Today is my 16 week prenatal appointment, one that my practitioners have told me to come mentally prepared for because it involves a lot of unpleasantness.
Oddly enough, I'm still excited to go. It has been four weeks since the last appointment where Jerry and I got to hear our baby's fetal heartbeat for the first time and I am in dire need of hearing it again -- if nothing else than to reassure me that it's still beating. And even a few seconds of that is worth any poking and prodding.
We've been told that one of the blood tests I'm being offered is optional because of the controversy surrounding it. It looks for the presence of alpha-fetoproteins in my blood, which can detect any number of chromosomal abnormalities such as spina bifida and Downs syndrome.
The catch, according to my online research, is that the test often leads to false positives. In fact, out of every 1,000 women who take it, about 50 end up positive for abnormalities. Of those 50, only one or two babies will actually have a problem.
Plus, even if the blood work comes back negative, it doesn't completely rule out the possibility of an abnormality. It only determines that your chances are not as high.
Jerry and I have spoke long and hard about whether we should have this testing done. After all, our age doesn't place us in the high-risk category and neither one of us needs an extra reason to worry. We're already doing just fine in that department. But our doctors recommend it. They gave us an information sheet explaining that it helps give them a "more complete picture of the health of the pregnancy." The other side of the sheet was a waiver form. We signed it.
I guess, for me, it comes down to this: If the test helps them provide better care for me and our child, it's worth it. A positive may lead to yet another blood test and maybe an ultrasound on higher resolution equipment to study our child's facial features and spine, all of which I'm completely comfortable in doing.
I've already decided, however, that I will draw the line at having an amniocentesis done. That is where they would stick a very long needle in through my belly button, pierce the amniotic sac and extract some of the fluid surrounding the baby. It contains all sorts of vital information and could definitively diagnose or rule out a problem.
It's not even the pain that I'm worried about, although I'm sure it hurts to no end. It carries a 1 to 2 percent chance of miscarriage. And I'd never be able to live with myself if something happened because of an optional test.
At this appointment, I also get to drink a thick, syrupy liquid to test whether I am developing gestational diabetes. I've been told it tastes disgusting, so all night I dreamt that someone should invent a way to turn that test into an ice cream flavor. Then maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
I also have a slew of questions to ask the doctor. Whether I can help paint our porch. Whether we should fly or drive to Nebraska at the end of August. And whether all the weird abdominal sensations I'm feeling really is the baby moving. I guess I just want confirmation from an expert.
Plus, after all the tests are done, I know we're one step closer to our next appointment where we get a lengthy look at our baby via ultrasound. I know it's changed significantly from the stationary lightning bug with arm buds and a tail at week 8, and I can't wait to see the development that my body has fostered.
And, as Jerry puts it, we'll have the "ding dong test." Hopefully, if our bug cooperates, we'll be able to see whether it's a boy or a girl.
Three eternally long weeks and counting ...