Second trimester 2009: nesting & amnios


WEEKS 13 – 17

My best friend Dee had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that year in March, 2009. She was in fact the first person I had told I was pregnant (after Craig of course).  I like to think she had been my lucky charm in getting pregnant, as while we were waiting those 2 weeks post insemination, she had left her youngest son’s baby pillow at our apartment because she believe that it would bring me good luck.

For the next few weeks I spent time visiting Dee either at her home or meeting at a deli in the Valley or occasionally she and her family would come to Venice, and other times I’d have to visit her in the hospital.  She, despite having a serious cancer with a 50/50 chance, two sons, and being the earner of the house-hold, found time to help me nest.  We went through her baby’s clothing and blankets and sorted through what I would need.  She explained to me why she had the little baby gloves; she explained about how nails would grow and I’d have to clip them regularly so the baby wouldn’t hurt herself.

Yes, herself: I was convinced I was having a girl, and Craig and I were sort of agreed on naming her Scarlett, though it wasn’t officially official.  We didn’t refer to her by that name, though; Craig often asked how Ziggy was, the nickname he’d created from the term zygote, which simply refers to an embryo in early pregnancy.

I was feverish on nesting, and began gathering items not only from Dee but from Jodi, mother of two, and Lisa, mother of 3.  Nesting was a great time, a very special time, made particularly enjoyable for me since I had so many friends who were happy to hand things down to me, and since I am the personality type who just loves to prepare and anticipate (read: slight case of O.C.D.).

My mother called a couple of times and I hung up on her.  I didn’t have time for any negativity in my life, and was still in shock from her behavior from when I told her I was pregnant, and so I rejected her; she was too dangerous to my fragile condition, and I was protecting my family by keeping her away.


At around week 17, I underwent my 2nd trimester blood work, in which the plan was to gauge any possible genetic issues. The test results uttered to me by my Israeli gynecologist came back with a recommendation to seek genetic counseling, interestingly enough I found, paid for by the state of California.

I was very nervous, and gathered all of the information and experiences I could from the Internet and other couples.  Different people had approached it different ways.  I recalled a story of my college friend who for her 2nd pregnancy received the same type of blood work news, had an amniocentesis, complications from which ended the life of her unborn child, mid 2nd trimester in-vitro.

While we were still a single car household, I had rented a car that week (though I forget why) so was able to meet Craig at the doctor’s office during his lunch hour. He ate the lunch I had brought for him in the lobby, and then we met with a genetic counselor.  This woman, this genetic counselor, sat across from us outlining and educating us on the possibility of issues with the baby based upon my blood test.  The chances weren’t huge that we would have a baby with down or any other syndrome or issues, but they definitely existed, in part she presumed because of my age – I had conceived at 38 and was now 39 – and in part because of other statistics.

Neither she nor the State of California were able to recommend an amnio for me, but me, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to rest for the duration of the pregnancy without knowing the health of this baby, needed to do the test.

The woman left the room to let Craig and I discuss it, but I had already made the decision, and Craig supported it.

An Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a long needle is stuck into the woman’s body, all the way into the uterus, from which a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken and then tested, to determine any chromosomal abnormalities.  Not only are there risks associated with puncturing the sac, meant to protect your baby from all of the germs and elements that your adult body carries, but there is also always risk that the puncture turns into a hole – which most certainly would cause a baby to die.

It felt very invasive; not to me personally, because by this time I was used to doctors poking inside of me, but I felt uncomfortable subjecting my little baby to this intrusion; a mother’s instinct happens very early on and mine was in full effect as I rubbed my belly and silently comforted my child.

Craig had to leave to go back to a meeting, as the consultation had taken way longer than we’d anticipated, and once he left, I was left alone in this room with an incredible 3D monitor with the doctor and the technician.

It was time I would find out my baby’s gender.

I was confident that I was carrying a girl.  I’d had a dream that I was holding my really beautiful baby, and in the dream knew she was my daughter.

And then there they were, telling me SHOWING ME I was carrying Craig’s son.

I don’t meant to be sexist, but it actually seemed too good to be true.  I felt a pride rush through me that I’d never before experienced.  Our first-born was to be a boy.  I was going to have a son.  I felt almost virile and alive and began racking my brain for our baby boy’s name.

I called Craig.  He may have almost crashed out of pure shock.  He was elated.  I had never heard Craig so happy.  Still in the doctor’s office, I then turned my attention to the amazing screen that was showing movies of my baby.  He was jumping up and down.  Literally jumping as if he was in one of those bouncies they have at little kids’ birthday parties.

