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I couldn't remember the last time I had been to church, but there
I sat, the Sunday before Christmas, eyes closed and head bowed.
Festive holiday season or not, my heart was troubled: In just
three days, I was scheduled to meet with a geneticist to screen my unborn baby
for abnormal genes and diseases.
It was something my doctor said was recommended for every woman
over the age of 35, and I am 36.
At 12 weeks, I'd already had a nuchal translucency screening—a non-invasive prenatal
test that assesses your baby's risk of Down Syndrome, other chromosomal
abnormalities and major congenital heart problems.
It took me a full year to stop grieving over the loss I suffered at just over 6 weeks pregnant.
But since that
screening doesn't provide the highest level of risk accuracy available, I knew
that if I wanted to find out—with more than 99 percent certainty—whether my baby had DS, trisomy 13, trisomy
18 or sex chromosome abnormalities such as Turner syndrome and Klinefelter
syndrome, I'd probably need to go the invasive route: amniocentesis or CVS.
Amniocentesis—usually done when a woman is between 16 and 22 weeks pregnant—allows your
practitioner to gather information about your baby's health from a sample of your
The procedure is
similar to that of CVS, or chorionic villus sampling, which also
detects chromosomal abnormalities. Normally performed between 11 and 13 weeks, the test involves a practitioner taking cells from
minuscule finger-like projections on the placenta called the chorionic villi to
But both CVS and amniocentesis carry a small risk of miscarriage: For amniocentesis, it's between 1 in 300 and 1 in
500; for CVS, it's an overall 1 in 100 risk, according to the Mayo Clinic.
And for someone
who experienced a miscarriage less than two years ago, even the slightest
chance my beloved baby would not make it was not something I could take
It took me a full
year to stop grieving over the loss I suffered at just over 6 weeks pregnant:
Every night for a month afterward, I sat and cried for the
child that would never be.
I slipped into a
depression that did not go away until I convinced myself that this was, very
possibly, just a one-time tragedy, and that I wasn't doomed to be childless for
the rest of my life.
Still, the fear of
being that 1 in 100, 200, 300, 400 or 500 was not easy to shake the second time
around. I laid awake at night for days before my appointment, mentally weighing
the pros and cons. Problem was, there seemed to be only one pro—to know the status
of my child's health—and one major con—to never know my child at all.
And so I sat in
that Baptist church and prayed for the courage to make a decision—to either
take a test or roll the dice and play whatever card I was given.
While doing some online research, I found an article that mentioned new non-invasive prenatal tests
that can detect certain genetic conditions by analyzing fragments of fetal DNA
inside a pregnant woman's blood.
Since I wasn't sure if the tests had been approved or were
even offered by my hospital, I had all but forgotten about them by the time I
went to my appointment.
This explains my shock, relief and unadulterated glee when my geneticist offered me one.
A simple, painless, less-than-30-second blood withdrawal, and I was on my way.
Two weeks later, I got the call I'd been waiting for—the
one with the results of my non-invasive prenatal test.
Not only had the nuchal translucency screening ruled that I have a less than 1 in 1,150 chance of having a child with Down syndrome, trisomy 13 or trisomy 18, the new prenatal test also put my odds even lower.
I will never know if I would have gone through with the amniocentesis or CVS. Truthfully, I still hadn't made up my mind by the time I'd gotten to the waiting room—but boy, am I glad I didn't have to.
Fifteen weeks into my journey, and I've never been happier or more optimistic about what's to come.