3. Down’s Syndrome Tests: When “what if” comes very close to “most probably”: Amniocentesis

Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon by Robert Delaunay  This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less
Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon
by Robert Delaunay
This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less

On the day of the amnio, I got pretty selfish. Firstly, there was the fear of an amnio triggered miscarriage, something underlined, emphasized and highlighted everywhere I turned to for more information. On every page on the internet, whether scientific research or personal experience, the possibility of miscarriage differed from 1 in 200 to 1 in 1600. Moreover, the numbers apparently changed based on the hospital and doctor, a matter in which I did not have much of a choice.

As if all this was not confusing enough, the procedure itself was described as being very painful to a tiny pinch on the tummy. I am pretty scared of pain and needles so the idea of having a huge needle piercing into my belly and fooling around in me, especially so close to the fetus was not a comforting idea.

Still, the morning of the amnio, husband and I were the people we usually are in nerve wrecking foreign situations: funny. This helped to deal with the anxiety of the inescapable and tasteless procedure I was to go through.

In the procedure room, the nice nurse did an ultrasound to see where the fetus was… This was the second time we were seeing it, a sneak peek into my womb, the tiny thing’s dwelling. At first it was asleep; in contrast to the last time, it was completely motionless with only the red and blue interchanging colors showing the heart beat. While the nurse poked around to determine the best spot to insert the needle, as far away for from the fetus as possible, it woke up and started moving around. That was a heart melting, lactation stimulating, hormone invigorating moment. The thing I haven’t yet met in person was reacting to physical contact like an ordinary human being.

Then she left to fetch the doctor who was busy with another patient. When they came back and had a look again, the fetus had moved. Something I found surprising, since both hubby and I like to remain stationary most of the time. It also made the fetus more human than ever, with all these attributes coming together to make up the first aspects of a personality.

Finally, the dreaded moment arrived and the needle was prepared for insertion in latex wrapped hands. I started singing a tune I heard a few minutes before I entered the room to calm my nerves. The husband was playing with my hair like I had asked him to the night before to help me relax.

And pinch! That was it, like having an ordinary blood test… But when the needle went through my womb into the amniotic fluid sac, then I felt a bit of a cramp, as the doctor had warned me. I thought it would affect my lower abdominal like menstrual pain but I felt it more in my vagina, which was unexpected.

Then, I looked at the ultrasound screen and saw my fetus, just below the needle moving around. Once inside, the doctor withdrew the needle and what was left was the tiny soft tube to extract the fluid. This was done because as I could see on the screen, the thing in my womb, the fetus seemed to be reaching out to the foreign object in its surroundings, and a sharp needle could have caused problems. For the first time in its lifetime, it was encountering something so strange. And as the doctor said, “babies are curious whether they are in the womb or out in the world”.

In a matter of seconds, enough fluid was collected and the tube was taken out of me. What I felt was definitely not pain but more of a new strange sensation. That was it. All in all, the procedure was fast, the nurse and doctor were nice and comforting, and it was painless.

Once I got home to rest for the day, much more relieved than I had been for the last few days, with no major cramps, discharge or fever indicating miscarriage or infection, I thought about the fetus movements I saw on the screen. Then I thought about how long it usually takes for a baby to actually realize what is going on around it, much less react to stimulants with conscious movements such as reaching out for an object. Thus, I decided what I saw on the screen just below the needle, was nothing but normal motions the fetus was going through on a regular day and any other meaning I wanted to attribute to it was the motherly affection I couldn’t retain easily with my hormones.

Now is that “fun” part where we wait for the test results… One more month, and I will find out whether I will become a mother or not. The emotional and intellectual debate we are having in us will have to continue for yet another month. I have to say, I can now understand much better anyone who might choose to carry on with their pregnancy in spite of a genetical problem a test shows. Yet, for us the choice is the opposite.

By the way, on the ultrasound, there was nothing protruding from the baby’s torso… Can it be a girl?


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