The toughest test of my life

August 31, 2016


As I said when I announced my pregnancy, we’ve had a couple of setbacks, the most upsetting being more testing for Down’s Syndrome with a NIPT test. I wrote the below when I was in the middle of the uncertainty, waiting for the results. Thankfully, a day later I got the all-clear, but I wanted to share how I was feeling, in case other mums-to-be are in the same boat, and to reassure them that it happens, they’re not alone, and the numbers are often on your side x


Exactly a week ago, almost to the minute, my phone rang. A few days before I’d been to the doctor for my 12-week check-up, which includes scans blood tests to screen for Down’s Syndrome, and I’d been expecting the results in an absent-minded, half forgotten about it kind of way.


When the name of the clinic flashed the screen I picked up, expecting to speak to a nurse, who would tell me all was normal, but it was my doctor’s voice I heard. A lump came to my throat immediately.


In his kindly, factual way, he explained that the blood tests had come back with a risk that was ‘higher than we’d like’ – at a one in 53 chance that our unborn baby would be born with a chromosome ‘disorder’, or around a 2% chance, if your brain works like that.


We needed another test, and his nurse would call me immediately to book me in. I called my husband in tears, sitting in behind the wheel in a multi-storey carpark. One in 53. I imagined 53 women in a room. Whose baby would it be?


In our relationship it’s fair to say that I’m usually the optimist. The perky one, while my husband is more… steady. He talks me down from the ledge, whether I’m teetering with wild excitement, or hysterical tears. And that’s what he did. “Okay, speak to the nurse, book the appointment, and we’ll deal with the results, whatever they are”.


Within seconds of hanging up, the nurse called, gently telling me that I needed to come in that day. And the blood test wasn’t covered by insurance. And it cost Dhs4,250 (about $1,150). In cash. I know, I know, it’s only money, but… another blow. The results wouldn’t be back for a week, at least.


I continued the morning as normal, explaining my red eyes with a cold, and found myself clenching my jaw, trying not to weep as I drove. That afternoon I cried as the doctor explained that it was still very low risk, and cried as the nurse took my blood, and cried as I called my husband afterwards.


That night, he did his best to talk me down from the ledge again, with rational, logical reason, the fact that if we were in the UK that because the nuchal scan was normal that we wouldn’t have had the blood test, but my hormone-addled head wasn’t having any of it.


And naturally, your brain starts looking for answers, explanations in the most irrational places. Was it because I moaned about not having a boozy summer? Because I wasn’t wearing my Grandma’s ring that day at the clinic? Because my life has been too easy, and my luck has finally run out?


We’ve stopped sending each other jokey baby name suggestions.


In some way, I suspect I’m behaving as though as I’ve already received the bad news, so when I hear the worst I’ll be clear-headed and be able to take action. In theory.


It has, needless to say, been a tough week. The results haven’t come back yet, and I’ve spent the last few days regretting telling anyone that I’m pregnant. Because… what if?


My mind has been racing ahead to the results – what do we do if it comes back positive? If we decide to end the pregnancy, how do we do that? What do we tell people? Could I go through with that, and if we didn’t what would the implications be for our family? More challenges? And would it be fair to our daughter? It is, quite frankly, overwhelming.


Of course, I’ve been looking into the tests, scouring forums for similar odds and stories, and was left thoroughly confused – talk of false positives and further tests didn’t help. I just want to know that this peach-sized baby inside me is okay. That I’ll be okay, whatever happens, because I feel like this might be something I won’t be able to bounce back from very easily.


And what I don’t know, is just how many people, how many of my friends, have been through this and not told anyone. Because I think I’d find it easier if I didn’t feel so alone.


Illustration by Veronica Dearly.

2 responses to “The toughest test of my life”

  1. Liane says:

    And in those few cases when the numbers aren’t on your side, and the situation becomes very painfully real and all those decisions and mindracing is your reality, everyone should know there ARE forums and mommyboards and experts who are the only way I could have gotten through it. Not being the only human suffering through such a life experience was a very powerful part of my ability to maintain sanity. If you ever need support for any niche, the internet is a very full place where there just might be a confidante in Kansas or New York or London or Dubai that will make you feel less alone and small against such big realities.

  2. […] with a much-wanted baby, I couldn’t stop crying. We’d just been given the all clear from the NIPT test for chromosome disorders, but I just wasn’t happy, or […]

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