What it feels like to have high-risk pregnancy tests

What it feels like to have high-risk pregnancy tests

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When I finally became pregnant at age 40, maybe I should have been more concerned about my age and what it meant for my baby and me. I was just so happy to finally be pregnant that I didn't stop to think that something could be wrong. I bypassed the concept of risk completely and went straight to researching seemingly important things, like the best burp cloths. In hindsight, I may have been in denial just a teeny bit.

That's not to say I wasn't worried about my pregnancy. On the contrary, I was slightly paranoid. I'd squeeze my breasts every hour to make sure they still "felt pregnant," and avoided excess activity just in case. I also continued taking pregnancy tests to make sure nothing had changed. Like any mother, I wanted to do everything I could to protect my baby. I just didn't want to think about the fact that there could be something else going on entirely.

Because of my age, my doctor urged us to meet with a genetic counselor for screening that would allow us to learn more about the baby's health – specifically if there were any genetic disorders, birth defects, or inherited-disease risks. My first instinct was to say no, that there was nothing those tests could tell me that I needed to hear. We'd face any challenges that came our way. But as my doctor explained, knowing in advance could help us prepare and find any necessary support for us and our baby.

I couldn't argue with that logic, and we decided to proceed with the testing. As soon as we made the appointment, my fears were finally unleashed. I spent countless hours online researching the risks associated with a pregnancy at my age, and when the day of our first counseling appointment arrived, I was a wreck. The logical side of me wanted to run toward the appointment and move forward with knowledge. But the rest of me wanted to remain in this gray area, this emotional purgatory where we were trapped between any highs or lows.

The appointment began by meeting with the genetic counselor assigned to our case. I was hoping to find comfort, that we'd be put at ease and feel as if we had someone who was going to walk this road alongside us. Or, at the very least, let us borrow their GPS. The reality was a little different.

Our counselor was nice, but measured. I felt like I was a kid again, meeting a new friend's semistrict mother who was withholding her feelings toward me until further notice. She wasn't mean, but I can't say she was kind, as she was reserved in her counsel and emotions. I'm sure she had a professional theory for her approach, but at that moment I just wanted compassion and to hear that no matter what the test told us, we'd be okay – either immediately or eventually. That's not what we got.

We discussed both my and my husband's medical histories and potential inherent risks, most of which we already knew from conversations with my doctor. Next, she brought out a binder: a big binder, with sections separated by tabs. The first few sections were thin, but they got bigger toward the back. "These are age ranges of the expectant mother," she explained. "These," she said, pointing to the first few smaller sections, "are the groups up until age 35. This is 35 to 40. And this here," she said, pointing to the last and largest section, "is you: 40 and over, a geriatric pregnancy."

Within that thick section was a list of every possible disorder or birth defect, along with the mathematical odds for each of my baby being born with one. I felt overwhelmed and started crying.

Our counselor stopped talking and looked at me. "You seem concerned, is this upsetting to you?" she asked. I almost wanted to scream "What the hell do you think?" But my husband chose that moment to gently squeeze my leg and answer for me. "Of course she is, we both are. This is overwhelming." It was probably better that he answered.

After that I tuned out. I felt like I was in a hole and she was shoveling dirt on top of me. There was nothing she was telling us that I couldn't find myself online, and I was done with her. After a few more minutes, we were escorted into a private room, where my blood was drawn. There was a shipping box on the table next to me, pre-addressed to some lab. I assumed that was where my blood would be heading and I secretly hoped it would get lost en route.

We drove home in silence, both processing what had just happened. I tried to put it out of my mind for the next few weeks and surprisingly, I was able to, for the most part. But dread of the looming test results was always there to some degree. I counted down the days until the week I was told I'd be receiving a call. When the date came and went without word, I was a little concerned. When it became a full week, I was officially worried and checked in myself.

I learned several things: 1. My counselor had retired and somehow a few of her cases "fell through the cracks," including mine. 2. Someone was meant to call but …"things happen." 3. The results of my screenings came back with exceptionally low odds of any disorders.

I cried again. What number sob fest was this, I wondered? I'd lost count. I cried because I was happy, I cried because it was finished and I could relax. I cried for every parent who'd received different results and was facing a long road ahead.

It's funny, at every turn I was told to enjoy my pregnancy, to relax, to sleep as much as I could. But I also felt like I was constantly having something thrown at me. Bobbing, weaving, knocking down the different risks, tests, trips to the ER for unusual pains.

I'm glad the genetic screening process was an option and that we pursued it – on the whole, it consumed a relatively brief amount of time in my overall pregnancy. But I have to admit, I'm particularly glad that the counselor who led me emotionally astray, albeit briefly, is off enjoying retirement and not guiding any more pregnant moms-to-be.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

Watch the video: Mama Doctor Jones No hCG in Pregnancy. hCG Variation. Hormones arent an exact science (October 2022).

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