Monday, June 25, 2007

Good news!

According to the preliminary amnio results, Eggbert is chromosomally normal.

Words can’t describe how relieved we are. This experience has affected me profoundly, and I think I’ll still be processing it for a while. I had been thinking that once I got the results I would write a post about what I now think about prenatal screening, but honestly I’m still not sure. If the results had been positive for Downs, then as devastating as the news would have been, I think that I would have been grateful for the opportunity to find out early. I can imagine that being stunned with news like that on your baby’s birthday must be even harder than hearing it a few months in advance. However, given that I seem to have been yet another “false positive” (a status that I am THRILLED to have, given the alternative), I am forced to ask myself whether it was all worth it. I’m going to have to think about that, and get back to you.

Meanwhile, let me thank all of my friends in the computer for your unfailing support. I really don’t know how I would have survived all of this without you. While you’re here, please pop over and give Mony a little support. She's going through the same thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

No news is good news, right?

I was supposed to get the preliminary results yesterday. I checked my email at 1 pm (Singapore time), right before I boarded the plane to Jakarta. No message from my doctor. I figured that he would send it out at the end of the day. Well, as it turns out, I figured wrong. There was still no message this morning, and his office is closed, so I can't contact him until Monday.

Could he have forgotten? About me? Surely I'm a bit more memorable than THAT!

So here I am, still waiting. (Note to self--next time phone doctor on day that results are due.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In Singapore

First order of business- thanks so much for all of the supportive comments. It really means the world to me at a time when I'm feeling quite down.

So, I'm in Singapore now. I arrived late Saturday night, so that I'd have a day to get oriented before my 9 am appointment on Monday. Sunday night I had what I thought was a lovely Indian meal. About three hours later, I was face down over the toilet. I managed to stop vomiting a few hours before my appointment, so I dragged myself there anyway. The doctor was very kind, and tried to schedule a level II ultrasound immediately. Unfortunately, the hospital apparently has a hard and fast rule about not doing level II ultrasound before 20 weeks, and I was only 18w6d on Monday, so there was simply no way to get it done this week. He could get me in for an amnio the next day, though (as a favor, he normally only does amnio on Monday mornings, but since I was in from out of town, and fairly frantic, he managed to schedule me in for the next day before his first appointment). The nice thing about the behavior of the folks at the hospital here was that they were all very calm and reassuring. When they spoke of the risks of amnio, they invariably said "but this won't happen to you", which of course they can't guarantee, but was what I really wanted to hear anyway. They quoted me risks of 3 in 1000 of miscarrying as a result of the procedure. Of course we all know that we can be (and sometimes are) on the wrong end of the odds, but somehow that number sounded much better than the numbers ringing through my head, so I went ahead and scheduled the appointment. Then I went back to the hotel and vomited some more. And had explosive diarrhea. About a thousand times. Charming.

Tuesday morning I showed up bright and early for the amnio. Before the amnio, they did a "quick scan". Now I don't know if quick means something different in Singapore, or if they were just doing me a favor, since they wouldn't let me do the level II, but the scan took about 1/2 hour, and they looked at every little bit of Eggbert's body (have I mentioned that the little one finally has a temporary name?) I saw two little hands, two little feet, lots of details of the brain, four chambers of the heart, two kidneys, a perfect little spine, etc. The tech took about a million measurements, and then said that everything looked great. Whew!

Then I was called for the amnio itself. They popped me up onto a table, did another quick ultrasound just to find the baby, and then swabbed my belly with antiseptic. They didn't bother with anaesthetic, since they said that the anaesthetic hurts as much as the procedure itself. I was skeptical, but honestly, it was true. The needle going in was somewhat worse than a suprefact injection, but infinitely better than a PIO shot. Really not bad, and very quick. The only freaky thing was seeing them pull about a liter of fluid out. Well, they said it was 20 cc's, but those were 20 of the biggest cc's that I've ever seen. It was over in about 20 seconds. They made me sit for about 20 minutes before sending me home, and then instructed me to report to the ER if I had any issues at all (fluid leakage, bleeding, pain, contractions, fever). That was it. I should get preliminary results on Friday.

