That’s what I read, when I snuck a peek at the ultrasound technician’s report to my gynaecologist. I was about to stick it right back into its envelope when it hit me:
I looked one line up, and read that a choroid plexus cyst (14mm x 8mm) had been found in my baby’s brain. What followed was some frantic googling over lunch, where I couldn’t quite decide if I was reading good news or bad news. The good news was that a CPC is apparently not that uncommon, and that it is a marker for chromosomal abnormality in less than 1% of cases. The bad news was, that it is a marker for chromosomal abnormality in less than 1% of cases. I decided to shelve preconceptions until I could talk to Dr Choo about it. In the meantime, I resisted the strong urge to blab “choroid plexus cyst!!?!” to my husband. We didn’t both need our lunches ruined.
A couple of hours later, I sat motionless in Dr Choo’s office while she essentially reiterated google for me. Yes, the cyst is not in itself dangerous, and should eventually resolve. Regardless, the appearance of such a cyst at all means that there is a tiny risk of Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is not compatible with life, generally. You have three options: 1) Do nothing. 2) Do an amniocentesis for a 100% positive or negative confirmation of Trisomy 18, but with a small risk of miscarriage due to the procedure. 3) Do a Verifi blood test, which is about 80% accurate.
Then she looked at me seriously and asked, “In the event that the worse case scenario occurs, and your baby has Trisomy 18, what would you do?”
The world blackened and froze, and in that instant the less than 1% probability roared into 100%, a theoretical fantasy so horrific that I started crying just for having to come this close to it. I gave the doctor a non answer.
I left the doctor’s office with time frames and one brochure to look at on the way home. My head was spinning with complex mathematical questions and my gut and emotions were grappling desperately for a place to land.
I picked up my phone to answer my husband’s question: How did it go?
By late afternoon, we’d arrived at the answer. Option 2 was out of the question – unless there were other markers present, I was not going to risk miscarrying this baby. Option 3 sounded like a band-aid on a broken bone – even if it cane back negative, it would do little to remove fear, if fear was my problem. I would still be left with a probability of a probability. And in the event that I were to get two positives for Trisomy 18 going through options 3 and 2 respectively, what then? Would I terminate the pregnancy? (No.) Would I be helping myself deal with the monstrous outcome by knowing of it in advance? (I do not know.) But I did know that the main force that would drive me to take the tests was nothing but bald, bullying fear. And I hate to be bullied.
That left us with option 1.
Do nothing but pray. Do nothing, but fiercely refuse to let a “less than 1%” probability become 2, 5, 50, 100.
Every morning now, I wake up and the first thought that floats to the surface is: “Are my children okay? Is something wrong?” My hands are on my stomach, feeling for movement, reaching for assurance, before I’m quite conscious. Then I wake up fully, and ground myself. And I start praying.
I battle through the day, praying, breathing, praying, keeping that fear firmly in its place, bound tight and squashed under my foot, where it belongs. I remind myself of what I’d seen on that ultrasound: an unbridled, kicking, tumbling, finger wiggling life, one that is fully here, and not to be extinguished. Her hands were my son’s hands. I hold those hands at the forefront of my memory – the clearest snapshot of bright white skeletal fingers, all accounted for, playing an invisible trunpet and signing secretly to me: I’m totally okay, maman, don’t be silly now.
Silly fear is something you become intimately familiar with as a parent. New fears and old ones. It is utterly outrageous, in quantity and quality. At any one time, I can find half a dozen (or a hundred) legitimate and illegitimate things to worry about, when it comes to Michael. And when it comes to the health of our children, the anxiety and pain that we take upon ourselves is usually ten times more intense and disproportionate than it should be. I have stayed up all night worrying about a fever while my son happily slumbers right through it. My husband’s heart nearly stopped (according to him) when Michael had his first bad tumble and cut his lip. A spot of blood turned into a torrential, grisly horror show in the mind of the parent.
But I resent it, this bullying. As I must. I have to view this new fear as just one of the many false, vague threats on my joy as a mother, and relegate it to the “Ignore” folder along with the rest of them. So that is my daily exercise now: firmly showing my anxiety the door, when it threatens to trespass on my property. I am guarding my peace and happiness with all I’ve got.
We have a name for our girl. It means victory. And I am celebrating before the win is announced, just because.