I always wanted to be a mom. But after my (now 5 year old) daughter was born, I began to realize all that was involved. The sleepless nights and never-ending crying were the least of it. As someone with severe OCD (and not the hand washing kind you see on TV), I began to have endless anxiety over every move my daughter made. Every rash was meningitis, every cough was pneumonia and, later on, every repetitive movement was a tic.
My husband and I always said we'd have two and he really wanted a boy. I believe it had something to do with the fact that his own father had died shortly before he was born. As time went on,I kept putting it off. The truth was, I didn't think I could handle another one. I only had so much worry to go around.
I finally relented and became pregnant with number two in the summer of 2014. I had mixed feelings, of course. Because of this, I kept the news pretty quiet -- I've never been one to post my every waking thought on Facebook anyway.
As the pregnancy progressed, things seemed quite normal. Like last time, I was miserable, sick, tired and moody, but that's to be expected I guess. At 36 years old (and now considered high-risk), the amount of testing that needed to be done had increased tremendously. Still, you never expect anything to be wrong.
On Nov. 11 I went into my regularly scheduled 15-week checkup unusually calm. The test for Trisomy 21 (Down's syndrome) had come back negative and, as far as I was concerned, at age 36, that was my biggest hurdle.
In the office, the doctor looked at me strangely. "It's a boy," she said. "But…"
The room started spinning as she told me the news. The baby had a serious chromosomal issue.
On top of that, my doctor didn't know much about the condition, had never seen it in her practice before, and told me I would have to speak with a geneticist for more information.
"What the fuck," I thought. "Aren't you an OB/GYN? Why am I here if you know nothing?"
I finished the rest of the appointment in silence. The doctor checked the heartbeat.
"He sounds perfect," she said. I looked at her blankly. When the appointment was over, I ran across the street to my maternal fetal medicine practice.
"We can talk to you once your husband is here," they said. "Please call him."
I called my husband and he headed home from the city. As I waited for him, I spent the next two hours googling this chromosomal abnormality on my phone and wondering "What did we do? How did this happen? Was there something we could have done?"
When my husband arrived, we met with the geneticist. She told us that the blood test I had taken had indicated that the chances were 99 percent that our child was affected by this condition and that we needed an amniocenteses to confirm. She then described in detail the obstacles that we, our son and, potentially, our daughter could face with the arrival of this baby. She explained that it was totally random and there was nothing we could have done and no way to cure it. I scheduled the amnio for the next day.
In the morning, we went back to maternal fetal medicine. I didn't even feel the needle in my stomach and couldn't look at the sonogram screen. On Friday the preliminary results were confirmed.
Over the next few days, we spoke to expert after expert and it became clear that we would have no choice.
Arrangements needed to be made. "You could go to Englewood," said the geneticist. "There might be protestors there, but medical abortions are given special treatment." That didn't seem like an option since I was convinced I'd end up arrested if I encountered a protestor.
Ultimately, we decided on Mt. Sinai hospital. The procedure would be done the following week -- I wanted this over.
Nov. 19 was a cold, windy and dark day. Who the fuck wants a sunny and bright day anyway when you are on your way to terminate a pregnancy? In classic OCD fashion, I had obsessed over this decision from the moment I found out until we parked the car at Mt. Sinai. However, I knew we didn't really have a choice.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was on auto-pilot. Sign this, initial that. This was a business and there were six other terminations to be done that day.
I cried all the way to the operating table and fell on. The IV started and I was out.
When I woke up in recovery, that was it. It was over and he was gone. Like he had never even existed.
And so the grieving process began. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, it's impossible to escape baby/pregnancy news from those close to you and those you barely know. Everyone knows everyone else's personal shit, and are privy to details about so and so's glucose test and baby monitor purchases. It's unavoidable, depressing and, in hind sight, I probably should've suspended my account. Do I really need to know that some acquaintance from high school in Great Neck was traveling from La Guardia to San Francisco anyway? Probably not.
In the months since, I've joined a support group called "Heartbreaking Choice." As I sit in there listening to all of the things that can go wrong -- Anencephaly, Spina bifida, Triploidy and on and on -- I wonder how I got here. How did any of these women get here? Was it something they did? Why them and not someone else? The answer, of course, is there is no answer -- although I continue to search desperately for one.
Friends and family have been minimally helpful. Five months later, no one mentions it and neither do I, except to my parents, sister or husband. Once in a while someone will say, "I had a miscarriage, I know what you are going through." That sort of comment makes me cringe.
With all due respect to that type of loss, it's a completely different beast, as far as I'm concerned, and I hate the comparison.
These days, I try to look to my daughter and know that we did the right thing for her, even as she asks me repeatedly, "Can I have a baby brother or sister?" One day we will tell her about the one she almost had….
Dedicated to our son. We love and miss you every day.