**warning** This is long and barely edited. I have no energy for cute pictures either. It was just time to let you all know what’s been going on…love, Lisa
These past 17 months have been the most challenging of my life and these last 11 days a special kind of torturous hell. I always thought that the consequences of my heart-breaking decision to come out finally at 38 and divorce my friend of 13 years was going to stick with me as the most challenging and necessary of my life. No. Without my wife – her strength and fierce love, there is no possible way I would have made it this far in this whole process of trying to conceive and have made it these past 11 days without (quite literally) contemplating suicide.
January last year, we pulled the trigger and started trying to conceive on our own with tedious tracking and planning and some inconvenient and awkward meetings with our baby daddy, Walter. After about 6 months of trying, we scheduled with The New Hope Center at the recommendation of a dear friend and gynecologist. Right away, Dr. Robin found that my uterus was covered in fibroids – one huge one that when removed would seal my fate in never being able to give birth vaginally. That was a tough truth to swallow, but reconciled that Anne-Marie holding our child would out weigh my deepest wish to give birth naturally.
This surgery (I had another invasive abdominal about 8 years ago) in August left major carnage in its path – the largest fibroid being so large that it required an extra incision under my ribcage that still bothers me to this day when I eat a little too much, or when I sit too long, or now with being pregnant the pressure of my swollen abdomen. Healing was a lengthy and arduous process that almost broke my spirit, but Anne-Marie was my rock, my nurse, my cheerleader. As soon as we were permitted to start the process with New Hope in February, we did. Being 42 was making the big clock in the sky tick fucking fast. Anne-Marie and I were ready and knew that who we are as people and to each other was the perfect foundation to push ahead and face anything that was tossed our way.
After two failed cycles, the third was to be our last if we could pull together the energy and the money – enter YOU, all of YOU that made us a part of you and made us feel you and your love and your genuine support so deeply that I think that helped with the third cycle being successful.
Success!! The hardest year of our lives and we made a human with all of your help! I’ve started a blog post in my head about a thousand times to share my first trimester with you all – but I was so miserable so much of the time that I didn’t want to seem too negative, so I thought I would wait until it (hopefully) passed and I could have perspective.
Last Wednesday June 10th at 7:30am all of our smiles through the nausea and the heartburn and the exhaustion – all of our laughter at the strangeness of people’s behavior once they know there’s a baby in your belly – all of the celebration and storytelling back and forth with other mothers quickly became a heavy-hearted flood of tears and sadness that we both thought might swallow us whole. Time stood still and we could not fathom that this could be our story.
Our team at New Hope highly recommended that we take the InformaSeq Prenatal Test at 10 weeks to rule out any chromosomal abnormalities. I did share with a friend that I was a little nervous – being over 40 comes with risk, but I had already been through so much and weathered so much physical and emotional battering that the Divine couldn’t possibly see to give us any more challenges. So, we put it out of our mind. We got the call that Monday night that we needed to get with Dr. Robin right away and our hearts sank, but we refused to leave the moment and refused to let our minds get the best of us. We held each other tightly and remained calm.
Trisomy 21 – Down’s Syndrome. It was as if we were thrown into a nightmare unable to shake ourselves awake. We were frozen and squeezing each others hands so tightly as if it could numb out the pain. Dr. Robin very calmly led us through what to do next and what our options would be depending on what we decided to do with the pregnancy. Our first next step was to have another more invasive test, the Chorionic Villus Sampling, that would yield more concrete results. The New Hope Center set up the appointment for us to meet with the staff at Maternal Fetal Medicine at EVMS the following Monday.
In the meantime, we both had to work – that day. The realities of this past year have left us living paycheck to paycheck with no room for errors. I had four clients that day and was in such a haze the whole time that I barely remember the day. Having a job that involves taking care of people and being very close in their space and energy and whether you get a paycheck or not depends on how you hold it together to give them their experience, is and was brutal. And the days that followed, the anger and anxiety were so strong that although I had to keep calm and ironically tolerate some pretty major professional degradation (this person’s timing is impeccable as usual,) I did what I could to set boundaries because I was ready to literally have a breakdown at any moment. I know Anne-Marie shared with me the same – that the anger she as feeling was bigger than any she’d ever felt before – so big that she didn’t know how to manage it and so strong that she didn’t even really have a container for this level of anger. All of you who know my wife, know that anger is not an emotion she owns often or well.
We slowly began telling people about the diagnosis mostly through texts because the telling out loud over and over and over was excruciating and letting them know that we had no idea what we were going to do – whether we would continue the pregnancy or interrupt – and ask that people not hover and not ask too many questions and just be there for us. Everyone has said that they would be there for us either way – with some interesting personal opinions slipped in here and there (why, people why?) – and that we won’t be judged and to know that we have our village.
Our appointment at EVMS was way more than we were prepared for. We were whisked back to the genetics counselor who informed us that we would be talking with her for about an hour and then we would have a full ultrasound and then whatever test we opt to have done. She said we’d be there for several hours – I panicked – I needed a snack and we were both terrified.
The staff was thorough and straightforward – the ultrasound tech was amazing at her job. This was our first abdominal ultrasound and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face – I could’t even look at Anne-Marie. There was our baby (by the way, I hadn’t been able to call it Brutini since the diagnosis – my first reaction was one of pure detachment and that this thing isn’t me and it is foreign and sick and I want it out) arms and legs and swimming and flipping around so much that the ultrasound took almost 30 minutes – the ultrasound tech was literally chasing the baby around my placenta.
Then the doc came in with the ultrasound tech, a student and his assistant. It was a whirlwind of him doing another ultrasound to be sure where my placenta was exactly before shoving the needle in my stomach and then callously informing me that my uterus is rutted and potholed, and he wondered why and if I’d given birth before – obviously this is the consequences of my fibroid surgery and why I’m unable to ever go into labor. Then the surgery set-up began – needles and draping and movement and energy and gloves and chatter as if I wasn’t even there. I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing and on Anne-Marie’s body right next to me keeping me from shattering into a million pieces.
It was painful and bizarre and the spasming in my back was excruciating, but with a needle piercing my body all of the way through to my placenta, moving or making a sound was not an option. Shock – exhaustion – cramping – fear – resignation – withdrawal – fury and absolutely no room for anyone or anything else as we wait.
We received the final results on Wednesday night June 17th. Our baby has Down’s Syndrome.