Everything we do has possible consequences. When you get pregnant, the assumption is that everything will be fine. It may not be an opportune moment in your life, there may be issues outside the pregnancy itself that make it seem impossible to deal with, but we trust that our bodies will not betray us in the creation of a baby.
At my age, we are both a little more aware of our personal frailties and a little less convinced of our immortality than we were in our twenties, but in our heart of hearts, we don't believe that the process of pregnancy will go astray. We assume, probably quite naturally, that everything will be fine.
Even when they offer you tests they don't offer those twenty-two year old mothers, you believe that it's merely a precaution. The results will, of course, come back negative, and you and your baby will be fine. We may fret and worry, but it is our tendency as creatures of hopefulness that we can't do anything but believe that the best of health is our personal lot.
When I got my ultrasound a couple of weeks ago, there were no problems save one. There was a little shadow on the baby's heart, which the doctor explained as being a possible sign of Down's syndrome, but one that had in recent years been discounted as such. All other measurements were fabulous, and when I got a blood test done, it actually put me in a below-normal-risk category for having a child with Down's. The results more or less canceled each other out, putting me in a normal category.
Yesterday I got a call from my midwife, who wanted to talk to me about the ultrasound. She hadn't been fully informed about the results before, and had just gotten to see the completed report and wanted to address a couple of things more in depth. She too mentioned the heart shadow, and suggested that when I went in for my next ultrasound that they would be paying close attention to the baby's heart. It is possible, although completely and utterly unclear, that the baby may have something more than a shadow, and could have an actual heart defect.
Perhaps I didn't hear this the first time, but I think that the doctor merely wanted to put me at ease about the Down's syndrome, and brushed over the fact that children with Down's syndrome characteristically have heart problems, which was one way they recognized Down's without amniocentesis. He didn't want to go into the fact that, even though the child seemed to have a very low risk of Down's, there still might be another explanation for the dark spot on Tiny's heart.
Another revelation from the ultrasound was that I have what is called "Placenta Previa." Having read all the baby books and freaking myself out about all the things that could be wrong with the child, I completely glossed over the sections that wrote about the things that could be wrong with me. It didn't occur to me that there might actually be complications related to some betrayal of my physiology.
It's too early to tell if there will be problems related to this. There are several kinds of Previa, and they won't know for weeks if the kind that I have will be serious or not. Back to another few ultrasounds I go, so they can peek into the heart of me to see if my body is behaving. If it is, the baby will be born naturally and on time, barring other problems. If not, there are a wealth of issues that may come up, including premature birth, c-section (an absolute if I have serious previa), and risk of severe hemorrhaging for me. I could be confined to bedrest for weeks, or months if I start bleeding prematurely, and literally not allowed to walk around to do anything but use the bathroom. In a worst case scenario, which is always where the mind goes when one is only half-informed about anything, I could hemorrhage, have an emergency c-section, and have to have a hysterectomy to save me.
It is in situations like this where it is best to avoid the internet. My midwife of course told me how to take care of myself, but not the most serious risks of previa, knowing, I'm sure, that she shouldn't worry me unnecessarily when the doctors themselves wouldn't know anything for weeks. But with the internet right there, you enter "Placenta Previa" and back come a million sites describing all the possibilities, all the sob stories, and all of the fear-inducing worst cases. It is a nightmare of your own making, and you are helpless to stop yourself from going down the path.
Indeed, when the midwife told me that I had Placenta Previa, she made it seem pretty banal; something to watch over to be sure, but besides taking a few precautions (not moving those heavy dressers I had been threatening to move, for instance), it was most likely to end up just fine. In fact, that's true: 90 percent of women who have Previa early in their pregnancies have it resolve itself by the time the baby is born. But I didn't know about the other risks, and now I wonder if I shouldn't have kept that secret from myself. After I had thoroughly freaked myself out, I told my husband that for my sake and his, he shouldn't research it. As of yet he's refrained, I think because he knows that both of us being terrified is more detrimental than my already overactive imagination. Who will watch the nuthouse if all the orderlies have gone insane?
So one can swing from innocent blind hopefulness to paranoid shrieking fear in no time, and neither reaction is necessarily based in reality.
The reality is that things just happen. There is no reason, there is no karma involved in my body's behavior, there is no divine deity at work in the shadow on my baby's heart. Life is imperfect, as we all are imperfect, and I have to take consolation in the fact that I have a husband who loves me, a family nearby, a house to live in, and hopefully a perfectly healthy baby living in my tum. But we never know what life will hand us. It is this that makes life interesting, if tragic sometimes.