Sunday, April 10, 2011

here's to the industry of upsetting pregnant ladies

It's been a funny month, and like my January lapse of posting, it's probably due to my utter exhaustion, which was supposed to be limited to the first trimester. Apparently being low in iron during pregnancy makes one feel like a wet noodle. And so I've been feeling like that for a month or more. I'm now being supplemented and really starting to notice an improvement in my energy and my mood. Pheeeeew!

I've also been struck by the medically-induced doldrums of pregnancy. That which comes with today's "technological advances." I know that this has helped many women and babies, so I won't decry it altogether. But, I've just about had it with doctors these days. I really have. We had our 20 week ultrasound (something I'll probably skip if I ever have a pregnancy again) and we found out that our baby has a couple of (unrelated) "soft markers" for a couple of different genetic conditions. We happened to get our ultrasound at a really advanced Maternal-Fetal Medicine place (let me tell you, this was not the place for me and I'm peeved that the midwives who I am with use these freaks as their backups!). Anyway, the bottom line is that we found out the (good) news that our baby is 99.69% likely to be perfectly normal. However, for the few weeks after the ultrasound, I was pitched into a whirlwind of frenzy by these doctors who focus on the 0.29% chance our child may have some condition. In fact, based on these numbers, they offered me an amniocentesis on the spot.

I think they are crazy. It took me a few weeks to calm down from their scare-tactics (including shuffling us off to a genetic counselor as soon as we got the "news" that our child was extremely likely to be perfectly well). We are prepared to accept our child however that child comes to us. Although we can't fully understand what it would be like to raise a child with Down's Syndrome, or how on earth we'd deal with losing a baby to Trisomy 18, there is no amount of "research" that we can do during this pregnancy that will really help us in the vastly unlikely event that something like this will happen. Families have been dealing with this stuff for thousands of years, and we can deal with it too.

Please don't encourage me to start writing about how unethical it is that large corporations stand to benefit financially from all the blood screening tests for genetic conditions and how doctors probably get paid per amniocentesis. It makes me sick at heart to think of it and I've made myself rather heart-sick with these thoughts often enough this month.

Madness has descended on the whole field of maternal care. I know a lot has improved, but many things have sprouted up that seem to only serve to make highly emotional pregnant women into complete nervous wrecks. I have made the decision not to let this pregnancy be tainted by the age of over-information. For my child's sake, I'm not going to spend this special time while pregnant wracked with anxiety about health issues that may come up. Should I start worrying now that there is a such-and-such percentage chance my child will be autistic? Will be the victim of bullying? The victim of abuse? Diagnosed with a terminal illness? In a car accident? Lonely? Depressed? Allergic to bees?

One problem with these kinds of tests and percentages is that they offer a false promise. They test for the smallest fraction of things that can trouble or end your child's life. They offer the glittering package of a more or less "convenient" and predictable childhood, which is just not possible. Although many parents do have fairly normal experiences with raising kids, there are many out there who have had huge challenges on the road to being the families they are. Losses, diseases, sadnesses, etc.... you cannot test to see if your life will go as you imagine it will go.

I'm happier now than I was two weeks ago. I feel really sad that I felt two or more weeks feeling genuinely SAD about my pregnancy. How awful is that? How dare they? Or, rather, how did I let myself get swooped up in their industry of "genetic testing"? I'm happy because after 4 miscarriages and one perfectly wonderful 2 year old son, I've been blessed with another pregnancy that looks like it's going to be full-term, and healthy, to boot! I thought our little boy might be our only child due to my problems in the past. The ultrasound scan showed an awesomely healthy heart, rocking GI tract, fabulous cord blood flow, lovely brain, and all parts of baby growing on track...

and it showed that we're giving our son a little brother! Oh boy!


  1. I am so proud of you, Emily, for your strength and wonderful attitude. And I am absolutely overjoyed that I will have another grandson to love. Life is good.

  2. Oh I'm so sorry they got to you! We called the famous pregnant lady bible, What to Worry About When You're Expecting. And even though I was wise to their tricks, I still almost fainted when I read about endoscopic pregnancies. I hope you gave the midwives hell.

  3. ACK! I can't wait to meet your beautiful boy after all of this! Be sure to send the really advanced Maternal-Fetal Medicine place a Christmas card.

  4. Congratulations on the BOY!! Now you can recycle all those clothes.

    Yes, years ago we never had ultrasounds. We really knew nothing about our little one until he/she came into this world. The only way they could hear the heartbeat was with a stethoscope that was attached to the obstetricians head. So archaic. How far we have come! I know it's disconcerting that they can tell so much, and sometimes what they see isn't so and can scare the holy heck out of you. But on the flip side many babies lives have been saved because of these technological advances. They have even done in-utero surgery on tiny little beings and changed what could have been a sad outcome to a joyous one. A true miracle. I'm so sorry that they had to scare you so much but so happy that everything is looking so rosy. Can't wait to meet the little man.

    And I'm really intrigued because I have never heard of it. What is an endoscopic pregnancy?