I am a worrier.
Some people call me a hypochondriac, but I just think I’m extremely sensitive to minute physical changes.
Of course, you get to a certain point in all things — especially pregnancy — when you let your guard down and you begin to relax. The inevitable will happen, ready or not.
Having everybody constantly telling you "it won't be long now," for some has a universally calming effect – like Xanax. For folks like me, though, it just sets off alarms.
As I left the house for my 36-week doctor’s appointment, complete with a special womb-with-a-view monitoring of Thing 2, I had that icky feeling. That creepy, crawly, I-hate-the-late-term-appointments feeling: Something always goes wrong.
It was a familiar routine: I waited in the office for the ultrasound, reading Martha Stewart's instructions on making your own heart-shaped candy box. (This will be helpful, I think, if I ever lose my mind or decide to drive myself crazy next Valentine’s Day.)
I chat with the ultrasound technician as she scans around taking measurements. She notes that Thing 2 has moved into a head-down position, and shares my confusion over why anyone cares since the kid is going to be hatched anyway. She measures the head, legs and other body parts, which I think look more like pockets of clouds than parts of kid.
"He's really taking up every spare space there is," she laughs.
She takes a fuzzy picture of his face, and rips it from the machine handing it to me saying everything looks good. I go back to the lobby to wait for her report, which I carry to the next doctor upstairs.
I peek at the contents of my file while I climb three flights. Numbers, dates, ratios ... it seems as if I'm trying to read assembly instructions in Greek.
I’ve been through this before. There is nothing out of the ordinary.
When my name is called I go into the exam room. The doctor shakes my hand and introduces herself. We’ve not met yet. She smiles and looks at the chart.
"Well it looks like there's a dilation of one of the baby's kidneys. What we tend to do in this instance is have the baby looked at by a neonatologist after it's born to determine a course of action. It's difficult to say at this point what the significance is. ... surgery could be warranted or it maybe something that will resolve itself. ... "
Blink. Blink. Blink.
"What? What? Surgery? Watchful waiting? What?"
Her whole demeanor changed when she realized this was all new to me.
"Have you had all normal ultrasounds before?"
"Yes. Normal. Every single one has been normal."
I left the office with my head spinning. The only thing I could hold onto was the words "try not to worry" and some vague recollection of a friend whose children had been diagnosed similarly.
"This is not the end of the world. This is not the worst news you could get," I tell myself as I dodge cars and ignore traffic safety as I head back to the office.
I do the exact opposite of what one should do when I get back to my desk. I consult Dr. Google to find out what this means. I select university medical Web site information and read summaries. I come up with a 14-letter name for the condition and perform a Web search on that.
Then I call on my friends to see what they have to say.
Mostly they tell me I should be prepared for years of visits and tests with a specialist. Be ready for the smiling faces of people telling you scary things. Be ready to ask questions but try not to worry.
"Ninety percent of the time it's no big deal, but doctors follow everybody. They have to cover their butts," said a mom of a 2 ½ year old with the condition, who has gotten by with no intervention as yet. "The hardest part," she explained, "is when the doctors, who see this all the time, tell you nonchalantly, 'this could be nothing, it could lead to kidney failure or it could require surgery'."
Or, in my case, having "you realize this is a marker for Down syndrome?" thrown in for good measure.
It's never easy to convey potentially bad news, I realize, but I wish they'd take a moment to notice I am just a mom whose emotions are all intertwined with the child attached to a wonky kidney.