The slap in the face

Published on 4 August 2023 at 18:50

On January 10th, we had gone in for our routine OB visit without any major concerns. At this point, I was feeling more relief having now seen our baby's heartbeat on ultrasound. Additionally, the not so subtle onset of nausea and morning sickness had set in, reaffirming the fact that there was most definitely something happening in my body.


At this visit, we had decided to have the NIPT blood test done. Remember, this wasn't our first time going through a pregnancy and for planning purposes, we wanted to find out the baby's gender earlier instead of waiting for the 20-week anatomy scan. I had my blood drawn and was told we would receive the results in about 2 weeks. could I possibly wait another 2 weeks? I had shopping to do and a nursery to design! Admittedly, up until then, I had already started buying girl clothes and accessories. Because I was convinced by Mike's dream that we were having a girl, I had about half of a reasonably sized closet purchased for this hypothetical baby girl.


On the morning of January 24th, I received an email with partial results from our NIPT test. As I scanned the email, I searched for the only two words I was concerned with: male or female. I was completely uninterested in the other results (seriously, I want to slap myself at this point). After realizing the gender confirmation was not included in this email, I called the BillionToOne office and was told I would need to contact my doctor's office to obtain more detailed results. I called my OB's office and left a voicemail asking someone to call me back. While waiting for a return call, I was consumed by the only question floating around in my head - boy or girl?!


Then, my phone rang. Instead of hearing the nurse's voice on the other line, it was my OB. "Is this Corena?" she asked. I could instantly feel my palms get sweaty and my heart sank a little by her tone alone. "Yes, it's Corena," I answered. Here it was - the slap in the face. She proceeded to speak in what at the time I interpreted as gibberish. She said words including trisomy 18, aneuploidy and amniocentesis. I only took a breath when she shared with me that the result we received only meant that our baby was at a higher risk for having Trisomy 18, but it wasn't a confirmed diagnosis. She told me she was going to refer me to a fetal medicine doctor to discuss in more detail what our next steps would entail. As I held back tears, I finally asked the question that now didn't seem to matter as much, "Dr. Hansen? Can you tell me if we are having a boy or a girl?" She gently answered, "you're having a baby girl."


I immediately called Mike. When he answered the phone, I couldn't share the news that we were expecting our baby girl with joy - instead, it was overshadowed with panic, pain and sobbing. He said, "I'm coming home." Once he arrived home, we received a call from the maternal fetal medicine and high-risk obstetrics office. The receptionist said that we could be seen that afternoon with one of their doctors. We were instantly relieved at the idea that we would know more that day and wouldn't have to wait much longer for answers.


As we waited for our 1pm appointment, I engrossed myself in worship music. I streamed K-LOVE and encountered songs including "Even If" by MercyMe and "God of Possible" by Katy Nichole. I interpreted this as a divine encounter and as God reaffirming that everything would be okay. I had witnessed miracles happen before - people's cancerous tumors disappearing, my sister-in-law receiving a kidney after being on an extensive donor list, individuals coming to know Christ after previously renouncing Him. This circumstance wouldn't be too much for Him. All it would take is a snap of His finger and he could ensure this baby's healing.


We first met with the genetic counselor who was able to break down the gibberish my OB was speaking earlier. Trisomy 18 (T18) occurs in 1 in 6,000 births and is considered fatal. It occurs more commonly as a mother ages, but can randomly occur in younger moms. It is a result of a third copy of the 18th chromosome making it almost impossible for babies to develop normally making them "incompatible with life". She stated that because I was going to be turning 35 soon and because of other factors including my ethnicity, weight, etc, the chances of our baby girl having T18 increased to 6 out of 10 or 60%. This would leave a 40% chance of her not having it at all, but we wouldn't know for sure without a confirmed diagnosis through amniocentesis.


We then met with the maternal fetal medicine doctor who provided the potential next steps. We could have an amniocentesis performed, but would need to wait another couple of weeks before doing so. This test was considered the gold standard with a 99.9% accuracy rate, but would also increase the chance of miscarriage by about 1%. He mentioned that we could have an ultrasound done before performing the amniocentesis and if there weren't any findings consistent with T18, we could forgo the procedure altogether.


We were now faced with sharing this news with our families and our kids. Just weeks before, we were so excited to share our pregnancy with everyone and now, here we were, faced with so many unknowns. We sat our kids down and told them that they were going to have a baby sister, but there was a possibility that she would be sick. We told them it was okay for them to be sad, but we didn't know anything for sure yet. We wanted them to feel validated by any emotion they felt. We encouraged them to ask questions and we would answer them as best we could. That night, we decided to go out for dinner. Mike asked me what I wanted to eat...easy answer: Mexican. Always. On the way to the restaurant, we listened to "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles and instantly deemed it "Sunny's song".

"Little Darlin' - it's been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little Darlin' - it feels like years since it's been here. Here comes the sun, doo-do-do-do. Here comes the sun and I'll say - it's alright."

I remember turning to Mike and saying, "maybe we'll sing this song to Sunny when she is born perfectly healthy and as we are enjoying the warmth of summer together as a family of 5. Maybe we'll look back at this and think it was just another road block we had to get past."


Little did we know we would be entering a deep period of refinement through the next several months.

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