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Surviving the Amnio

We had the amniocentesis test yesterday, and anticipation was in fact worse than actuality.

We arrived at the lab at 1:00 sharp, as I had explicitly been instructed to do by the nurse who made our appointment over the phone two weeks ago.

At around 1:30 we were called in to meet with the genetic counselor, who took our genetically determined defect histories and drew a family tree of x's and y's. She then described what we would be testing for: chromosome pairs vs. triplets, and why my moldy-old eggs might contribute more chromosomes than they should. And how the FISH test that we ordered (for an extra $300 out-of-pocket that goes toward our sky-high deductible) differs from the regular amniocentesis test. For this part of the conversation, she had a flipbook of visual aids.

FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) is a relatively new test: Instead of growing the fluid in a culture (which takes ten days) to check all of the chromosomes, they introduce a set of fluorescent markers that attach to five specific chromosomes: 13, 18, 21, x, and y. Results are available in 72 hours.

For each marker, we hope to only see two bright fluorescent dots, not three. 21 is the Down's chromosome, 13 and 18 are the other two frequently found abnormalities, creating disorders that don't have cute names and are very very not-good.

I told her about our toxoplasmosis scare and asked if the fluid would be tested for that. She said no, but after she had returned us to the waiting room, she came back and informed me that the doctor said we could do it. It would mean taking more fluid.

So while I have dreaded this test, I ended up ordering two extra (FISH, toxo), meaning that they would have to take three vials of fluid. Lucky lucky brilliant me. No, I don't feel guilty. Me? Never. Not at all...

Sometime after 2 p.m., we were ushered into the dark cubicle where the ultrasound machines live. For what seemed like an hour (and might have been), a very friendly woman took scan after scan of our developing baby's body parts. We saw the hands waving to us, a pair of feet tucked under its little butt, the mouth yawning, the skull, brain bits, kidneys, heart, pelvic bones, spine.

The radiologist made all sorts of observations (non-medical). "Oh look — the baby's waving at you. This one is going to be very social... This baby likes to sleep on its stomach." At one point, she started having me flip from one side to the other, and almost onto my belly. She seemed to be frustrated. I asked her what she wanted from us. She said, "I need the baby to turn over."

I said, "Oh, all you have to do is tell us."

She joked back, "Like any child actually does what you ask it to."

I sent a telepathic request to the baby. Immediately, it flipped.

Huh? I don't know. I'm just saying, that's what happened.

She had us close our eyes during the part where she checked the genitalia. We had instructed her to write the magic answer down on a piece of paper so we could look at it, just us, later.

Then the doctor came in and informed us that all structures appeared perfect. And our little one is exactly on target growth-wise for 16-and-a-half weeks. The only problem they found was that the umbilical cord has two arteries instead of the "normal" three. This used to be considered an indicator of Down's or other abnormalities — but  recent research has made that conclusion more inconclusive.

"I don't know why we even mention it anymore," the nice doctor said.

Yes, why? Thanks. It did make me feel better on one tiny count: If we had done the full scan at 12 weeks and they'd found that, I would have been worrying about it for a month and may even have been worried enough to opt for CVS instead, a procedure I did not want to have.

When it was time for the needle, I shut my eyes and kept them shut the whole time. Scott stroked my head and held my hand, whispering encouragement. The tech and doctor gave a running verbal commentary. "You're doing great... The baby's doing great... The fluid is nice and clear... We're halfway done... Two more minutes."

I used my throaty yoga breath. I called up my meditation mantra. It didn't hurt terribly, but it was uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. I tried very hard to relax. I tried not to cry, as I didn't want to vibrate anything.

And then it was over. I opened my eyes. The radiologist handed me three thick vials so that I could double-check my name and birth date on the labels. The liquid was sparklingly clear. The vials were so warm. I wasn't prepared for that.

I felt light-headed. My PC muscles tingled. Quite a bit. The doctor said this was normal.

We came home and I rested, a lot. Certain moves, like turning on my side, would make the tingling more intense and add to my queasy feeling, so I tried to stay pretty still. I drank a lot of water and juice, hoping that would help the baby replenish its little jacuzzi. (The doctor had said it’s mostly baby-pee.)

This morning, for probably the first time in my pregnancy, I was a little constipated. Which I share only to note that in fact my body probably did and does need liquids to recuperate from what we just did to it.

And no, we haven’t checked that slip of paper yet. I wanted to feel a little stronger first, so I could enjoy it. And I do feel better this morning. So: Soon, everyone, soon.