October was kind of an exciting month. We had made official announcements that we were having a baby, the first for my side and the second for my husbands if we don’t count cousins (which there are a lot of them). October 17th was our routine exam that was to be proceeded by a standard 21 point ultrasound. Everything was going swimmingly. Baby kicked, baby stretched, baby let us watch them fold in half and do a hand stand. In general, baby was healthy as a horse.
But not quite. We had just been told that baby might have a cleft. We had a million questions and dark cloud had settled over our heads. We went to our follow up with doctor that very same day.
Now, there are a list of tests that are “optional” for expecting parents designed to allow you a leg up on preparation. Some people want the whole shebang, every test available. Others would rather leave it up to God or fate or whatever they believe in, and only do medically necessary testing. For myself, I’m somewhere in between. I’d truthfully never thought about it because like many women my age, babies make us smile but we’d never considered all the things required of us to make one.
So, while the doctor had mentioned them in passing at our initial consult and handed us a stack of information packets that I sort of glanced at, we now were being pressured into tests that we had really been uninterested in before. The thing that was confusing us was that they would reassure us that there was literally nothing we could have done differently to change the outcome of a cleft. There was no history of it in either of our families. I wasn’t drinking or smoking and we were both relatively healthy individuals. Nothing was abnormal for the first 5 weeks of pregnancy so the chances of anything environmental that had caused this we small. In fact they really don’t know what exactly causes clefts aside from lifestyle and medical history. This time, it was just chance.
Despite all that, the abject warnings about potential chromosomal abnormalities suddenly skyrocketed. Words like “down’s syndrome” and “sickle cell anemia” were tossed around like a hot potato. Amniocentesis was optioned and pushed for as a way to determine if the baby would have any of this. These heartbreaking concepts are pushed because “we want to make sure that you have the best medical care available.” The problem with this is that these tests are very expensive and can be very inaccurate. Even under ideal circumstances they’ve had test come back clean as a whistle only to have babies born with very serious issues. So it’s a crap shoot and you’re out the money either way.
Then the real question was… well it was eluded to, without being stated. Do you want to keep this baby or not? Because that’s what it boils down to at the end of the day. If the test is negative would you keep this child?
I have always fancied myself a pro-choice individual. I’ve always consider it my body my choice, and I still do. But suddenly I faced a very real question for my own heart and soul. My husband and I are responsible adults on most days. We chose to have sex, we chose to not use any contraception. And despite all the environmental reasons in the world to have not conceived when we did… we did. Was that also chance? Would I, could I free us of a burden simply because the baby might not be “perfect” in the eyes of the world? I’d never been faced with such a question before. And it disgusted me that it was a question I had been forced to ask myself.
The more times the amniocentesis was pushed, the more I felt like that was what modern science was saying to me. If you take this test, you can get rid of it, if you don’t your stuck.
I fucking hated that thought.
I hate that it made me hate pregnancy and question every fiber of my soul because I suddenly didn’t know who I was any more. Who was this doctor to suggest that imperfection was not beautiful?
By the time we left my husband and I felt lost. But I had made up my mind. No test, in all the world, would change my mind. This child was mine, my blessing and my responsibility. So fuck your test and let me have my baby in peace.
I promptly found a new doctor.
The moral of this story is not yet over, as it is not yet written. But what I do know is that all children are beautiful in the eyes of their creator. I understand some of you may not believe that, but they are. This child, my child, will not only live, but will be as sassy as mommy, as strong as daddy and look at this world in absolute wonder.