The beginning of my pregnancy with Moxie feels jumbled, as I recollect it now, some 3 years later. It’s a blur of happenings, events moving swiftly upon each other like quick waves that peak in a tsunami. The blur may be due to the events themselves or may be to the way my mind works – I have brain injury, sustained from jetting out of the windshield of a car when I was four. Memories for me often shape themselves in unusual ways.
Like the day that we went to see our daughter for the first time.
I remember being in a black short dress with pirate sleeves that was from H&M, with black flared yoga pants. I liked that dress. I remember wanting to wear cherry red lipstick and not having any. I remember I wore my Earth moonboots and that Mikey didn’t like them. I remember that we passed a moss green Nissan Cube on the way there. I remember the weather was crisp, dry and clear. I think I was about 10 weeks pregnant. I know I was 36 years old (I just did the math). I also know that I was pregnant after just having had a second trimester miscarriage.
We were on our way to the special clinic, the one where they send “higher risk” pregnancies to be examined. Once there, in the dim room with the brightness of the ultrasound machine in front of us, my belly exposed with glistening gel slathered on, we saw the blinking of our baby’s heart, knew she was alive and for that, were happy. But we knew that the long pause and the lack of chatter from the technician signaled a problem. She left, and returned with the very same perinatologist who had told me that my last child had died. My heart sank as I saw him and I blurted out something along the lines of, “but the baby is alive! I know it! I can see the heart beating!”
He nodded. Yes, our baby was alive but there were problems. He showed us the line of her skin and the line of her body: they were clearly separated. She had a condition called diffuse fetal hydrops, in which her skin was completely separated from her body, with fluid lying between the two. She had heart holes. She was unlikely to make it to term. “0%” chance of survival, he gave her. He suggested that we have an amniocentesis before she died to find out the cause of the hydrops – not necessarily for her as she was clearly beyond saving – but for future pregnancies.
Numb, and with aching hearts, we consented and returned a few weeks later for the test.
The amniocentesis revealed the presence of an extra chromosome. It also revealed that the baby was a girl. And miraculously – her diffuse fetal hydrops had completely resolved itself.
Despite being strongly encouraged to terminate her life on account of the Down syndrome, we chose to keep her. Perhaps I should be more honest here: my husband chose to keep her. My husband was adamant about keeping her, saying that we needed to “play with the cards we are given.”
Continuing in this vein of honesty, I am not sure I would have kept her, had I not been with him.
Having grown up deaf, with brain injury and with my auditory processing disorder – not to mention with scars all over my face, I know what it’s like to grow up with a disability. I know what it’s like to be excluded, mocked, and outcast. I know what it’s like to literally have stones thrown at you, because you are different, an “other”. I have a chip in my front tooth from a time that I fought back, but the (much larger) boy was wearing a ring when he punched me in the mouth.