Health: Diary of a late pregnancy

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
September 8: Do a pregnancy test and it's positive. Yippee] But a frisson of anxiety; at 43 the risk of Down's syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities is 1 in 45. Have heard there are tests that mean I might be able to avoid amniocentesis and the accompanying risk of miscarriage.

October 18: Attend a 'counselling' session at a hospital unit offering an ultrasound scan at 11 weeks. It's called nuchal translucency scanning and is said to detect 85 per cent of abnormalities. A long drive to get there, with my sick four-year-old. Wait an hour in a stuffy corridor. Read leaflet. The midwife seems abrupt: do I have any further questions? Perched on a very uncomfortable stool, my four-year-old whining to go home. Feel lonely, exhausted and burst into tears. She apologises. Make an appointment to have scan.

October 27: Return for scan, accompanied by partner, Bernard, and son, Harry. Another hour's wait, but the doctor is friendly, the scan reassuring. It's lovely to see the foetus bouncing around on the screen: to tell Harry that this is a baby. More tears, this time of relief. Computer print out is impressive, encouraging: I have the risk of a woman aged 34 rather than one of 43. At birth, this means a risk of one in 400. Feel able to make the first connection with the baby growing inside me.

November 1: Doubt sets in. Supposing I'm one of the cases they miss? Telephone antenatal helpline, get sympathetic female voice. Explain worries. She says I can have a 'Triple Test' at 16 weeks, available through GP and local hospital. If the risk is high, I'll have an amnio.

November 14: Fourteen weeks pregnant. Woman at a party tells me about the 'Triple Plus'. It's done privately by a hospital in Leeds and better than the Triple.

November 15: Phone Leeds: yet another helpline, another reassuring voice. The Triple Plus has a detection rate of 80 per cent. They can post a test kit to me immediately, which I must take to my GP. Forget to ask about the cost. Hard to believe that I can order by credit card a kit testing for foetal abnormality through the post.

November 16: The kit arrives: a white cardboard box with glass slides, test tubes, pre-paid bag for posting back and five forms to fill in. There is a power cut. By candlelight I write a cheque for pounds 88 to 'University of Leeds Innovations Ltd'.

November 17: GP seems bemused by all the instructions but takes the blood samples. I feel apologetic: another pushy, neurotic, middle-class woman who knows too much for her own good. Pack up the glass slides and tubes and send them back, special delivery, cost pounds 2.

November 24: A phone call from Leeds: the friendly voice again. My risk factor is 1 in 240: positive but borderline. My biochemistry looks fairly normal. It's my age that has pulled the risk factor up. Report is faxed over to my partner's office. There it is, in black and white: screen positive for Down's. One in 240. Had it been one in 251, I would have been negative. 'Further investigation' advised, even though the risk is now five times less than my age risk alone. Could we cope, living with the risk? What if it came to the worst?

November 25: Call specialist unit where I had the first scan. They can do an amnio after the weekend, on Monday morning.

November 28: Sunday night and I lie in bed paralysed with indecision. Shall I go for the amnio tomorrow?

November 29: On our way to the hospital. Feel wobbly, undecided, want to turn back; partner suggests we go for lunch instead. Keep driving in the same direction.

At the unit gel is spread on my stomach for preliminary scan before the amniocentesis; I look at the screen and see my baby. The placenta is at the front, so a chorionic villus sampling would be technically easier than amniocentesis, the doctor says. I would have the results in a week.

He sees our indecision, our distress and leaves us alone for five minutes. Bernard says: 'Let's leave it, let's get out.' I say, finally: 'Let's get it over with.'

The test is painful, more traumatic than I imagined. I can see and feel the needle digging into the placenta, the baby below it. It's over in a few seconds; it feels like a lifetime. The doctor says it went well: the heart didn't stop and there is no blood.

I lie down in a side room and we cuddle; I cry and apologise to my baby. That evening I feel anxious, aching and tearful.

November 30: Still feeling violated, still wondering if I have done the right thing.

December 1: Back at work; feeling delicate.

December 3: Get home from work: message from hospital on the answerphone. Exact words escape me. Test results normal. Feel hysterical with relief, dance around the kitchen when Bernard gets home.

Now that this difficult time is over, maybe I can start enjoying this baby. Oh, and by the way: it's a boy.

Comments