In the spirit of being honest here, I thought I should share a personal experience that encouraged and intensified not only my faith but also my strength.
I had a textbook pregnancy. Perfect in every sense of the word. No complaints. I travelled when i had to, exercised regularly, ate healthy (for the most part).
Then when I was 30 weeks pregnant, I went to the Doctor’s office for routine antenatal consultations and had an ultrasound done. As the ultrasound tech was performing the scan, I could tell something was up. She got very quiet, and said she wanted to call the mid-wife in. The mid-wife came in and the tech kept showing her the screen. I figured it was nothing, but I asked her what the problem was. She said the tech noticed what is called “an echogenic focus/foci” in “my baby’s heart” – a bright spot in the heart of the baby.
Upon hearing that, I broke into a million pieces – figuratively of course. They explained that the echogenic focus was a mark that could indicate the baby could have Down syndrome. Although it has no bearing on the heart function it could be a problem if there were other chromosomal abnormalities (CA), which could indicate Down syndrome and other birth defects.
There was something about how she said it. She wouldn’t look at me, and I was engulfed in fear. The midwife just kept telling me it was just one of those things, and that I didn’t do anything wrong.
Apparently, it just happens. These things just happen.
I was an absolute wreck. I cried.
At the end of the meeting, the Doctor wrote it down on a sticky paper, gave me some pamphlets and encouraged me to do other tests. She insisted that we “find out” so that we could decide what to do about it.
I was discouraged to do an amnio (Amniocentesis is generally done between 15 – 20 weeks of pregnancy to look at genetic information or for birth defects testing) because I had gone too far in the pregnancy and the amnio carries a small risk of miscarriage. So my option was to do a more comprehensive ultrasound scan and maybe other tests.
I was confused. Did I want to do the scan / tests to find out? If it turned out that my unborn baby had CA, what were my options? I knew what my options were; I just didn’t want to think about it.
At this time I was spending a week at a friend’s house, Abby, while my apartment was being furnished. I told her when I got back from the Dr’s office, and she assured me that everything was going to be fine and I should discuss it with The Hubs.
I couldn’t call The Hubs so I sent him a message. I took a picture (of the Dr’s note) and sent it to him via bbm. It was the best I could do. I think he checked it on Google, I never asked, but he called me shortly after and I just cried.
When I was done he tried to explain to me that the echogenic fetal focus was a “soft” marker for chromosomal abnormalities (CA) … meaning that some babies with CA show the echogenic focus, but not all babies with an echogenic focus have CA.
But there was likelihood, and we had to talk options.
How was I going to tell our parents?? I was ashamed, almost like it was my fault. The taboo that shrouds stories like this only added to the anguish I was feeling.
My sister was soooo strong and supportive. She was 100% POSITIVE that nothing was wrong with her nephew. She would say, don’t mind these Doctors, you know they have to give you the worst-case scenarios to avoid lawsuits.
Due to lack of personal experience, I had never stopped to consider that I could be caught in such an agonizing situation, one, which was not black and white, moral or immoral. It was an agony so intense that I felt physical pain whenever I thought about it.
I felt cheated.
I felt betrayed by God. I am a believer, a Christian, how does this happen?
The hubs and I were forced to consider worst-case scenarios and went back and forth on the options we had. Every choice was laden with guilt.
Together with our loved ones, we prayed (and they fasted) about it for over a week, considering it daily. We had faith that nothing was going to happen to our little munchkin, that he was going to be just fine. I felt it, he was inside me and I felt it.
Finally, we made a decision to do further scans and tests. Our decision to do the further tests was not because we didn’t have faith but because we did.
It was a personal choice but we wanted to know instead of being worried during the remainder of the pregnancy, and we had decided what to do either way the tests came out. Till date, this may be one of the biggest dilemmas The Hubs and I have ever been challenged to answer. Because either choice had its own deep set of consequences tied to it.
I was scheduled for a more comprehensive ultrasound on a Monday but I told everyone it was on a Wednesday. I needed a few days to process the result if things went “SOUTH”. So I went to the Doctor’s office for what I told my sister was “ a routine check”.
I think the scan tech remembered me from all the crying the last time, because she seemed to be as nervous as I was. I couldn’t look at the screen. I felt the cold gel of the ultra sound scanner rubbing against my belly but I couldn’t bring myself to look at the screen. Until the tech muttered something like “ it’s gone”, I don’t quite recall now what she said but I remember I immediately looked at the screen where she was pointing.
Again she called for the mid-wife and she also confirmed that they couldn’t find the echogenic focus anymore. It was literally……GONE!!! My faith, and the prayers of our family had come through for us. God had come through for us.
Fast forward 16months from then, I’m happy to say that I have a wonderful little boy, J…he’s awesome, and he is as healthy as can be.
He was born at a whooping 9lbs 12oz with no genetic abnormalities; although we would’ve loved him anyway. He was (a lot) bigger than I expected, but was (and is) everything I could hope for.
I’m speaking out so publicly now because I hope it encourages open discussions about pregnancy, child birth, motherhood, and the gruelling dilemmas and decisions that are also involved in parenthood.
Motherhood is a lot more than the fun part that’s usually portrayed on social media. the Instagram syndrome lol!!
If your baby has not been diagnosed with a birth defect but you have been told that your baby may develop one, please get a second tests, or more tests done. Connect with your faith; whatever it be – Muslim, Christian, or otherwise.
You should think about how you want to handle this if it happens to you and not simply make a decision that someone else wants and pressures you to go along with. Do what your heart tells you that you can live with without regret. It’s a decision only YOU can make.
If you are faced with your own pregnancy dilemma, whatever that may be, my heart goes out to you. I hope my words have been helpful in some small way.
Love & Light,