The Missus is in bed, starting one of the Stephanie Plum novels I bought her while in Phoenix. She's exhausted, and I'm waiting to see how long it'll take before I can go in, pry the book from her hands, bundle her up and turn off the lamp. Then I can finally take a few minutes to quietly sit here and let the trembling and heaving out, as long as it doesn't wake her.
I got into JFK around 6:20 AM this morning. The the car service was ready and waiting, which means I was able to get home, have a quick shower and some coffee before taking Gerri to the Genetic Counseling session we had at the Madonna Perinatal Services Center in Mineola. Bit of trouble finding the place: I was unable to remember directions for more than 20 seconds before blanking, and Gerri was in no shape to do much of anything besides shake and steel herself. Both of us were fearing the counseling session more than the amniocentesis.
The session basically takes about 20 minutes, and in that 20 minutes you're hysterical, furious, despondent, relieved, and terrified. Graphs are drawn, probabilities are calculated and mapped for you, and your family history is dissected. The biggest piece, of course, is the explanation of the tests, what they mean, and what to expect. So what we learned:
- An average woman 34 years of age (my wife when she delivers) has a 1/290 chance of delivering a child with Down's Syndrome. For a woman at the cut-off age of 35 years, it rises to a 1/190 chance. This is based on the measurement of certain chemicals that are released in the womb. Our measurement put us at a 1/50 chance. Now, this is still only a 2% chance that our child will have Down's. Which means there's a 98% chance that it won't have Down's.
- My logic: most people, told they have a 98% chance of winning $1,000,000 in a lottery will tend (I'm guessing) to buy the ticket. That's the hope we keep trying to believe in.
- Unfortunately (for us), most cases of Down's Syndrome are not the result of hereditary traits or defects, but rather the result of something our counselor called "spontaneous abnormalities." This means that, even though there are no instance of birth defects in our family history, it doesn't affect our chances one way or the other.
- There are various of types of conditions related to Down's, many that are manageable and could prolong the life of someone carrying it to upwards of 50 years of age. There are also other types of abnormalities and conditions that severely shorten life expectancy.
- ANY mention of life expectancies to an expectant mother is tantamount to saying your child will eventually die from this.
About 90 minutes later we came back for the amniocentesis, which was perfectly routine - quick, relatively pain-free (although my wife is now cramping a bit, which is normal), and prefaced by a detailed sonogram where they take pictures of every part of your baby - size of bones, spine, heart, kidneys, lungs, brain.
We watched a tiny, perfect 4-chambered heart beating away at a steady 145 bpm.
We watched our baby suck it's thumb. That, or pick it's nose. I was fine with either.
We were able to see a full face. My wife is already telling me the baby has my nose, my lips.
And, yes, finally, were were able to fully determine the sex of the baby. Which in a way made everything worse.
Because now there is no way to distance ourselves from what's happening. It's no longer a bump growing in her stomach. In fact, it's no longer an "it." Now instead of guessing and wondering it's become definite, clear, settled to a single path. So there's no way to get away from things, because now when we talk about the baby, we use the baby's name, which brings the terror to that place in your heart you were hoping to protect for as long as you could.
Which you now no longer can.
As you can now obviously tell, we're not ready to give away the sex of the baby. It's not that we're keeping it a secret, it's that we want to know the whole picture before we do. And so now begins the waiting game: 7 to 10 days of agonizing and fretting until the phone rings and our OB/GYN's name comes up on the caller id. And all I can do is what I did today - try to be there, be strong, make her as comfortable as possible and free from worry to the best of my abilities.
I don't have the talent or words to tell you what each of your comments have meant to me. Even if I did, I don't even know who some of you are. But please know how much it means to me, and let me say that I hope, in my own Internet travels, I can someday provide a tenth of the encouragement and hope you've given me.
Group hug, everybody, c'mon.