The Phone Call that Changed Everything

I listened to the voice message and was numb.  There were actually 2 voice messages.  The first one was the doctor (the female who performed the amnio.) telling me the test results were in and to please give her a call.  The second one was just her trying me back about 20 minutes later before the lunch break.  And she was probably thinking who leaves their phone unattended anyways when waiting for such important results!?  I listened to the messages at about 12:40pm so I knew that I wouldn’t get ahold of anyone until at least 1pm when the office opened back up but I was going to try anyways.  I sank.  My body felt like it could shut down.  I tried calling back immediately but it went straight to the office answering machine.  I felt like time had stopped.  I felt trapped.  I couldn’t breathe.  Since it was the doctor who had called us then the best case scenario was going to be that our child had downs syndrome.  It would be fine.  But the worst case was that our child had one of the other two syndromes and was going to die in the womb or very soon after birth.  We couldn’t go there.  I just knew deep down that it had to be the better case out of these scenarios.  The baby was giving me strong kicks and on the ultrasound didn’t show any other indication of abnormalities associated with downs but docs miss stuff all the time.  They too are only human.

I called several more times, each time becoming more and more panicked.  We saw our neighbor while waiting for the lunch hour to be over and I flooded her with what we knew.  I’m not one to keep anything to myself and after the fact I felt really bad for corning her and telling her everything that we were going through in that exact moment.  I didn’t know what to do and how to make time go by any faster.  I paced and talked to Chad and held back tears and just waited.  Finally at around 1pm the phone rang and it was the doctor.  I too had left several voice messages on their office phone begging them to call me back.

I answered the phone with a very shakey hello. She started the conversation with a very calm “Hi Lindsey, it’s Dr. Swank.  How was your weekend?”.  I replied with a pretty snarky comment about how it was pretty painful waiting around for these results and that we weren’t doing well because we knew that what she was about to tell us wasn’t good.  She seemed confused and then went on to say, “your preliminary results from the FISH test all came back normal”.  We BURST into tears, yes both of us, holding each other and just rocking back and forth and thanking the doctor profusely for calling us and delivery such wonderful news.  In an instant a wave of calm flushed over my entire body.  I felt like I could breath again.  I had never in my life been so scared.  She went onto explain that this preliminary result was a really good sign but that we still had to wait for the full panel results to come back with all the chromosome counts to rule out other syndromes but that these were the big ones and that by this test result coming back normal we had a really good chance of the full panel coming back the same.  The full panel results wouldn’t be back in for another 10 or so days, maybe 14 so there was still more waiting but at least the fatal stuff could be ruled out.

Once we hung up we just hugged each other and our children and sighed heavy sighs of relief.  I could not believe that everything was ok.  Now I somehow had to change my entire mindset back to thinking about this baby and how everything in this pregnancy was normal again and that my baby could lead a normal life like her brother and sister.  I realize that not everyone is as lucky as we are.  I then started to feel really bad about the moms that don’t get that phone call with the normal results.  Why were we spared?  It made me even more cognizant of the fact that no one is spared and that we are all equal.  We were just the lucky ones this day and that this could happen to anyone.  I am almost glad we had to go through this ordeal with the chromosomes because it made me so incredibly grateful that this baby “just” has a cleft.  It made me realize that the cleft was such a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.  The cleft was totally forgotten about when we were waiting on these results.  I am not sure that many people who receive news about their baby being born with a cleft also have to go through an amniocentesis but I assure you if these people were faced with what we were, anyone who was ever sad about this diagnosis would be relieved for the cleft if faced with the possibility that it could be so much more.  We didn’t have very much time to dwell on this minor defect.  It’s crazy how much I cared and freaked out and cried the several hours after I found out about the baby possibly having a cleft to wishing hoping and praying that the baby only had a cleft and that we would get to keep this baby.

If anyone out there is reading this who has just been given the diagnosis that your child will have a cleft, know that it’s really such a minor problem.  I know it’s not what you had ever dreamed of for our child and that the diagnosis is a really hard one to digest but know that this cleft is fixable and that there are so so so many pregnancies out there where the parents get news about their baby that isn’t fixable.  Know that it’s ok to have feelings of complete and utter disappointment and ask “why me?”.  Also take time to mourn that so called “perfect image” of the baby you thought you were having.  It’s not easy to hear that something is wrong with your baby even if it is “just a cleft”.  But I also want you to know that this baby is so much more than perfect and you will see that once you hold your baby for the very first time.  You will be glad when the nightmare is over and you can finally see and hold your baby for yourself and stop guessing what your baby will look like through 3D ultrasound images.  You will see that your baby is amazing and then ask yourself why you wasted so much of your pregnancy worrying about what your baby would look like.

This story is far from over though.  Clefts are considered a midline defect so a more detailed ultrasound of the heart would need to take place once I hit the 24 week mark of my pregnancy.  These heart ultrasounds are called echocardiograms.  I was just happy to get the amnio and FISH test results behind me.  Did I mention I was taking A&P II?  Yeah, I could finally get around to studying before failing the class completely too.  But that Tuesday that I got those results was used for celebrating, eating, calling people with updates, texting, and being so so grateful for everything I had that day.


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