Thursday, April 18, 2013

on good news, and dodging the odds

Last Thursday, after two weeks of waiting, we heard from the geneticist with results.  I was sitting on a boat in Florida, visiting my mom and step-dad, when I heard the good news.  After I hung up, after I knew that as far as any test could show there wasn't any genetic problem, I was thankful for those little club feet.  Those perfect, little, turned-in-on-themselves feet.

For a few days I suffered from some version of survivor guilt.  I didn't know what to say here after the nerves had passed and I knew that I had dodged some sort of odds bullet.  That in one day the geneticist may have made several other calls, with different words, different outcomes, different lives changed.

It would have been alright.  We would have been ok.  I know that.  But I also know that our lives were just made easier by not having to hear something different from that call.

I haven't written here this winter because I thought it would be a jinx.  I worried about getting my hopes up only for something awful to happen.  I didn't mean to let that negativity slip in, but I couldn't shake the feeling that our happiness could be taken away.  When Mike's Dad got sick we postponed our engagement to focus on family.  He passed away a year later and we postponed again because it was all just so sad.  Finally, when things were calm, we moved forward.  Only to have the tragedy of tragedies strike just a week before the wedding.  You can understand my hesitation. 

I don't believe that the world works this way.  I don't believe that there is some hand of fate that builds you up just enough to knock you down, but I couldn't be sure.  And so I wrote quietly.  In the notes app on the phone.  In scribbled margins of work notebooks.  But I didn't write any of it here.

But maybe I should.  Maybe now that I remember that good news and bad news comes and goes and we still move forward, maybe I'll remember what it felt like to share it here. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

on traffic and the Kosciuszko

On the BQE heading from Brooklyn to Queens, just as the road rises over the Kosciuszko bridge, there's a perfect span to the west of the Manhattan skyline.  Beneath the highway is Newtown Creek, to the north an acres wide cemetery (the kind my brother and I used to joke about, "aren't their heads bumping?"), then the East River, then Manhattan.  Without fail, no matter what time of day it is, there will be traffic on this stretch.  On nights when my Dad would drive me home from his place in Brooklyn Heights, I loved this traffic.  It meant I got him for another 20 minutes.  It meant another 20 minutes in the car for me to ramble on about every piece of information that entered my stream of consciousness.  For me to share the things I only shared in those quiet minutes when no one else was around. 

Last Thursday, Mike and I went to my doctor for a 21 week scan.  It was meant to be the last sonogram of the pregnancy.  I didn't want unneeded scans and I made the appointment for Mike's spring recess so he could be with me, so he could see that little being kicking around one last time before seeing it in person in August.  The sonogram tech made her measurements, chatted, and then left the room to show the doctor the pictures she gathered.  Last time this happened, the doctor came in, shook my hand, and told me that all was well and he'd see me next time.  Instead, last week, the doctor came in as he was putting his hands into a pair of gloves.  He sat down and said he'd like to do the sonogram himself.  I grabbed Mike and squeezed-doctors don't perform sonograms unless something is wrong.

Soon after we learned that our baby to be has bilateral club foot.  Both of its feet are turned inward, nearly upside down on themselves.  This time, as we watched on the screen and knew what we were looking for, it was clear.  Little knees, little legs, and then two too-small feet stuck awkwardly at right angles to the ankles.  Minutes later, in the doctor's office as we talked about the scan, I let a few tears fall.  I imagined the casts and braces (in my mind, some polio-era contraption), of my baby never walking normally and of being in pain.  All of which is dramatic and unrealistic-but the brain does strange things when confronted with such a surprise. 

We met with a geneticist that afternoon and learned that 90% of club foot cases are isolated.  Meaning, the only issue is the feet, which will be fixable and treatable (it seems braces have come a long way since the 1930's) and in most cases cured by the time the child starts to walk.  But with that lingering 10%, that stubborn remainder, the feet are a sign of a greater genetic issue.  A chromosomal defect.  One in particular that could lead to a "question of viability outside the womb", and so we are now in the midst of a 10-14 day wait on the results of last Friday's amio*.

That first night, as I tried to think only positive thoughts, as Mike cheered me by looking up every professional athlete who was born with club feet (there are a lot), as we told ourselves that 90% is a huge number and we don't have anything to worry about, I wanted my Dad.  It was a Thursday and I knew he was at his weekly gig.  But, more than knowing he was just out of the house, he felt very far away in Mexico, and I let myself cry for the first time since hearing the news.  In that moment, I wanted to feel like the kid, to be told what will be will be, but it will be alright either way.  To be in the passenger seat on the BQE, stuck in traffic on the Kosciuszko.  For the quiet moments in the car between my ramble and his words.

*A few days later our doctor sent us for a fetal echocardiogram to rule out any congenital heart abnormalities.  The scan showed another "soft marker" for genetic issues, an echogenic focus on the heart, so the amnio should tell us more about that as well.  Waiting.  Waiting.  

(not my photo)