Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The glass is 99% full, dammit

So I went to see my very nice (and very male) family doctor a couple of weeks ago to tell him I was pregnant.

(I will be continuing my prenatal care with a midwife, but as Milo was due to visit the doctor for his much-belated two-year-old check-up, I thought I may as well get the ol' stethoscope treatment, as well.)

After congratulating me, the first thing to come out of the doctor's mouth was, "So I guess you'll be wanting me to get you started on your tests, then?"

Oh. Right. The tests. The not-so-joyous part of being pregnant.

Thanks to the wonders of western medicine, doctors are now able to test for certain birth defects while the baby is still in the earliest stages of development, so excited young mothers- and fathers-to-be can discover within weeks of conception whether their child to be is going to be stricken with a chromosonal abnormality such as Down's Syndrome.

The risk factor for such chromosonal abnormalities increases dramatically once a woman passes the age of 35.

I'm 37. And I'll be 38 when this baby is born.

Which is why my doctor quite strenuously advocated that I undergo all possible testing. Just "in case."

Never mind that I do yoga and ride my bike to work four times a week (a 13-km round-trip journey). Even given my state of optimal health, my ability to pass on healthy chromosones is apparently decaying with each passing day.

Meanwhile, merely contemplating the remote possibility that something might be wrong with my baby is enough to make me wrap my arms around my burgeoning belly and run to the hills, to find a nice dark cave to hide in for the next seven and a half months or so.

Yet despite my doctor's well-intentioned fear mongering (backed up with statements like, "Well, my wife and I just had a new baby daughter two months ago and we had the testing done." -- Yeah, dude, but you spend ALL DAY considering all the myriad things that can go wrong with the human body! Me, I'd rather not), I keep reminding myself that the "dramatic increase" caused by my age means going from a 1 in 178 chance (for women who are 35 years old) to a 1 in 100 chance of having a baby with birth defects (for women who are 38).

Which means there's still a 99% chance I will give birth to a perfectly "normal" healthy baby. Those are the odds I'd prefer to put my money on -- not the 1% long shot.

But even if I do go ahead and get all the testing done -- and the results come back and confirm my worst fears have been realized -- what then?

What does one DO with that kind of information?

Is it better to know ahead of time -- so I can spend the next seven months resenting the malformed child growing inside me?

(WOULD I resent the child, in such a case? Or would I research the malady and prepare myself so I could be a loving and welcoming mother once the baby had been born? Could I ever be that much of a saint? That's something I honestly don't know.)

Or is it better to go through my pregnancy, cheerfully anticipating the arrival of a perfect newborn -- and then be crushed when the baby doesn't meet my expectations?

(WOULD I be totally crushed? Or would I learn to love the baby no matter what, once I held it in my arms? Again, it's impossible to say.)

When faced with such unanswerable questions, all I want to do is close my eyes, plug my finger into my ears, and scream, "LA! LA! LA!" at the top of my lungs.

Ignorance is bliss.

1 comment:

barbie2be said...

remember back in the "old days" when women just had the baby? before all this testing.