I’ll never forget falling pregnant. The feeling of utter joy and then utter fear as the little blank space on the pregnancy test turned from one to two lines on the stick.
The feeling of utter euphoria juxtaposed with the feelings of what the hell are we doing! Are we ready? Do we have enough money? We need to move house! Should we change our two seater cars now? What am I going to do when I go back to work? What the heck have we got ourselves into!!! And then came the vision of our unborn child. I will never forget actually saying these words out loud to Jon – “Our baby is going to be so cute! Blonde hair and blue eyes are DEFINITELY a must, and as he/she pops out we will give him/her every piece of sporting equipment under the sun and whatever they pick up, that is the sport that we will drive. This small human must succeed!”. When I read this now I actually blush and think my how naïve you were my girl.
Little did we know that these minor, material concerns would seem completely irrelevant, petty and inconsequential a mere few months later.
At our 20 week scan our gynae picked up an issue. The baby’s heart was not looking quite right, there was an effusion on his heart and the gynae was concerned. We were referred to a specialist straight away with the consolation of “this is not an emergency, I just want a second pair of eyes to have a deeper look”’. We were not too concerned. My initial prenatal blood tests for Down Syndrome had come back virtually clear. We had a 1 in 3500 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. We were totally in the clear.
Due to the fact that this was not an emergency we only got an appointment to see the specialist 2 weeks later. At this stage I was 22 weeks pregnant. As we walked into the consultation room and the specialist scanned my tummy I focused on his face and not on the screen. I could sense straight away that something wasn’t right.
The specialist’s next words confirmed our fears. “I am not concerned about the effusion. I am however very concerned about the underdeveloped nasal bone. The effusion coupled with this means that these are two soft markers of Down syndrome – we need to do an amniocentesis straight away”.
I looked at Jon, my bottom lip trembling. We agreed that the specialist could go ahead with the amnio. As the needle penetrated my uterus and drew amniotic fluid, we also knew without uttering a word to each other that the test results didn’t matter. This was merely a nice to know. Whatever the outcome we would be keeping this child.
We left the specialists rooms that Thursday afternoon feeling like we had been sucker punched. We knew that that weekend would be one of the longest ones of our lives as we waited for the results. We also both knew without actually knowing, what the result would be. We also knew without even discussing it with each other that a termination of the pregnancy was not even an option.
The next couple of days were perhaps the longest days of our lives. We struggled with feelings of deep mourning, contrasted with feelings of guilt for mourning what was in essence a very healthy little babe. This baby was not dead, he/she was very much alive and kicking inside of me and every kick, every hiccup was a reminder of this little life who had not played a single part in what was happening. Why were we then mourning?
A phone call from the specialist the following Wednesday confirmed all of our fears. Our little babe was 99% certain to be born with a tiny extra chromosome. I will never forget Jon’s face when answering that phone call. Although I knew deep down that we already knew that the result was positive for Down Syndrome, hearing this confirmation felt like a kick to the stomach.
We were mourning the loss of our “normal” child. The loss of every expectation, every dream that we had for our unborn child. We were mourning the loss of the dream that this child would likely never be a pilot like his dad or study law like her mum. We had to let go of every expectation that we had conjured up in our own minds.
In hindsight this was the best thing that had ever happened to us. During the wait for the test results we learnt so much about ourselves, about us as a couple and about the strength that we never knew we had. When Jon was feeling strong, I was feeling down and vice versa. We learnt how strong we really were as individuals and as a pair. We learnt that we could get through this and the support that we received from friends, family and strangers absolutely blew us away.
Luke had given us the biggest gift and he hadn’t even been born yet. The gift of the strengthening of our marriage. The gift of strengthening of relationships of our friends and family and the gift of letting go of expectations and trusting what was to come.