Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I dreamed a dream Part II: Background

I wanted to stay in the moment in my post the other day about my dream that my baby might have Down Syndrome. But there are a couple of other background factors I'd like to acknowledge.

First of all, we didn't do any early fetal testing, so who knows. I didn't even look into all the options that are out there. My feeling about prenatal testing is similar to my feeling about intervention with in labor: they both often serves mostly to lead to more interventions and more worries.

But I also know at least two folks who learned at their 20-week sonograms that their babies were not going to make it to delivery or more than a few hours after. That's pretty important information to have, I think. I wasn't up for skipping this one diagnostic.

The report -- now two months ago -- said that everything with our baby was, "unremarkable" except for bilateral choroid plexus cysts, which, in the presence of other indications, might point toward Trisomy 18. A few articles suggested a link between the cysts and Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), but it sounds from this one like the likelihood of a problem with no other issues is slim.

We went with the cheapest ultrasound place we could find since everything is out of pocket. I felt like the tech was plenty competent, but you just never know, and it does feel a little weird that the cyst remark was on the written report but that the tech said to our faces that everything was fine.

We could get another sonogram to see if the cysts disappeared in the third trimester as they usually do or if there is anything else that looks possibly suspicious, like closed, clenched hands. I just checked, and two of the sono images from 20 weeks show hands that look pretty open to me. I've read that some folks just have these cysts their whole lives and there's no problem. They don't always disappear. I didn't learn until a few years ago from an MRI that I have a Rathke cleft cyst.

So if I get another sono and the baby's cysts are still there, do I worry more? What is the point of another $170 or the $500 most other places charge? Besides, when the baby is bigger, it's harder to see things. I remember being disappointed in a sonogram around 35 weeks to confirm that my son was breech; it was much less fun and dramatic than at 20 weeks when you could see the whole baby. My husband and I both felt like he was just a mess of parts and walked away not only disappointed about the breech position but significantly less giddy for having "seen" our kid than we'd been months earlier. So I don't think I really want to go there.

And even if I do and the cysts are still there, what is the point? I guess I could start doing some reading. My sister lent me Expecting Adam a while back, and maybe Waiting for Birdy would be a good read as well. But I don't want to scare myself into expecting something that probably won't happen. I've already decided not to finish reading Knocked Up, Knocked Down, because I know from her blog (and writings elsewhere) how that story turns out, and I am just not up for reading about the journey from the happy expectant phase through to the stillbirth right now. My mother-in-law had a stillbirth, and it's been my main worry throughout this pregnancy. (Many Trisomy babies are stillborn, and most don't live past age one).

I think my body, mind, and spirit will be better served by active preparation for birth that looks at the event/experience as something powerful and sacred and that holds the space open for whatever comes after to be whatever it is and not be already layered on with a ton of meaning I've spun for weeks in the prenatal period.

The second piece of background is that I realized much later the day after the dream that it might have been spurred by reading this Carolyn Hax "Tell Me About It" column in the Washington Post that day. A reader whose family was not supportive of her plans to become a single mom via artificial insemination was asking for feedback, and another mom of a special needs child wrote in that despite having a supportive co-parent, she'd had to give up everything to care for her child. If you don't have a ton of money, she suggested, or a "village," -- and if you're writing to an advice columnist! -- maybe it's time to re-think. Kids are not made to order, she reminded.

I really liked Carolyn's response: "...you're posing a question every prospective parent should answer: Am I ready to get what I want, or am I ready to get what I get? The former is dreaming, the latter is parenthood."

We will get what we get, and I will do my best to enjoy this pregnancy for the experience that it is, right now, in this moment. And while I'm at it, to just enjoy life with my family as it is now.

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