In the beginning of your journey towards becoming a parent, you compartmentalized. At that point, all you can think about is getting pregnant, or getting your baby however you decide to do it.
Everything in your life becomes a routine of temping, logging, scheduling. Maybe it becomes treatments, shots, dietary changes. For some it becomes an endless sea of paperwork and hoping. Maybe getting in touch with your religious side and doing a little praying.
Our journey to become parents is not always the same, but in the beginning our minds become consumed. All we can think about is the possibility of that baby, and hope that possibility will turn into reality sooner rather than later.
And then… it happens.
You are pregnant, or maybe you got accepted to be foster parents, or adoptive parents.
The part of your brain that had been running full steam all around the clock suddenly starts to shut down, and another part of your brain starts working.
You know, that part of your brain that over-thinks everything, the same part of your brain where worry and strife go to breed. Yeah, that part of your brain.
In the beginning of my pregnancy, I cut out everything that I thought was even remotely toxic. If not enough research had been done, it had to go. Why? Because I had finally gotten what I wanted and I would be damned if I screwed it all up because of something so silly as coffee, or deli meats.
The first trimester of pregnancy is stressful for some, it definitely was for me. Why? Because the risks of a miscarriage are high in the first trimester. It’s hard to know what little thing will be the thing that triggers our bodies into deciding now is not the time. Not to mention the first trimester tends to be the most difficult for most women.
Nausea, heartburn, bloating, gas, constipation, dizziness… the list is endless for some and to top it all off, you can add stressing and over thinking.
When you finally cross over the line from your first trimester into your second. You sigh a little sigh of relief. Just a little one. Because although you feel like you can see your way out of the woods, you aren’t quite out yet.
Now you move into making sure your baby is healthy. There are genetic tests, anatomy scans, all these things that have your anxiety kicking into overdrive.
When you first get pregnant, they do a full blood and urine workup. This determines first and foremost that you are pregnant. It also determines you are STD free and tests the levels in your blood for certain things like anemia, your blood type, all this stuff that will help them decide whether you will require further testing.
For the most part, my tests came back good in my first trimester. I was anemic, but that was something I had known for over a decade, so that was nothing new. Aside from that, all was good and I could store my anxiety and worry away until my second trimester.
It seems like the most testing they do is for chromosomal defects. I am sure they test for a lot of other things, but it seemed like whenever I asked, the test or measurements that were being taken were to determine whether my baby would have chromosomal defects. The measurements taken of our babies neck to see if there is increased fluid in that area or if the area is thicker than anticipated, is one way they can determine if your baby will be born with Down Syndrome. The measurements of the nose can also tell them if your baby is high risk to be born with Down Syndrome.
A lot of these tests are to see if your child will be born with Trisomy 18, as opposed to the Trisomy 21 which is the extra chromosome that is found in people with Down Syndrome. Trisomy 18 is scary to think about when you are pregnant because it means that the extra 18 chromosome can disrupt the normal patterns of your baby’s development which can be life threatening.
I think what bothered me most about these tests, is that they don’t come out with a clear negative or positive. They give you a percentage, and your doctor uses that percentage to determine whether you are high or low risk. Regardless of whether you are high or low, you can still give birth to a baby with chromosomal abnormalities.
My pregnancy was exciting, I felt like I was standing in a heavy rainstorm of joy and anticipation but suddenly, with all this new information, I could see rain clouds closing in.
I have read all the mom forums, I have read all the comments and questions and fears about pregnant moms who were afraid their children would be born with Trisomy 18 or 21. Surprisingly, a lot of these comments were met with negativity. People said things like “So what?” “There are worse things in the world than having a child with Trisomy 18 or 21.” “Be thankful you are pregnant!”
Even though I can understand where these comments are coming from, I don’t think people are really thinking about how stressful it is to be pregnant. You are holding scales up before you and you are trying to balance your worry and your happiness every single day. It doesn’t make you a bad person to worry about these things, just like it doesn’t make you a bad person to want your child to be healthy.
Only 50% of babies with Trisomy 18 will be born alive, and of those 50% only 10% can make it past their first birthdays. I have read that a small amount of that 10% makes it to adulthood… mostly girls. That is a lot of information to take in and to see some moms of healthy babies shame women who are pregnant for fretting and losing sleep over the chances their baby will have Trisomy 18 seems heartless and misplaced.
Trisomy 21 in this day and age shows a great survival rate. I know and have worked with a great deal of Down Syndrome children and teens to know there are different levels of functionality, some of which can live almost independently. However, 1 in every 2 children born with Trisomy 21 will be born with a hole in their heart that will differ in severity. Some will close on their own, but other’s will require surgery to close it. If it heals and is closed correctly, that is wonderful, if not they may have heart problems their whole life.
Now you may be wondering, why is she so stuck on the Trisomy tests? It seems to be something not too many people worry about during pregnancy, what is her hang up?
Well, my sister just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with Trisomy 21. She had taken all the same tests I did and the doctors had told her she was relatively low risk. Later, they noted an abnormality in his heart, but told her it was something she shouldn’t worry too much about. Fast forward to Mother’s Day, a month before you due date and she had an emergency C-Section.
A C-section alone is a lot to make a lot of moms to be nervous. Especially if they had spent a lot of time on a birth plan that stated natural birth, a month later than the day you are told you will have one. Then they tell her her baby looks as though he may have Trisomy 21 and they will have to run additional tests. Then they tell her he has a hole in his heart that is too large to close on it’s own.
It is a lot to take in during the moments after giving birth.
Up until this moment, I had taken my doctor’s word. She had told me the tests gave me a good percentage which meant I was in the lowest of the low when it came to my baby’s risks for chromosomal abnormalities. Suddenly, my anxiety was in hyper-drive.
Fear ate up a great deal of my mind.
The sea of wonder I had been sailing on became rough. It darkened and became tough to navigate.
Just another part of pregnancy that I don’t think a lot of people talk about enough. On top of all the embarassing symptoms, the constant changes to your body, the mood swings, the emotional rollercoaster that just keeps going around and around, there is also all the risks.
Before my pregancy I was not the type of person that worried about these types of things. I was the kind of person who would wait for ailments to clear on their own, I would shrug off misfortunes, I would just keep powering through life when I stumbled or fell.
In pregnancy, I have never felt more helpless.
Why don’t we talk about the helplessnes?
We live in an age where mental health is becoming less of a stigma. I think it’s also important to talk about the changes in your mental wellbeing while you are pregnant. Sometimes I hear my own thoughts and feel like they are the thoughts of a stranger.
Normally I chalk it all up to the hormones and move on. However there are days where I feel blue and it is overwhelming and all consuming. Untriggered, but ever-growing.
I can’t even pretend to know what is going on with me mentally. What I can say for sure, is the amount of anxiety I feel sometimes in pregnancy is the same kind of anxiety I felt after I got hit by a car three years ago. The way my heart would pound at the very thought of crossing the street was crippling.
Does everyone feel this way during pregnancy? I have looked through the twitter feeds, I have read the forums, I have tried to find a group to see for myself if this is common or not.
We are all on this sea, just trying to navigate towards our happy endings. Trying to sail towards the rainbow that will be our children.
For now, I will just keep sailing and hope to make my way through.