22.8.14

Perfect Babies

When I was a kid, I knew a family with a little boy that had Down's Syndrome. His nickname was Wiggy because he wriggled so much, he was hilarious and very fun to be with. When I was an older teen my best mate introduced me to her pub quiz team mate, he had Down's Syndrome, he liked to visit the pub, have a beer and chat with his friends, he liked the pub quiz evenings too, and was better than me at the questions. And life went on, and I forgot about them both.

~~~

I got pregnant after 6 months of trying, when I was 34. I was only a year off being officially designated an 'older mum' by the NHS. And my husband, 20 years my senior, was quite obviously an 'older dad'. We were both very excited (actually he was terrified! LOL) about having a baby, a small person, a 'mini-me' joining us.

And then of course there was all the usual stuff, I went to my GP to tell him I was pregnant. I had no idea how all this medical care worked, so I expected being told how the NHS would sort things etc. Instead I saw a locum GP (a woman) who looked at me as if I was crazy and then said "and?"...

"erm" I replied "don't you check I really am? or schedule check ups or something?"

She laughed "not yet, I'll just take your word for it, come back in a few weeks"

So I did. Eventually the old wheels began turning, midwives said hello, blood was taken, blood pressure checked. And then at a routine appointment my (male) GP asked when I was having my nuchal scan and Down's testing.

"I'm not" I replied.

"Why not?" he asked, surprised.

"Because there's no point" I said "I won't have a termination and heart defects will be picked up on my dating scans anyway"

There was silence and then he said "I know if I knew I was having a Down's baby I would have a termination"

Would you, I thought, would you really. Well then it's lucky that a) you're a man and never likely to be pregnant and b) that I'm this baby's mum not you and c) that it's not up to you! I was silent too though, until I eventually, and probably fairly quietly said "well I'm sure, I don't want a test"

"We'll put down 'undecided' on the form" he said "Then the nurses can ask you again when you've had time to think about it"

I had thought about it. A lot. As I was oldish and my husband was older I had had a sort of nervous background mental hum saying "this baby might be disabled you know, it might have Down's syndrome, it will look different, have learning disabilities, have a terrible life...."

I had lain awake at night thinking it. I had gone to the shops thinking it. I had talked to my husband about it and he was really afraid that if this baby wasn't 'perfect' we wouldn't cope. I had thought about almost nothing else since I got pregnant. I hadn't worried that I might lose the baby. A common fear among mothers, but that the baby would be 'faulty', I'd worried about that a lot.

Early on I talked to the baby, calling the tiny thing (as yet un-sexed) the 'peanut' and chatting about day to day things. My husband wanted a girl, he believed that girls were the future and could do everything boys do and then some!(turns out he was right)  I wanted a boy, cute in dungarees, collecting snails and making mud dams in streams...
I didn't want a 'faulty' baby.

And then one day, after we had had a couple of scans, and finally knew that the peanut was a girl, we went to Lewes for a day. We sat in a park, we watched children at a wedding, dressed in cute, smart Sunday best and playing hide and seek around the trees. They jumped and ran, they squealed and laughed and I stroked my new bump and thought of our baby. And then...and then one of the children turned around and she had Down's Syndrome and she was beautiful, and perfect, and funny, and laughing and just like all the other children and in one heartbeat my baby was perfect whatever she turned out to be.

(I got teary eyed typing that - what a wuss)

When DD was born, one week late yet under weight and still covered in downy hair, she was my beautiful baby.

Of course if you've seen and read about DD you'll know she doesn't have Down's Syndrome.

Funny thing though, about genetic diseases. When DD was 2 I was diagnosed with Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy (also known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth or CMT). They do genetic testing for that you know...I expect you can get a termination based on it...we haven't had DD tested.

I'd like to thank Hayley at Downssideup for the lovely picture of her famous super model daughter Natty :-)