31 for 21: Prenatal Screenings


So the big question on a lot of people’s minds (I assume) is: “Will you do prenatal screenings? You know, being that you are of such advanced maternal age. And you already have a kid with . . . well, you know.”

First of all, let me just say that it is so very early that none of this seems real to me yet. I am full of worry and anxiety about logistical and practical things, and yes, the wellbeing (and viability) of the baby . . . but it’s all kind of abstract at this point. I don’t feel pregnant. I don’t look pregnant (shut up). The only thing that tells me there’s a baby growing in there are the three pregnancy tests I took which all fairly screamed “HEY LADY, YOU’RE KNOCKED UP!!! AGAIN!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Anyway, when considering prenatal screenings, I think there are two important questions to consider:

1. What is the potential information to be gleaned from the screening?

2. What potential action would you consider in light of the information you might glean from the screening?

While I did have some routine prenatal screenings done with all my pregnancies except (ironically) Finn, they only included blood tests (AFP screening) and the first trimester screening in my third and fourth pregnancies; I never had amniocentesis or CVS, though I was over 35 for my third, fourth, and fifth pregnancies.

I could sit here and tell you that the reason I declined those invasive tests was because of the risk of resultant miscarriage, and that would be the truth. But it would only be part of the truth. The rest of the truth is that I just never really fathomed that a baby that wasn’t . . . normal . . . would happen to me. It really wasn’t a smug thing, like I thought I lived far too charmed a life for complications to happen to me. It was more like . . . I had experienced more than my fair share (in my estimation, anyway) of bad, so what were the chances? And yeah, I guess all that birth defect business seemed so abstract to me – that was the kind of thing that happened to other people that I only heard about. Okay, so I guess I was a little arrogant.

Obviously, I know differently now. I have a son with Down syndrome, and it’s opened my eyes to a whole lotta reality, including the fact that yeah, this stuff can happen to anyone, including me. And obviously, at my age, the risks have increased pretty dramatically. For Down syndrome and probably a number of other things.

So, will I do prenatal screenings this time around? I’m thinking that no, I will not. Why in the world not?

Back to the questions I posed earlier:

1. What is the potential information to be gleaned from the screenings? Birth defects, genetic conditions, physical anomalies. Some of which could be very serious. Some of which could even be incompatible with life.

2. What potential action would I consider in light of the information I might glean from the screening? Well, obviously potential action would depend on potential diagnosis. Some diagnosed conditions might only demand careful monitoring, while some might require a choice to be made between continuing or terminating the pregnancy. And while I remain staunchly pro-choice, I am not in favor of weeding out imperfect babies. I can’t see myself ever making that choice, and to be honest, I’d just rather not be faced with such a choice. I know we have room in our family and in our hearts for another baby with Down syndrome, or whatever else, come what may. And in the event that this baby isn’t meant to be for the short or the long run? We’ll take that as it comes. I don’t feel a great need to know as soon as possible. There is something to be said for knowing for the sake of preparedness; I’d rather find out after the baby is born.

As much as possible, assuming this baby is viable and the pregnancy continues to term, I would like to fall in love with him or her as s/he grows inside me, as I have with all my other babies, as a baby, not as a frightening diagnosis. Whatever genetic conditions he or she might have, it happened at the moment of conception, and it’s already said and done now. I will have at least a couple of ultrasounds to rule out obvious anomalies which would make a home birth unsafe (yes, we are planning to have this baby at home, like Finn and Lilah were born, if at all possible), and my midwife will be monitoring me and the baby closely.

So that’s the plan.

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7 Comments on “31 for 21: Prenatal Screenings”

  1. Heather
    October 27, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    It’s funny but that’s one of the first things I wondered. Now with the early MaterniT21 test available, I wondered what you would do. It puts everything in a whole different light when it is actually you. I can say all I want about the test and worries I have with the availability of the test but truth of the matter, I know I will never have to face that choice. We are done having children and it’s easy for me to sit here and say what I would do in that situation because I’ll never be in that situation. I have to agree with your decision. Why put yourself in the position of having to make that choice. Can’t imagine my life without Morgan but know I wouldn’t have been able to imagine my life with her when I was only a few weeks pregnant and not expecting that kind of news. I was with you–never worried about having something go wrong with my child. That happened to other people who were made for that kind of thing. I had already had 3 healthy children. I had good genes. I was in my own little cloud before Morgan. She’s opened my eyes and made me a better person all around. I’m still excited for this next adventure for you!

  2. Anna
    October 27, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    Rooting for you and your family from all the way in Cambridge, England!

  3. Stacey
    October 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I found with my second pregnancy that I felt it even more important to do the CVS test — because we already had an existing child. If something was so wrong with the baby that the odds were good it wouldn’t survive, then we preferred to terminate early and not bring Tiven into the mess. I just couldn’t imagine telling her that we were having a baby but wouldn’t be able to keep the baby for long because it would die soon after birth. Why do that to a 5yo? I had a friend in childhood who experienced that (twice) and it was really devastating to her. At that time there were no prenatal tests so her parents couldn’t have done anything anyway, but I remember thinking how sad for her to get excited about a sibling only to lose it shortly after birth. So we didn’t tell Tiven we were pregnant until after we got the results back from the CVS and knew that our baby was healthy. We also didn’t tell her about the two miscarriages we had along the way, either. We felt that was the best decision for our family.

    And I’m so glad to hear you’re planning another homebirth. Can’t wait to share that journey with you!

  4. meriah
    October 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    *chuckle* this is funny. I lost touch with your blog (your move and then I didn’t bookmark it and then, well, you know how it can be…) – George E has been in email contact and said you’d reviewed his book and I came over to check it out and BAM! I landed right in your big news! That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you and scared too, sort of – but I’m still laughing!! Congratulations!

    • Lisa
      October 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      Say “hi” to George for me! I’m going to be reviewing his book on Literary Mama in the Spring 🙂

  5. meriah
    October 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    PS. I just subscribed via email

    • Lisa
      October 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

      Thanks!

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