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At the very beginning of the pregnancy, Jen had a “Quad Screen” done, which got its name because it tests for spina bifida, anencephaly, and for both Edward’s and Down’s Syndromes. Her test was a resounding negative on all counts. And so we sighed in relief, and sallied forth.
But back in December, when we went for our very first Ultrasound, I noticed that the tech was focusing on the baby’s heart quite a bit. And then she spent a similar amount of time snapping images of her little kidneys.
The doctor came in afterward and said that there were “a couple of issues.” The baby had a small calcification on her heart which, apparently, isn’t all that uncommon and poses no significant risks to the child’s development. She also had more fluid in her kidneys than she was technically supposed to, which is also apparently very common. Put together, though, the doctor said these are “soft markers” for Down’s Syndrome and that we’ll need to go speak to their genetic therapist.
Those are big words. And when they’re spoken aloud to you, they hit like “cancer,” “Parkinson’s” or “Alzheimer’s.” Suddenly, that idealistic stained-glass fatherhood that I’d been envisioning burst and shattered all around me as I considered the possibility of having a severely disabled child.
We immediately met with the genetic counselor, and she showed us just how unlikely it was that our child would have Down’s. (Given that we’d already had the quad screen, it was 1000-to-1 against.) It didn’t matter. The word itself was all I was hearing. Down’s. And all I could focus on were the prideful assumptions, the dreams of ivy league colleges, the boasts of her beauty, and the general belief that your child will get the same chances in life that every other kid gets. These were all falling over like set pieces on a stage.
So we scheduled a much more specific blood test, and spent a very long week agonizing over the possibility that our child might not be normal.
I won’t make you suffer as we did over that time. The test came back negative. Our daughter does not have any chromosomal disorders. (Other than the fact that roughly half them floating around in there come from me.)
Now obviously Daphne is not here yet, and so we’re not entirely out of the woods as far as developmental problems go. But we’ve closed the door on the possibility of Down’s Syndrome, which is a small relief. And, more importantly, I got a fleeting glimpse of what it would feel like to be the parent of a disabled child. Granted, I got a very fine misting versus the crashing waves of difficulty that they must face daily, but I gleaned a slightly better understanding than what I had before.) At the very least, I’m much more reticent to use the word “retard,” and in the times I have there’s an immediate pang of guilt.
I think this is on my mind because we’re due for our next ultrasound on Thursday. I’ve no reason to believe that anything will be wrong, but there are still some raw nerves associated with that place and that day. And as such it nudges me slightly off my normal orbit.
And yes, I’m quite certain that this will not be the last time that I worry about the health of my daughter.