My second pregnancy is kind of drama. I’m over 35 this time, and thus automatically labeled high-risk due to advanced maternal age (fuck you very much). With a high-risk pregnancy comes a lot more information, a lot more attention, and the sense that even though it all feels the same, something terrible is always about to happen.
We don’t have any reason to think anything will be wrong. I had a scary birth experience the first time, but I found out later that even as scary as it was, it was all pretty normal, pretty common. We have no risk factors other than my geriatric uterus, and given that we live in an area where basically no one has a baby before 35, we feel pretty ok about it. And then, of course, we get a weird test result. Not the worst. But enough to make the clinic say, hey, not to stress you out or anything, but you might have a problem. Your teeny tiny fetus, through no fault of its own, might be somehow damaged, sick, problematic. Numbers. Numbers and more numbers telling us odds and percentages and nothing.
I don’t want an amnio–fuck YOU you’re putting a giant needle in there–but in the end, we make a choice. To know. To know, to react to that knowledge, and to make decisions based on this miraculously available information. Because the truth is, much as I wish I were a person with the strength or the open-heartedness or the religion or whatever to say that no matter what, I’ll go through with it, I’m not. Sometimes, before this all happens, I think I might be. I think I might be equipped, with this husband and this first-world medicine and all this love, to take on whatever it might be. Other times I think, no way. We live in a time when we can spare everyone the pain, the sickness, the hospital, the guilt, the burden.
At all times, every day and as long as I live, I am pro-choice. I believe in the right of a woman and her doctor and her family to choose to terminate a pregnancy. But I will say that the weeks I was waiting to know, waiting and wondering and realizing that I might actually have to face that choice, were the single worst time of my life. I have never been so afraid, and I have never identified more with the pro-life stance. Who am I, I wonder in the dark, tears filling my eyes and then my ears and then pooling at the back of my neck, to decide a life or a death? To decide whether the light, no matter how small, stays lit or goes out? This is not a choice I should be able to make. Nor is it, to be clear, a choice anyone else, especially the government, should get to make for me. But it seems like information I shouldn’t have– a secret I shouldn’t be privy to.
I talk to it at night, the fetus, aware that I am being maudlin, but so raw and open and IN IT that I don’t care. I talk to it, I tell it not to be afraid, that no matter what, I love it and will do what I hope will be the right thing. I cry in the day, in my mother’s lap, telling her I shouldn’t know, it isn’t a call I should be able to make. I nearly find religion, although not quite. But I do pray, guilty of that depths-of-despair prayer that even the occasional atheist succumbs to in the darkest moments.
Other times I am less afraid. I think of statistics and numbers and realize that in all likelihood it will be fine, that the numbers aren’t so bad, all things considered, that they are only numbers, and that they are only a probability and that it will all be ok. I talk myself up and down and up and down for a week, or a month, or whatever it is. It feels like forever.
In the end, after the giant needle, after the waiting, she is fine. She is fine, and she is a girl. And we cry again, in the day and in the night, from the relief. From not having to make this choice, this brutal and terrifying choice that we have the legal right to make. How lucky we are, to live in a time when we can choose to spare a child a lifetime of illness and pain, and how lucky, how immeasurably lucky, we are not to have had to make it.