I awoke on October 18, 2011, eager to see my mother, who decided to fly up for my first doctor’s appointment. As soon as I saw her flurry of red hair and big black coat, I relaxed, instantly falling into a hug. She came bearing gifts. “I hope this isn’t taboo,” she said, as she handed over our first onesies, little butter and white hats and tiny mittens for the baby. I fingered the soft material, unable to believe that this could be for the infinitesimal being growing inside me.
She also gave me the pink dress I was brought home in and one of my favorite children’s books that’s no longer in print. The dress instantly made me think of my grandmother, and how much I miss her. She, almost more than anyone, would be so happy to know that I am pregnant.
We took my mom to get her Starbucks fix and then headed to Northwestern, situated just off of Lakeshore Drive. The frigid temperature and warm tea in my hand didn’t calm my nerves. Every time I see a doctor’s office, I get nervous. My blood pressure spikes, I start to sweat, and I just generally fear “bad” things are around the corner. It’s rare you go for something positive, and for this circumstance, I was thankful.
In my forgetful state, I seemed to have brought everything but my driver’s license for the woman at check-in. Luckily, the front desk woman (who happened to be from Nashville) let me hand her a miniature business card instead.
“Who this?” she asked.
“That’s me. Sorry, it’s all I have.”
“Okay, child. Okay!”
I was called back right on time, and Alex went with me, our first pre-natal visit as soon-to-be parents. I instantly thought of all the things we’ve done together – from deciding to move in together on our own, to getting engaged, to planning and paying for our own wedding, to getting a puppy, and now this – starting a family. The only constant is that we’ve done it our way, and I know this will be no exception.
As we were carted back, I faced the scale, removing my boots and my scarf (whatever would help). Miraculously, I was still the same weight as last month when I first found out: 128.2. “I can’t believe I weigh the same,” I said, feeling the swell in my belly and my massive boobs.
After taking my blood pressure, we were carted off to meet Dr. Chen, a sliver of a woman who looked not more than 30 years old, but had a very professional “air” about her. We talked, she collected my medical history, told me I should get a flu vaccine (to which I responded “never”) and then we went for our full exam.
I undressed, putting on the pink gown that opened in the front and draped the paper cloth I can never remember what to do with across my lap. How strange to have your husband in the room, when this is a ritual I’ve been doing by myself since I was fifteen.
“It’s your first pap smear!” I told Alex.
He came and stood by my head as Dr. Chen performed a regular pap and then inserted the large wand for my first ultrasound. My heart pounded nervously as I anticipated what she might see. She turned the screen to us and showed us the outline of my uterus and there, inside of it, was our little walnut (literally, it looks like a walnut) and the beating heart that brought tears to his eyes.
As she was measuring, she said it appeared I was only 7.5 weeks and not the 9 weeks my period suggested I should be. I explained that I have longer cycles (around 35 days) and that we know the exact day this happened, which would make me exactly 7.5 weeks. She scheduled me for a dating ultrasound the next week to determine the exact due date and measurements, but it looked like this little poptart will be born sometime in late May.
I dressed and we went back to her office, where she went through the run down of the genetic testing available. “Would you abort a baby if it had Down’s Syndrome?” she asked.
I looked to Alex, baffled.
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. “We haven’t discussed it.”
“If you think you would abort it, then you should probably get testing.”
Apparently, there are two types of tests: screening and diagnostic – one will give me a probability. The other will be a certainty. She ticked off what they would do (and that the main risk of the diagnostic was miscarriage), and I told her there was no way I was having a needle stuck into my belly. After leaving, we concluded not to do the testing. Call me naive, but I don’t feel we need it.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, in texting pics to my close friends and family and having a delicious Italian dinner (of what I could stomach anyway) at Francesca’s. I was sad to see my mother go the next morning – so much so, that we have been contemplating moving to Nashville, if only to have the emotional support of this massive transition. Whether that’s in two months or two years, I know that I want my child to grow up with my parents and close friends. I can’t imagine doing this without them.
We have time, of course – plenty of time to figure it out. But, seeing that little flicker of a heartbeat onscreen has given me a new sense of urgency… one that I never knew existed.
I am ready for the challenges ahead. The uncertainty, the fear, the excitement – it’s what life has always been about, and this is no exception.
We will do it together.