Project ‘Our Little Friend’ is proceeding smoothly thus far, although that’s not how I’d describe the current state of my stomach… flat, smooth, these are words we won’t be seeing for a while. For the time being I’m still doggedly stuffing myself into my own clothes – something about suspecting that a move into maternity wear will act as an instant inflation device – but I’m not long for my magic jeans. Clearly. It’s interesting, though, because everything changes over the course of the day: I still look pretty normal in the morning, but by bedtime, I’m huge, hence my strong sense that it’s mainly a food rather than a baby thing. Still, it’s logically getting pretty crowded in there, what with the growing uterus and growing foetus and my growing appetite, so it makes sense that the more I consume, the less room there’s going to be.
We’re 13.5 weeks right now… and we had the 12-week scan on Tuesday, nearly a week later than originally booked due to a problem their end. There was a moment of real anxiety at the beginning because neither Llew nor I could detect anything that looked remotely like a heartbeat – I could feel my own starting to race as I peered at the monitor, and there was a tight panicked edge to my voice when I asked the imaging lady C where it was. “There,” she said. “See?”
Cue big sighs and nervous laughter from us.
Well, if you’re after a mind-blowing experience, I can recommend a 12-week ultrasound. Not only is there someone still in there, but that someone now has a brain and limbs and looks, well, kind of like an actual baby. While we were watching on the screen, he or she stretched out its little stick legs as far as they would go, clearly intent on getting comfortable (that could come from either of us…). We saw the hands groping around, and although it’s too soon to clearly count digits, I still gave it my best shot. She or he is an average size – currently about 7.5 cms long – and never has the idea of being “average” seemed more appealing. Average. Average in pregnancy is good, because average in pregnancy means “everything looks normal.”
“It’s got its whole life to be special,” added C, the imaging lady, and I couldn’t agree more.
The main purpose of Tuesday’s scan is the measuring of the nuchal transparency. This is the fluid at the back of the foetus’s neck, and the thicker the nuchal transparency, the higher the likelihood of Down’s Syndrome. That measurement is one part of an algorithm used to determine likelihood of Down’s occurring; its other components are my blood test results from last week, and my age. I think that’s all. It’s an anxious question, and an anxious wait, and I think I might as well get used to this constant low-level anxiety because parents tell me that’s what having children is: one long anxiety trip. Welcome to the rest of your life. Now, I’m going to focus as much as possible on all the other things parenthood offers – top tier tickets to Cuddle Town, for a start – but I can imagine this is just the start of a new, special kind of worry. It would be very nice if my hideous and graphic miscarriage dreams would stop, but they would probably only be replaced by others. One of my friends kept dreaming her babies were born without fingers. Another, that her baby was the Devil. It sounds like there’s a whole phenomenon of disturbing dreams induced by pregnancy, and at its core is the simple, real and perfectly understandable fear of something going horribly wrong.
A doctor from the imaging place called me several hours later with the results of the algorithm. He explained that my Down’s risk as a 37 year old was 1 in 150. YIKES. 1 in 150 – isn’t that kind of high…? But then he told me my risk assessment based on the nuchal transparency measurement, my blood results and my age: 1 in 2,670.
“Hey!” I said. “That sounds much better!”
He gave absolutely nothing away, just didn’t react, and I hung up already anxious again, trying to dissect his silence, his unwillingness to say the only thing I wanted to hear: “Yep, you have absolutely nothing to worry about!”
It’s hardly a million to one, is it? I’m seeing Dr F tomorrow, and I’m really, really glad, because I have nothing with which to compare my assessment. It’s just this vast world of probability, and I don’t have a clue where I sit on the spectrum of those dream terms, “average” and “normal.” What do other people score? And should we do the more definitive test, which brings with it certain risks, including miscarriage? I can’t seem to find anyone who’s done it, the amniocentesis test, but its accuracy is extremely high and it can test for other abnormalities beyond Down’s, so that’s a pretty compelling option… except of course for those pesky risk factors. So how high are they? And why do they seem to change so much depending on whom I ask? For instance, I’ve heard and/or read the risk of miscarriage as everything from 1 in 200 to 1 in 1,500 – which is it?? Once again I’m going to have to quieten the chatter and focus on what Dr F says – it’s ultimately a decision for Llew and me, but the opinion of someone knowledgeable whose expertise we trust is so important. Otherwise you could quite honestly drive yourself mad.
Anyway, I’ve been feeling really well and mellow and Our Little Friend is growing and moving, so I’m going to concentrate on that, and hush that nagging voice of anxiety, who really needs to learn its place in the pecking order.