My pregnancy with Miss J was not an easy one.
I remember staring at the two pink lines on the eight pregnancy tests (yes, eight.) I had taken in disbelief. I was pregnant? I was pregnant! That "Birds and Bees" stuff really works! Wow!
I didn't feel pregnant though. I felt...the same. I mentioned this to a friend.
"I don't feel pregnant. I wish I did, then I could believe it."
I should have shut my mouth.
Within days of seeing those two beautiful pink lines, I was face down and remained that way for most of the pregnancy. My "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book said I might experience waves of nausea in the morning or perhaps some evening queasiness. That book lied.
I was sick. I was sick in the morning. Sick in the night. Sick every hour in between. Nothing stayed down. I spent a good portion of the first trimester in the hospital hooked up to an IV. At the start of my second trimester, I was down 13 pounds. An ultrasound noted: IUGR. Intrauterine Growth Retardation. Miss J was not growing as she should.
During a routine office visit, my doctor talked about the Quad Screen, offered to all pregnant women to detect for some of the more common genetic diseases. I asked if the test was positive if it would change the course of my pregnancy.
"No, it won't change your pregnancy," she said, "But you would have the option to terminate if there is a problem."
The discussion Mr.A and I had was a brief one. It was quite simple: We declined the test. If there was a problem, we'd deal with it. We were not terminating this pregnancy.
Late in the pregnancy, Miss J stopped moving. She was okay, but the amniotic fluid level was too low. It was necessary to induce her. Thirty one hours later, a very loud and very pink Miss J entered our world; healthy and beautiful and perfect.
My pregnancy with M was much different. I still glowed green for much of the pregnancy, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it was with Miss J. I was healthy, M looked healthy. All was well.
When it came time to do the Quad Screen, we declined it again, just as we had with Miss J.
Only this time, the paper I signed declining the test was lost and the test was run anyway. At my next OB checkup I was read the results: Normal.
Then M was born and everything was anything but normal.
Fast forward nine months later...
When Miss J was three and M was nine months old, an old friend of ours called out of the blue and said he was in the area on business and we invited him to visit with us. It had been years since we'd seen each other and when our friend arrived, he hugged me warmly and kissed my cheek. He turned to Mr. A and they jokingly teased about how the other had gotten fat and gray and bald before embracing with hearty slaps on the back.
Our friend was especially excited to share the news that his wife had just given birth to their third child, less than two weeks before. Our friend was especially excited to welcome this child, a boy, after having two daughters. He spoke proudly of his son...how strong he was!....how big!...how healthy!.....an amazing eater!....great sleeper!...never cries!
After dinner and after Miss J and M had gone to bed, we sat around our table swapping stories and reminiscing about times spent together years ago. Conversation and wine were flowing. We toasted our friend's new boy. We toasted each other. We joked and we laughed until we cried.
Later in the evening, our friend inquired about M.
"So" he asked, "What is wrong with M?"
"We aren't sure. We've had a lot of genetic testing done and they still don't know."
"How is that possible?" he asked. "When my wife was pregnant they did genetic testing too and said everything was fine. Didn't you do the test when you were pregnant?"
Mr. A spoke, "We did. We declined the test, but they ran it anyway. It was normal."
Our friend was surprised.
"You declined it? Why would you do that? Wouldn't you want to know?"
It was my turn to speak.
"The test the give you when you are pregnant rules out a few things out of thousands of possibilities. I didn't feel the need to have the test because it didn't matter. If there was a problem, we'd just deal with it."
His eyes widened, "But you could have ended it if you knew."
My mouth went dry and felt like sand. I felt the hot burn of tears in my eyes. Words caught in my throat and would not come.
Mr. A spoke.
"M has a problem. So what? We love him and we're happy he's here."
Our friend was clearly surprised by Mr. A's words." I couldn't be happy with that. I couldn't deal with that."
We sat, two friends on opposite sides of a deep line. The vibrant energy of the evening instantly gone. We ended our evening and said our awkward goodbyes.
In the aftermath, I felt hurt. And, I felt joy.
Hurt that our friend could not see the joy, the beauty, the love that our son brought to our lives; just as his son did to his. Hurt by his admission that he felt he could not love a child like ours. Hurt that he saw our child as a burden. Hurt that he felt our son should have been disposed of.
And the joy...
Joy because of M. For M being exactly who he was. Joy that he was mine. Joy in my heart knowing that I never needed a test to tell me if my child would be perfect or not. The pure joy of knowing that my child did not need to be fixed.