Babies on the brain. Not surprising. On the news today, they were talking about Octomom because there was a trial that involved the doctor who seeded her womb. Hearing about her caused me to flash back to when I first heard about the octuplets being born. I was driving home from work. I can even picture the street I was on. I decided, like I did most days, to stop at the grocery store to get sweets because I was pregnant. Emotional as I was, I started to sob over the news that eight babies had been born alive. I imagined the elation and fear of the parents, and hoped that the babies would survive, but was afraid that they wouldn’t.
Of course, then the details started to come out little by little. There was no father. The mother was on public assistance. The grandparents had to come out of retirement to help support the babies. The woman already had SIX other kids! She had IVF with the intention of having as many babies as possible. The rest of the story is infamous by now. I think I was more interested in the story because I was pregnant than I normally would have been.
I have a colleague who is about to undergo IVF. I wonder if she’s worried about having too many babies? I would be. As worried as I’d be about having none. It’s such a feast or famine procedure much of the time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her. When I told Odie about it, we had to acknowledge how lucky we feel to have been spared those issues. He only had to endure the humiliation of a fertility test because I read that you could buy them online and take them at home.
We may have conceived easily, and boy was it fun, but that doesn’t mean we or any parents are going to be spared heartbreak and trial as parents. As I obsessively worry about the baby I’m carrying, I spend plenty of time worrying about the one I already have. I know that a healthy baby with 23 pairs of chromosomes is a huge relief to all mothers, but none of us has any idea what is ahead.
When pregnant with V, I was in a small online group of women who joined a “buddy group” waiting for our “BFPs” (big fat positives = pregnancy tests). In the course of about two years in the group, all seven of us eventually got our babies. In that tiny sample size of seven that includes women aged twenty-three to forty years old from all over the U.S. (and one in the UK), we all had perfectly healthy babies. However, one of us got bloodwork back during the pregnancy showing a 1:8 chance of Down Syndrome. Her daughter was born typical. Such a nicer word than “normal,” isn’t it? Another woman had twins and one of them has been in the ER more than some kids will be in their whole lives. She had some condition where her trachea would collapse and she’d stop breathing. One of the women in our group recently found out that her two year-old daughter has a mild form of autism. A third has a daughter who was developmentally delayed for unknown reasons and had low muscle development. She has been in therapy several times a week from infancy. Three out of seven women’s babies had some kind of issue, and the oldest child among them is only three years old. So, like I said, a healthy baby may be a huge relief, but it isn’t always the end of the story.
I once read an essay written by a woman with MS that said “the disabled” is one minority group that anyone can join at any time. You don’t have to be born into it. I have seen this in my teaching career a couple of times, the result of car accidents. I have seen this in my family, the result of addiction or disease.
It won’t make me worry any less about this fetus swimming around in my belly, but it puts the Down Syndrome risk into perspective a little bit. A blogger I admire wrote to me that all during her pregnancy, they saw numerous things on the ultrasounds that caused the doctors concern: enlarged kidneys, bright bowels, restricted growth and others. “And all it meant was that she had Down Syndrome,” she wrote. Another blogger I read regularly wrote to me that when she was pregnant, she begged God that if He were going to send her a disabled child, make it Down Syndrome. Anything but autism. Guess what her son has? I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t Down Syndrome. The lessons I have learned from these wonderful writers is that your child isn’t going to be exactly what you thought, but you will handle it. You will.
Odie and I do not agree about the afterlife. I have written about that here a few times. In my reading and studies, I have come across the theory that we fear death and think that death is the absolute worst thing that can happen, but we don’t truly even know if death is bad. If you are a religious person, I think most religions promise quite a nifty reward after death. You know, for those among us who don’t blog about not liking popular Mommy Bloggers.
A month or so ago, I woke up from a lovely nap. Odie and I had the week off work and V was at day care. It was a Monday. I noticed that I had missed a call on my phone, and left the room to check the voicemail. My “triple screen” test had come back with a 1:53 chance of Trisomy 21. I waited a little while in the living room, absorbing the information and looking at the mountains. If I end up being that one in 53, I thought, I will always remember sitting here in my living room, resting my elbows on V’s empty high chair and staring at the pinkish light of the fading day. When I woke my husband and told him, I cried. He comforted me, but I could tell he was stricken. Later that week, he asked me how I was doing, and I said pretty well, but that I was worried all the time. And Odie said the most marvelous thing.
“You know that thing you told me you believe about death?” he asked. I acknowledged that I did. “Well, we don’t even know if Down Syndrome is bad. You know?”