So, then I went home for more vomiting and diarrhea. Good times, good times. Did I mention that I foolishly told Mystery Man that he needn't come with me? Of course he SHOULD have insisted, but then again, so should I. I always think that I'm tough, but then once I've committed to a course of action discover that actually, a little help would have been very nice. So, it's been kind of a crappy (literally) few days.

The good news is that as of last night, I am no longer extruding foulness from every orifice. I've managed to keep some food down, and Eggbert is wriggling vigorously, which leads me to believe that he's none the worse for wear. Whew!

I'm scheduled to fly back to Jakarta on Friday. The doctor said that should be fine, but to take it easy for a few more days after I arrive. No worries there! The very thought of exerting any effort toward anything strikes me as fairly ludicrous at the moment. I plan to have Mystery carry me around on a litter for the next four months.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


My doctor in Korea emailed me back. My risk of Down Syndrome was estimated at 1:35. How sad is it that I was happy with those numbers? It was 1:200 based on just my age. Still, that means that in 34 out of 35 cases, the baby won't have DS.

Is it too much to hope that I'll be on the right end of the odds this time?

The other shoe

Well, I've got to say I didn't see this one coming. Lately I've been ridiculously happy. Like Watson, I've been worried about becoming a painfully boring blogger because really how many times do you want to hear about sunshine and fairy tales and how grand life is? It's nice the first time, but after a while, it does get monotonous. Still, I was having trouble coming up with anything else to say or think, other than "yay"! Yesterday, I sent my best friend an email that included the text "this is the happiest I've ever been in my life". Two minutes later, I opened the next email, which was from my doctor, and found out that the quad screen produced a "positive" result for Down Syndrome.

I know I know. The quad screen is just that. A screening test, with a high rate of false positives. I knew that before I took the test. Still, that didn't stop me from crying all night after getting the results. It didn't help that the doctor didn't include anything specific (or helpful) like actual test results or a risk estimate. I'm a numbers person, dammit! What is she trying to do to me? She just said that I should have amniocentesis, and that there was a high false positive rate, especially for women over 35.

I don't want to have amnio. I really don't. However, I also don't want to worry for five months, or to get bad news on my baby's birthday. I really can't imagine terminating the pregnancy no matter what the result. I'm already far too in love with this baby. However, when I consider my life objectively, I do have to admit that a little advance warning of the birth of a disabled child would be helpful. Let's look at the facts:

1) I live in Korea
2) I don't speak Korean
3) My husband also doesn't speak Korean
4) I have very few choices regarding medical care, given that I am limited to English-speaking doctors
5) I have a job that requires frequent international travel, often to remote areas
6) I live thousands of miles away from my family and closest friends.

When I crunch those numbers, I realize that if we are going to have a child with Downs, then we should probably plan to move back to the USA asap, which means looking for new jobs for both of us (and a career change for me), figuring out where we'll live, etc. These are probably not steps that I should be postponing until I'm recovering from a birth, the shock of discovering that the positive wasn't false, and possibly dealing with the baby blues, all while living far away from most of my loved ones.

So, I guess I'm going to have the amnio. Since I'm in Indonesia right now, and the quality of medical care here is, quite frankly, rather sketchy, this means that I'm going to need to fly to Singapore in the next couple of days to have a big needle stuck in my belly.

I'm terrified. Mainly terrified of miscarriage, but also terrified of the results.

(I appreciate supportive comments, but please don't tell me stories about how delightful Down Syndrome kids can be. My next door neighbor growing up had a little girl with Down Syndrome. She was sweet and precious, and the light of her mother's life. I know how special these children are. However, I really don't think that anybody would actually WANT their child to have a major disability, so while I can imagine much worse things, I'm not quite ready to celebrate hearing that my child may have massive life-long medical problems.)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I still think it's snide

One of my all-time least favorite habits of smug fertiles has always been comments like "when you're a mother, you'll understand", or "you can't imagine until you have children..." I always felt that this was self-congratulatory and dismissive. While relatively inoffensive when the context is things like breast infections, episiotomies, or cracked nipples, I find these comments outrageous when the topic is something like how much you love your children, or how awful it would be to lose a child. I always thought that being infertile didn't in any way negate my ability to imagine the love of a parent for a child. In fact, I thought that being infertile in a sense made me even more sensitive to this issue, as infertiles have to deal with ongoing grief for children never even conceived, which is surely a pretty strong manifestation of mother love. However, I also wondered, somewhere deep down in myself, if there was something to what they were saying.

