I was 42 years old when I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. My only son would be turning 6 soon and my husband had been recently diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder. I was hardly coping, as it was, and I wondered how on earth I would manage to juggle all the pieces of my life to make this work.
When I went to my doctor, his reaction didn't help matters. Originally from overseas, when he saw the positive pregnancy test results he blurted, "Oh, bloody Hell!" So much for congratulations! Then he asked me what I intended to do about it and added, "Do you want to terminate?"
Since I had always intended to have the baby, I left the office in a daze, wondering if I should be seeking another doctor to monitor my pregnancy. But since this was the same office where I'd received assistance when my son was born, I decided to continue with the practice.
A few weeks later I was sent for a routine blood screening. At the time I was unaware that the test was to determine if there were any abnormalities with my child. The test results soon came back. Low risk of Trisomy 18 and spina bifida, but Downs Syndrome was a distinct possibility as my personal number was 1 in 81. The doctor called me and told me I needed to come to his office, an hour away. He broke the news that my baby might have Downs Syndrome. He told me the numbers.
But what he didn't tell me was that the figures meant that if there were 81 pregnant women, in a room, when they all gave birth, statistically 80 of them would have perfectly normal infants while one would have a child with Downs Syndrome. The doctor called a specialist in the city (three hours from my home) and made an appointment for me to go there early the following week. I went home and spent the weekend in despair. Surely my baby was doomed.
My husband took the day off work so he could accompany me to the city. We left our son with his grandparents and went to see the specialist. She was encouraging and told me that she had several other women in her office that day that were also scared, based simply on the results of the routine blood screening. She stated that once there had been a women, she had as a patient, that had been given the ratio "1 in 4" chance of Downs. Yet, when that little one had been born, it was fine. I was sent home and told not to worry so much.
However, a few weeks later, I found myself back in the city for an ultrasound as my doctor was still not satisfied that everything was all right. After the specialist performed the ultrasound, she told us we were having a girl and that there was nothing to worry about.
Finally, for the last couple of months, until my due date, I could relax a little. Since I had gestational diabetes, I had to take insulin shots every time I ate. Then I developed high blood pressure and had to be hospitalized over the weekend. Eventually I was released with pills to control my blood pressure and told that a C-section would be planned in about ten more days. At the time of the birth, I was 43.
When our daughter, who is now 6 years old and in Grade 1, was born, she was perfect in every way. But even if she had not been, would we have loved her any less? Even now, all these years later, some times I look at wee Isobel and wonder what if I had decided that I was too old to have another child or that the risks to my own health (or her potential Downs syndrome) were too much to handle? What if I had decided to have an abortion? What fun I would have missed! I'm glad I wasn't pushed into making the wrong decision by the initial negativity of my doctor but I shudder to think that other children have been aborted in similar circumstances.