When I was 20 years old, we found out we were expecting our first baby. Of course, we were thrilled and more than a little terrified. There’s just something about knowing you will be responsible for a real, living, breathing human who will be tiny and depend on you for absolutely everything. The words, “You’re going to be a mom,” with all the expectations included with the title, ring in your ears, and worries you never thought you’d have instantly spring up for the weeks, months, forever to come. But this was going to be our child, a perfect mix of my husband and me. So I suppose you could say we couldn’t have been more thrilled AND terrified.
We went to that first ultrasound appointment, giddy with the anticipation of seeing our baby for the first time. I was 12 weeks along. It was the most adorable thing I had ever seen, the little figure wiggling around with a profile as clear as day. I saw my nose and Ryan’s forehead, tiny little feet, a tiny little head… They handed us the photos, and we were dismissed to the lobby to await my doctor. As we sat there, we couldn’t help but stare at the perfect image of our little one. It felt like we were in our own bubble, surrounded with joy and expectancy.
Then that bubble popped.
My doctor came in to my room with a neutral look on her face. “There was an abnormality in the ultrasound,” she said, the words sounding like a different language to me. “The fetus has a growth on its neck called a cystic hygroma.” As we sat there, eyes wide with disbelief, she told us the risk of such a diagnosis and the chance that our baby wouldn’t make it.
It’s one of those things you truly believe will never happen to you. You think, “I’m healthy enough, that won’t happen,” and then it does. There’s nothing you can do about it, nothing you could have done to prevent it. But there is nothing more helpless than knowing that your baby is sick, growing inside of you, closer to you than he or she will ever be, and yet you are completely powerless to do anything about it.
We saw a fetal specialist the next day who confirmed my doctor’s diagnosis. Next they promptly set us down with a genetic counselor. She first asked if we were interested in terminating the pregnancy, and we gave a firm “no”. Whatever the odds, whatever the outcome, whatever pain it would cause us, our baby deserved a chance. She then threw out numbers, statistics, shared some experiences of patients she’d seen throughout the years. None of it really mattered though because it didn’t change the fact that nobody knew what was going to happen.