A few days ago, I felt fetal movement for the first time. I have been dreaming of this moment for years, and now it's finally here. I can actually feel the presence of my child inside of me. It's absolutely amazing. Incredible. Words fail me.

For some reason, this experience made me think about whether pregnancy so far has proven the smug fertiles right. The answer, so far, is no. Pregnancy is amazing. As I always thought it would be. Feeling those movements gives me a feeling of happiness and fulfillment that I've never felt before. As I always knew it would. Yes, the feelings are intense. But I always knew that they would be. Imagining these things does feel different from experiencing them, in the same way that looking at a photo of the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids of Giza, or sunrise over an African savannah, is not the same thing as actually being there. However, I still think it's insulting to someone who hasn't had the privelage of seeing these places to say "you can't imagine" to them. I think that many people can imagine the feeling quite clearly. That's why they want to experience it! In fact (stretching the travel metaphor so far that I'm cringing while waiting for it to snap), I think that someone who has never had the good fortune to go down certain roads might actually much better appreciate them than a world-weary seasoned traveller.

I do agree that many things (infertility, the loss of a loved one) are actually unimaginable to those who have never experienced them. In fact, human imagination often proves a particularly poor predictor of our actual reactions to stressful events. Indeed, in my pregnancy, there have been a lot of surprises along the way. I didn't expect, for example, the constipation, the problems produced by spectacularly enhanced cleavage, or the strangeness of having life go on as normal around me while my own attention is so completely focused a few inches below my navel. I also didn't expect the constant fear of loss. Still, the overall feeling is exactly as I'd always hoped and imagined. I guess that years of not only dreaming of this moment, but also watching my friends experience it, has created relatively realistic expectations of the whole thing.

Still, I do admit that nothing could have prepared me for my ultrasound the other day. I saw a perfectly shaped little head (measuring a week ahead!), a spine like a little string of jewels. A little human being.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Belly envy no more

I used to always wonder why pregnant women rubbed their bellies so much. Were they just showing off? It was very hard to watch while struggling with infertility. For some reason, I didn't get upset around babies (usually), but being around pregnant women was sometimes really hard. I have heard various reasons put forward for the belly-rubbing phenomenon, such as belly itch (from the skin stretching too fast), and aches and pains, but none of it really made sense to me. How can rubbing your belly really help with either of those problems?

Well, over the last two weeks, I've found myself furtively touching my belly whenever I think I can get away with it, in the same way that newly pregnant women constantly poke at their boobs to make sure they're still sore. It's not itchy, or achy. In fact it feels fabulous. I just find that I need the reassurance that it is actually there. After over 16 weeks, I'm still afraid that one day I'll wake up and it'll all be over. I'm trying to fight the negative thoughts, but still find myself touching my belly a lot. Short of an ultrasound, nothing is as reassuring as feeling that bump and being reminded that it's not all just a dream.

We've now had a change of location for two months. I was sent to Indonesia for work from now until the end of July. I'm actually quite happy about the short-term move, because I am much more comfortable in Indonesia than Korea. The quality of medical care in Korea is better, of course, but Indonesians are just so warm and lovely, and so family-friendly that it's a really lovely place to be while pregnant. Mystery man came two weeks before I did, so he hadn't seen my belly since the bump appeared. When I got here, he just couldn't stop touching it. Before now, he was really excited about the baby, but not so worked up about the pregnancy itself. Somehow, the bump has made it all seem real to him, I think. I can't believe that we've been so lucky. I hope the world will forgive me the occasional belly rub, because there's nothing in the world that makes me happier than feeling this miracle that's going on inside.