me back for a moment to the anguish I felt that day.

I chose instead to have the Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) test. First we met with a genetic counselor who hit us with statistic after statistic on genetic disorders and things that are more likely to occur with older eggs. Did you know we are born with all the eggs we will have in a lifetime? We use the best ones first in our early years. The ones remaining later in life are more prone to contain a chromosome mismatch thereby raising the odds of Down’s Syndrome or other issues. As I felt the walls closing in on me, the counselor said as a professional she had to present the facts but as a mom, she wanted to point out that more than 90% of babies born to older mothers had absolutely no issues. That figure is so much better than the ones tossed out when comparing the odds of something happening when your 22 vs when you are 42. I felt a little better with that new idea implanted.

We went into the room for the test and the doctor came in to explain the risks. CVS is done earlier than a standard amniocentesis and riskier because they take a tissue sample from the placenta rather than a fluid sample. The needle is larger and there is a danger in compromising the blood supply from the developing placenta to the fetus. I was hit with another panic attack and allowed to take a few minutes to contemplate the options. I did not want to harm my baby but I knew if I didn’t take the test, I’d do more harm in the stressful months of not knowing that would follow. I signaled that I wanted to proceed and the tech began the ultrasound. This was at around 11 weeks so my baby was essentially the size of a grape. As I watched the tech mark the position of the baby in relation to the placenta, my little grape kicked her legs! Another tear filled moment and another chance to compose myself and think again. It’s so fortunate that most people you will encounter in a high risk pregnancy are more than understanding of the fears. I think I had four mini breakdowns that day and didn’t feel rushed to make a decision at any time.

**Some graphic details ahead so don’t continue reading if you are squeamish**

The last thing I had to do was agree to a shot to numb my belly. Everything I had read said they would be accessing the placenta vaginally and I had not even prepared for a needle to go through my belly. I declined the numbing shot for fear that if that hurt, I’d not follow through with my test. The doctor assured me that the procedure was going to “hurt like crazy” without the shot and she didn’t lie! She had my fiance’ hold my hands behind my head so I wouldn’t strike out at her or try to pull the needle out. I closed my eyes, stayed focused on breathing deeply and in a few minutes, the procedure was over.

The week that followed was heavy with anxiety as I waited on the results and worried incessantly that I was about to miscarry. I missed the phone call that came initially but will never forget the counselor’s voice mail. “Lisa, this is Celina calling about your CVS test. Call me back soon so I can tell you some good news!!” It was good news! Nothing abnormal was detected. My precious cargo had perfect chromosome pairings and she was a a she. I was going to have a baby girl!!

We had a 3D ultrasound done last week just for fun. Three of our friends came along as we watched our little girl do exciting things like suck her thumb, yawn and stretch. For the most part, she chose to stay curled up, feet over her head. Feet! She has her dad’s feet!! Big, wide feet! Oh dear… there’s always going to be something to worry about…

  1. 2 Responses to “To test or not to test by Lisa Kelly”

  2. Lisa,
    As an “older” Mom who has experienced similar anxieties and decisions while pregnant, I can certainly empathize. And, I, too, had “good news”. However, I disagree that it is ever acceptable to use the term “water headed retards” in any situation. It is hurtful and mean-spirited. Once I got past those first few lines, I enjoyed the article. I wish you all the best in you pregnancy and beyond.

    By Lisa on May 22, 2012

  3. Realistically speaking, there are always going to be people who say dumb things with no ill intent. The conversation was uncomfortable for me because I had just spent the two previous days pouring over articles about pregnancy at 45; most of them portraying the negatives. Once I shared the news of my pregnancy with the person who said it, he remembered the conversation and immediately apologized.

    It reminds me of that video that is floating around of the baby born with no eyes. His mom mentions how cruel people can be when they initially see him but if they stick around to know him, they fall in love. Society nowadays doesn’t spend much time thinking how words and actions can hurt another person.

    By lisa on May 22, 2012