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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Is knowledge really power?

When I was about 18 weeks pregnant with 14, my husband was on his 2 weeks of active duty with the Navy, and was serving in Japan. Shortly before he left, I had gone for some prenatal testing, and thought nothing of it when I drove him to the airport and said goodbye.

Several days later, my OB-GYN called to inform me that my Alpha-Fetoprotein test came back positive, and she was scheduling me to have an amniocentesis later in the week. My head was spinning. What the hell is alpha-fetoprotein? What does it mean? Is my baby going to be born with two heads? Seriously, what the hell??



She explained to me that this test is done to determine the possibility of birth defects in a fetus, and since mine came back positive, there is a possibility that the baby could have several issues, including Downs Syndrome. The urgency in her voice scared the piss out of me. Literally. She said that I absolutely NEEDED to go and have an amnio done to fully determine whether or not the baby I was carrying would have issues after delivery, and the reason it was so important that they schedule me, pretty much right then and there, was because I was at 18 weeks, and would only have 2 weeks to decide if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, pending the outcome of the amnio.

Terminate the pregnancy.

Terminate?

End the pregnancy?

Get rid of the baby?

What???

Commence the head spinning again. There I was, home alone with a year and a half old toddler, 18 weeks pregnant and my husband in Japan. He would be in Japan until after my 20 week mark. Termination never even crossed my mind. Why in the world would I terminate the pregnancy if there was an issue with my baby? And why in the WORLD would I go for an amniocentesis, even with the slightest risk of miscarriage, if my husband was out of the country? Reason was gone, my brain shut down, I couldn't think straight. I also had no way to reach my husband. He usually called me once a day, and had already done so that morning.

I told my OB NOT to schedule me for anything until I had a chance to speak with my husband. She argued that it was imperative to my pregnancy that I schedule this appointment ASAP. I argued back that there was no freaking way in hell I'd be going for an amnio without my husband by my side.

Time stood still.

The next day when my husband called, I told him all that my OB had told me. He asked what I wanted to do, and I told him that at that point in time, I wasn't going to consider terminating the pregnancy, no matter the outcome of the amnio. If we needed to go for genetic counseling, then so be it. If we needed to learn how to deal with a special needs child, then so be it. But I wasn't going to risk a miscarriage, and I did not want to do anything to put myself or the baby at risk until he was home.

The doctor, needless to say, was not happy, but she respected my wishes and scheduled my amnio for a date when my husband was home.

To make a long story short, I went for the amnio, husband by my side. And when they called us with the results a few days later, there was not a damn thing wrong with my baby. She was healthy, growing exactly as she should be, no Downs, no extra appendages, no genetic issues whatsoever.

So I ask you: is knowledge really power? Or is it a vehicle to drive you insane?

Had there been, God forbid, something wrong with my baby, we had several more months to learn about it, and deal with it. But scaring me into making a decision I wasn't ready to make on my own was not something I appreciated. Did I understand her reasoning? Yes, I did. But regardless of the outcome, I'd have carried that baby to term and loved her as best I could. I thank God she turned out happy and healthy.



22 comments:

  1. I have always had a great deal of respect for you, Teri, but after reading this my Respect the Snarky-O-Meter shot through the roof.

    You have just given everybody who reads this story a lesson in "How to Be a Mom", respect life and unconditional love.

    Bravo!

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  2. Knowledge can be crippling. That's why I'm not allowed to go on WebMD!

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  3. I think sometimes docs panic too soon. Those tests can often come back with false positives (or be positive by a miniscule amount). Had that happen with my first born and was pushed into an induction that, frankly IMO, should never have happened. Knowledge is power, but sometimes TMI is just that. Besides, are we always really equipped to handle it? Great Post, BTW!

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    1. I don't know that we're ever really ready to handle it, but scaring someone into submission does defeat the purpose. I hope that all went well with the delivery of your first born!

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  4. I know our doctors were just trying to be safe, but something similar happened to us. Sent us for more testing, and had us so worried. Turns out there was nothing wrong. I figure all that time worrying and stressing was worse for the baby's health than what they thought was wrong.

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    1. Exactly, Maggie. Scary for us as moms, stressful for the baby and for no good reason.

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  5. When I was pregnant with my 19 yo daughter, she was breech. They scheduled a (pretty cool actually) external manipulation to flip her over at around 36 weeks so that I wouldn't have to have a C-Section, but they then gave me this pamphlet about the 4,000 possible things that might be wrong with my baby because she was breech. What?! I could barely drive home I was sobbing so hard.

    Of course she was perfectly fine. Why do they do that to pregnant women? It just seems cruel.

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    1. I'm glad she was okay and that you were (eventually) okay, Cassandra. But man, scary stuff!

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  6. don't have kids - can't have kids; but i do think that this even relates to all physicians and specialists who call you because they "saw something" on a test and need to see you immediately... why can't doctors manage their own expectations before contacting you to scare the ever-loving-crap out of you?

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    1. I agree, Fred!! They scare you without really looking into it more closely.

      When are you going to start writing again?

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  7. This made me cry. You know, you have read our book. This brings me right back and makes me think of Natalie. I also have another friend who just went through this and didn't have a good outcome - her baby was not compatible with life - and she carried her pregnancy to term. Thank you for writing this. - Celeste

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    1. Celeste, Natalie's test results really struck a chord with me when I read your book. Matter of fact, when I was reading that chapter, I made a note in my phone to write about the AFP test, and today was the day I decided to write about it. Hugs!!

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  8. I decided with both my kids NOT to have the AFP test because I didn't want to be put in the position you were put in. We decided nothing that test said would make me terminate my pregnancy so there was no point. My husband agreed but left the decision to me and fortunately my doctors were also behind me on not having the test done.
    PS my daughter does have a genetic disorder (as do I, but I wasn't diagnosed until she was) However, EDS has no genetic marker or test as of yet and guess what even if it did we wouldn't have done a damn thing different.

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    1. I now look back and wish I had decided to skip the test.

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  9. I had the exact same thing happen when I was pregnant with my son (well, my husband was in town). I declined the amnio because it didn't matter what the outcome was--I would not have terminated the pregnancy. And I had already had two miscarriages; I wasn't going to increase the risk of another one. We would love our son no matter what. For us, it was too much knowledge. I realize that's not the case for others though.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your miscarriages, Foxy, and think you made the right decision in declining the amnio!

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  10. You rock as a mom Teri! Of course you needed to know all options. Better than being in the dark. Sure, knowledge is power, and it's also a curse too that drives people nuts!

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  12. You had me riveted with this piece Teri I'm so glad you were able to hold your ground and wait till you husband got back. I have had two friends who had bad AFP tests and we panicked the whole time and both babies were fine. Because my husband and I had gone through 4 miscarriages before our first child we had decided that we would not do an amnio, We felt like lighting had struck four times and we were not going to chance anything. When we were expecting our 3rd baby the doctors had suggested we do it because of my age. When we saw the head of the practice and shared our concerns he told us that if we were committed to carrying the pregnancy no matter what the tests said than he suggested we don't do it. That always meant so much to me. Because we got that advice my sister felt comfortable making the same choice when she had her beautiful babies at 40 and 42. Of course I have nothing against anyone who chooses to have the test and I think it can be very helpful but a doctor should take their patients concerns seriously. Thanks for sharing your story.

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