Friday, November 19, 2010

The Window

You know, there are a lot of people who thought my window had already closed.  In fact, that it had been closed for a while.  Like The American Medical Association.  They give all women 35 and up who become pregnant “high risk” status.  I never understood until it happened to me how difficult it is to live with such a status.  It’s like your some kind of jihadist.  Like you willingly went and put on an explosive vest. 

There was the summer person I had in my cab the first season I drove a taxi on the island, like a decade ago.  He was sixty-something and I was taking him to his tee time at Miacomet Golf and somehow we got on the subject of kids.  He asked me did I have any?  I told him no, but that I wanted to.  He flat out asked me my age and I told him, 32… He shook his head and said, “I don’t know.  My kids are all doctors, and they say if you don’t have your first child before 30, you’re really asking for trouble.”  I dropped him off with his clubs and his air of entitlement.  Have a lovely round, Mister.  Thanks for completely destroying all my dreams of future motherhood. 

When I was 35 a relative said to me, “We have babies when we’re young.”  Well thanks for the vote of confidence, there.  Really, I’m sorry.  You know, I’m really sorry that I didn’t have a kid when I was… fifteen.  Sorry that I waited… to get my braces off.  You know I’m really fucking sorry that I deigned to have a life before motherhood.  I’m sorry that I didn’t freak out and stop everything because, you know, if I hit 25 and still hadn’t had kids or at least met the man I’d have them with then I could just kiss that ride off into the pretty sunset goodbye.  The way some people think, my window was closed before I even made it out of the womb.

When I did finally become pregnant, I felt the need to explain myself, that yes, it was a good thing.  And that of course I would get all the tests and do the responsible  thing. 

At eleven weeks past the date of my last period I made a trip up to Boston for an Early Risk Assessment.    I really wasn’t concerned about it, to be honest.  I thought of this test as something I was doing to dot my I’s and cross my T’s.  It was something new and sort of sophisticated that could tell me my odds of having any issues with chromosomes long before I could get an amniocentesis, and without any of the invasiveness.  The sooner I could learn there were no problems and I could tell all who doubted me, “See, I told you!”  the happier I’d be. 
My doctor explained that in Boston they would look for protein in my blood and also do an ultrasound to measure the “neucral” or something-or-other fluid at the back of the fetal neck.  My doctor said he didn’t know if they do a full ultrasound, or if they just look at the one thing.”  I didn’t expect to learn anything definitive until after the lab results had come back.

It was a very strange experience in the doctor’s office in Boston.  As I sat in the waiting room, looking at all of these other expectant women coming and going, it struck me that they looked absolutely healthy and fine.  They didn’t look old.  They didn’t look obese.  They didn’t look any different than women in their 20’s might have looked except that these women looked like they had lives.  They looked like they knew how to take care of themselves.  They looked level-headed and ready for motherhood.

First I saw a nice nurse who pricked my finger for blood and then ushered me into the ultrasound room, where a svelte woman in a mini-skirt and high leather boots attended me.  She was not particularly warm and rather matter-of-fact as she squirted my still flat belly with the jelly and began running the camera wand over it.  “Now I’m measuring the amniotic fluid,“  she explained.  “And now I’m looking at your stool.”
            “You’re measuring my stool?”
            “Sometimes it can tell you things,” she said rather dryly.  I had no idea what she meant, and I was afraid to ask her, but I felt the need to explain that I had stopped in Chinatown for dumplings, to which she had no comment. 
I go back to watching my little baby on video, now, and I really like what I see.  I see it punching with its little hands.  At one point it looks like its sucking its thumb.  But the technician seems disinclined to share in my woozy euphoria.  She is all about business.  I find myself wondering why she dresses the way she does, in an office full of pregnant patients.  I mean, with all the legs and the leather.  Didn’t she get the memo high heels are bad for your health? 
Such are the meanderings of my mind when, after about a half an hour of sliding the wand around, she said, “Well, everything is looking fine, but because of the way the baby is turned it’s a little hard to see everything.  I’m going to send the doctor in.  Just stay where you are.”
            So in comes the doctor, whom I am meeting right now for the first time.  “Well hello!” he comes in tall and stooping, with a big goofy smile, holding out his hand.  I try to sit up to shake it and he says, “No! No! Stay right where you are!” and meanwhile I end up putting my hand in all the gross jelly on my belly.  “Let me see your beautiful baby!” he grins, and takes up the wand.
            I’m back to watching my beautiful baby swimming around on the monitor.  “Is it sucking it’s thumb?” I ask.
            “A little soon for thumb sucking,” he says.  He studies the picture briefly, then blurts, “Wait a minute.  I think there’s something wrong with the head.”
            Something wrong with the head.   Something wrong with my baby’s head.  Suddenly there is something seriously wrong with my head.  This cannot be happening, is all I can think.
            “Wait,” he says.  “Maybe I’m not seeing anything.”
            Not seeing anything?
            “Maybe I was mistaken,” he says. 
            Mistaken?  Maybe, just maybe this guy missed the class in med school where they talk about a little thing called bedside manner. 
I tell him, “I didn’t know they’d be throwing a rollercoaster ride in with the price of admission.” 
“It’s just,” he explains, “if there’s something wrong, we like to know as soon as possible, so that you can start over.  Remind me when I see you the next time,” he says, “that you are the one that I made cry.   I’ll make sure to get another good look at the head.  But I can’t say now that I see anything wrong.”
“I imagine you have seen a lot of things in your line of work,” I offer, trying to put it in perspective.
“Oh, I’m a High Risk Obstetrician,” he answered.  I’ve seen a lot of things.”
            He pulled out a chart and showed me.  “You see.  Based on your age alone, you have a very high chance of a chromosomal disorder… 1 out of 48…so we have to make sure.”
            With that he walked out, leaving me to wipe the slime off my skin, refasten my pants, and go home.   Nice to meet you, Doctor…
            It wasn’t easy for me, having a first child at the age of 42.   I had to contend with a sizeable dose of uncertainty.  But it was worth it.  I learned that my window was very much open.  And I’m just glad I didn’t let anyone close it on me.  I would have missed out on the most amazing view I’ve ever laid my eyes upon:  the sight of my beautiful, healthy baby boy!