Its 5am. Ive been awake since 1am, having woken from a horrible nightmare where I was in the midst of a war against the Chinese, and my only chance of escape was to strip a dead Chinese soldier of his uniform and wear it for myself. Only to be faced with the horrifying fact there is no way I could squeeze my protruding pregnant belly and ever expanding thighs into this tiny little soldiers drainpipe trousers and knee high boots. Resistance was futile…
I have tried to sleep since, but my head is buzzing following our unexpected news yesterday. Let me take you back…
Two days ago it was my birthday. I’d been feeling rough for days with a sore throat and cough that had left my chest and belly sore. Yet I was buzzing with excitement for our official end of first trimester scan which was booked for yesterday. Having had a scan two weeks ago where I was told the baby was “perfect” we were chomping at the bit to see our baby again, but this time a little bigger and more adequately formed.
Our youngest son had joined us on the adventure as Wednesdays are his mummy and daddy day. He’s a little too young to fully understand what was going on, but was excited about seeing his new brother or sister. Meanwhile, our eldest who was at school, was being picked up by friends of ours who would feed him and spoil him until we arrived back from the hospital.
Sat outside the Salon d’Ecographie, we watched a haggle of about 6 ladies take it in turns to go into the room where a family member or friend was having her 20 week scan, and each came out brimming with happiness and babbling on in French about the tiny fingers and toes, or how cute the little baby’s nose was.
Despite still feeling rough, I felt a sense of solidarity with these women, as I too was on the same miraculous journey to bringing a new life into the World, and although their gawping and prolonged visits into the room meant my appointment was late by over 25 minutes, I couldn’t blame them for their hysterical euphoria.
I think I’d dozed off when I was finally called into the room. I was so relieved when I was told it was an external scan, and not one of those horrible internal jobbies! And within seconds, there was our baby on the screen. Wriggling around but stubbornly keeping its back to the screen. I apologised for my difficult child as my husband asked what sex it was! The sonographer smiled and said it was too early as she probed deeper into my pelvis, so much so I felt a deep aching in my lower back. She put the heartbeat up on the screen and it was loud and proud as it had been in every recent scan. I sighed with relief. My beautiful baby was growing strong. I pointed at the screen and asked if she was looking at the baby’s head. She told me she was checking for “trisomie” or downs syndrome as we know it. I watched my baby wriggle and jerk as she moved the scanner across my stomach. I asked her another question – I forget what now – but she told me she would finish the scan and then talk to me.
Never did we expect what would happen next, and the exact context of it is a blur. Yet she explained that the baby’s skull “crane” was not visible and that it appeared that what brain matter the baby did have was being held in place by the amniotic fluid. I heard her mention “cephalie” through the muffled merge of words that poured from her mouth. My heart sank. I felt numb. Tears poured from my eyes as I grabbed my heart, praying that this was all a misunderstanding. The sonographer placed her hand on my arm and asked me to try to remain calm so she could finish the scan which would be provided to a specialist that I would need to see immediately.
My body shook with uncontrollable pain and disbelief. Just six months prior I had been here on this bed, being informed that my baby had miscarried, and here I was again, but this time with a beautiful wriggly baby, with fingers and toes and that typical squished nose that is recognisable in all of my babies, and more importantly – a heartbeat. A strong heartbeat.
Why was this happening? Was it something I did? Was it that little glass of wine I had over New Year? Was it down to playing with the baby goats? Should I have eaten a little healthier in these past few months? Why had my precious baby’s skull and brain not formed and could I have done anything to prevent this?
The sonographer was so gentle and reassuring that I was not to blame, and in her best English explained that it was chromosomal, but that the baby would not live outside of me. She told me I should end the pregnancy and again, her words trailed off to a distant echo as I held my stomach. End my pregnancy? End my dreams and plans for this little miracle that was growing within me?
She led us out of the room, past the excited mums to be waiting in the corridor and back to the maternity reception where I was booked in for an emergency scan within 24 hours with a specialist, and a further appointment the following Monday to sign paperwork to progress with delivering the baby. She wrote her number on my scan pictures and told me gently and sincerely to call her anytime before then if I was struggling psychologically. I felt like picking up my mobile and dialing her number there and then. I was struggling psychologically. I was dying inside.
As we left the hospital, my son asked me innocently “Did they take the baby out of your tummy, Mummy?”
“No not yet,” I replied, fighting tears.
My husband put his arms around me and supported me back to the car where we sat holding hands in silence for what seemed like an eternity.
“I can’t believe it,” he croaked through tears. It was then I realised he was in pain too. But I was too numb to comfort him despite needing a hug myself more than ever. I was too empty to accept that our baby was terminally ill and would not survive. Destroyed completely that the baby we wanted and loved so dearly, would never be.
Having been told two weeks prior that we were expecting a healthy baby… I wasn’t expecting that.
Vocabulary: (English – French)
Scan – Ecographie
Downs Syndrome – Trisomie 21
Measurements – Mesures
Low risk – Faible risque
High risk – Risque eleve
Normal – Normal
Abnormal – Anormal
Psychological – Psychologique
Situations d’urgence – Urgent situations
Complications – Complications