There he was, bouncing away in my uterus, incredibly active, and at one point – and this is no exaggeration and I have the DVD to prove it – he looked at me and gave me a thumb’s up.

And I became less interested or worried about the results of the amnio, because now on top of the silent connection we had built, I had physical evidence of my relationship with my unborn child, my son, and I couldn’t be brought to imagine that anything would go wrong.  I had plenty of friends who’d had amnios and there had been no issues. My blood work wasn’t that alarming that an issue seemed highly likely, so I chose to be elated.

I would sit in bed for the next couple of days and tell my friends that I, who had been so confident that I was carrying a girl, now felt like a superior human being because I was carrying a boy.  I don’t mean superior like I thought I was better than anyone else, but rather, superior because I had this little baby boy inside of me and he was growing and would carry on Craig’s name and I never felt happier.  All of these emotions as I laid on bed-rest, following the doctor’s instructions exactly so as to reduce any and all issues post this high- risk procedure.

I went over our meeting with the genetic counselor in my head multiple times, in which she described different percentages of risks for chromosomal abnormalities in our baby.  She had been warm and sensitive in an ‘I-work-for-the-state-of-California’ sort of a way; while she was sensitive to decisions we may have to make, she was in no way actually warm and fuzzy and sensitive.

After we’d told her that we were going to proceed and opt for the amnio, she had defined the waiting period for the results and next steps.  “If when I call and I get your voice-mail and the news is good, I will say exactly that in the message.  If we need to speak, I will leave my phone number and ask you to call me back.”

Like any human being, I became increasingly nervous while I was awaiting the results of that invasive procedure.  10 days later, I missed her call, only to receive a dreaded voice-mail message from her asking me to call her back.  I panicked, and then called her, at which time this genetics counselor advised me, “The baby does not have down syndrome.  We took 32 colonies of cells, and out of the 32, 31 are normal, meaning that each has chromosomes of 46.  What this means is that either the baby is going to be fine, or he has an incredibly rare disease called Trisomy 18.”

I nearly had a heart attack.

She said that it was possible these findings were just an artifact from the culture, as it is a culture’s job to ‘expedite’ the growth of the cells, so instead of dividing and multiplying normally, there could have been a glitch there – in the lab, which would be a reflection of the test tube experiment, and not what’s actually in my body.

She said a lot of things, and I didn’t understand most of them, as how could my brain actually function when I had seemingly stopped breathing?

I spoke to every professional I could find. I asked whether typically a baby with Trisomy 18 might abort on its own, and nobody had any answers, as there weren’t enough case studies.

I asked if this chromosomal count was perhaps leftover from the invisible twin who we’d lost so early on, and the answer was no.

I talked to my mother-in-law.  I cried to Craig, to my friends Jodi and Tammi, to my eldest sister – to anyone who would listen.  I made a decision to have a 2nd amnio, because, as I explained to Craig through a combination of dread and tears – still without taking a breath since I had that conversation with the counselor, I wouldn’t be able to rest for the remaining 21-odd weeks until I knew about the baby’s health.

Either way.

So on October 29th I had my 2nd Amnio.  Their intention was to test 85 colonies instead of 32 as originally tested.  And in the meantime, I had asked multiple doctors to research the disease further; lest our baby, my son, did have the disease, we had to make an informed decision as to what to do.

But I don’t know if terminating was a real option. We were so desperately in love with the baby, with the knowledge we were having a son, with our son, and while the stress and emotional weight was overwhelming, I didn’t give myself too much time to explore: What if??

So I went back in, and Craig took me home, and I don’t remember exactly how I felt, other than stressed and scared and at the point when I had to remind myself to actually breathe, since it wasn’t happening naturally.

Craig and I increased our prayer patterns to praying together several times a week.  I don’t know that either of us could have increased our personal prayers, because we each already had a very strong relationship with G-d.  By this point, I was in constant dialogue with him.

A little less than 10-days later, as they had expedited the results, I got the call that baby was fine.

I called Craig and Craig’s mom and my eldest sister, and broke down, sobbing hysterically. I couldn’t believe the amount of stress I had been holding, that was now physically manifesting itself in my tears and gasps and general being.

My Jewish father had taught me many years earlier that we shouldn’t get on our knees to pray at any of my mother’s Christian family’s weddings or funerals, as Jews don’t kneel.  But on this Friday afternoon, on this occasion, I went to my bedroom, got on my knees with my hands clenched in prayer on our bed, and thanked God from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to carry my healthy son.