My Parenting Perspectives column for April 5:
This isn’t the column I intended to write for today. In fact, I wrote an entirely different piece two weeks ago to announce that I’m pregnant. Baby No. 2 is due in August. Then I got a phone call – the kind of call no expecting woman ever wants to receive.
I’d had the routine mid-pregnancy ultrasound and everything seemed OK. I felt I was far enough along in my pregnancy, when there’s the sense of assurance, that I could spill the beans about my news.
But then, there was that phone call, the one telling me everything might not be OK.
The ultrasound revealed a choroid plexus cyst – a gathering of fluid in the part of the brain that makes spinal fluid. In and of itself, this cyst is no big deal. But it can be an indicator of a chromosomal abnormality, specifically Down syndrome or Trisomy 18, a life-threatening disorder. So, I’ve been referred for a higher-level ultrasound with a specialist. The soonest I can get in is mid-April.
The nurse who called me to schedule this appointment assured me the baby — it’s a boy, by the way – looked fine. That the cysts are common (Google tells me they occur in 1 in 100 pregnancies). More than likely, it will just disappear. The cyst may even be gone by the time I have the second ultrasound.
But that doesn’t alleviate my fears, or the tears I’ve shed, worrying about what could be. I didn’t realize I loved or wanted this baby so much until I was told something may be wrong with him.
A friend pointed out that 30 years ago I wouldn’t have had that ultrasound and wouldn’t know this information, and in both cases I most likely would have delivered a healthy baby boy. It’s a good reminder to keep the endgame in mind.
In my research, I came across an 11-year-old journal article by Dr. Roy A. Filly. In it, Filly questions the value in alerting mothers-to-be of certain abnormality markers, like choroid plexus cysts, when their babies likely are not abnormal at all, as usually is the case in low-risk women. He asked whether pinpointing these markers was doing more harm than good. The article’s title was “Obstetrical Sonography: The Best Way to Terrify a Pregnant Woman.”
In my line of work, too much information is better than not enough. But I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to not have gotten that phone call, to not experience this worry, especially if nothing’s wrong. Even if something is, am I better off knowing in advance?
So much for second trimester assurance, at least for now.
Sherri Richards is pregnant, has a 3-year-old daughter, and works for The Forum. She blogs at http://topmom.areavoices.com