We had our 20 week ultrasound today. At the last minute, I asked my in-laws to watch Madeline during this appointment. From our experience being pregnant with Madeline, we knew this ultrasound tends to take longer and I figured a 17 month old probably would struggle to be entertained for that length of time. I picked Wayne up from work and we went to the hospital. We discussed and agreed we did not want to know the sex of the baby until he/she is born. We were appropriately anxious, but confident everything would turn out just like Madeline’s 20 week ultrasound: “You have a healthy baby, Mr. & Mrs. Turley. Here are your baby’s first pictures. Enjoy your evening.”

While the very sweet ultrasound technician, Cassie, was taking pictures of our baby, we were making small talk with her. At first she was very talkative, but that started to change as the ultrasound progressed. Wayne noticed Cassie had stopped talking and began watching her and the monitor. He saw her wipe her eyes a few times. I continued to make small talk.

Cassie said the baby wasn’t cooperating. She said she was going to give the baby a break and come back in a few minutes. Or, she would send in a colleague to see if her colleague would be able to get the baby to cooperate. I felt this was kind of odd, and not like what we experienced with Madeline, but I wasn’t alarmed. Wayne on the other hand was starting to worry. He kept these thoughts to himself.

Cassie didn’t come back. Rather, a second ultrasound technician entered and had someone with her. The ultrasound technician, Cathy, introduced herself, but not the lady with her. Cathy warned me she uses a lot of gel and pushes much harder than other technicians. She wasn’t kidding! Cathy was very nice, but much less talkative than Cassie. After a little while, Wayne asked, “Is everything OK?” Her response, “Well, we have a few concerns.” Being a technician she couldn’t tell us exactly what was going on, but she also didn’t want to lie to us. I became an emotional mess. Cathy kept saying things like “Everything’s going to be OK” and “We’re going to get through this” and “There’s just a few concerning things.” I think my big reaction took her by surprise. We didn’t know it at the time, but a doctor was also monitoring the ultrasound in the office area. I remember Cathy grabbing my leg as I lay on the table saying, “We will be with you every step of the way.”

The doctor came in. As it turns out, I know her. Our families have known each other since we were little. I had heard she was a high risk OB so I knew I never wanted to see her when it comes to one of my babies. Yet there she was, standing in front of us and we still didn’t really know why. When she walked in she didn’t recognize me right away. She knew my maiden name, but not my married name. She wasn’t expecting to recognize me. I spoke before she could. I said, “Laura. Lauren Bommarito.” Her shoulders dropped as she then knew exactly who I was. She also had a sorrowful look on her face as she knew she was about to crush us. She was right.

Laura sat down. Cassie had come back into the room and was sitting by me rubbing my back and handing me tissues. Wayne and I were holding hands. This is definitely not what happened at Madeline’s 20 week ultrasound.

Laura began to speak to us. Her tone was soft yet concerned. She started with “We have some concerns with your baby.” I don’t remember exactly what was said after that. I do remember hearing issue after issue after issue being listed. “The intestines are on the outside of your baby’s body in a pouch. There is possibly a cyst in your baby’s brain.” The list was long. “There is too much amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. The baby appears to have a left hand deformity.” It just kept going. “Your baby’s cerebellum is underdeveloped. And your baby is measuring about 3 weeks behind the baby’s gestational age.”

Six. Six big issues.

What was most concerning was the combination and quantity of complications. Laura said based on what she saw, our best case scenario, albeit an unlikely one, was down syndrome. More likely, our baby had a chromosome defect which given the number of complications would either result in a miscarriage, a still birth, a short life-span with significant special needs.

This was a lot to take in but Wayne and I both wanted to know what the next steps were. Laura suggested three options:

  • Do nothing and wait to find out what we are dealing with when our baby is born.
  • Perform an amniocentesis where they would put a needle in to my uterus to withdrawal amniotic fluid. The fluid contains the baby’s cells. They would analyze the baby’s chromosomes from these cells and be able to tell us if we are dealing with a Trisomy diagnosis or not.
  • A procedure could be performed to gather placenta blood, but we were cautioned the amniocentesis produced more reliable results.

We didn’t have to decide at that moment. They knew we were overwhelmed and shocked. I wasn’t really sure what to think or do. I couldn’t absorb or process everything we had just heard. I could not stop crying. I’m not usually a big public crier. But, between the horrific and unexpected news we had just received and the pregnancy hormones I didn’t have a chance at keeping it all in.

Throughout all of this, I couldn’t stop thinking about Madeline. As Laura shared more and more information with us and I became more and more upset, I couldn’t stop thinking about our sweet little girl. How can I be a good mom during all of this? Madeline deserves to have a happy home life even though we are devastated and heartbroken. How am I to insure she gets that? How am I going to have the energy to meet her needs? How am I going to have the energy to have our dance parties and tickle sessions?

A new lady entered the room named Karen. She told us what she would be responsible for which I equated to being similar to a social worker. She said she’d set up our appointments, be available day or night if we have questions or concerns, and check-in with us throughout this to make sure we are doing alright emotionally. She, too, was compassionate and caring. We were surrounded by love.

With our new support team’s help, we decided this was enough for one day. We would be in touch with Karen regarding our decision on next steps. But for now, it was time to go. We were ready to leave. We asked if we could avoid passing through the waiting room on our way out. We weren’t interested in scaring the people waiting with our devastated faces. We left through a back exit. We left the hospital to go home and began talking about how to share this horrific new with our families and eventually our friends.

Wayne originally planned to go back to work, but just went to grab his things and leave. We agreed he would follow me home as I was determined to drive. He also called our immediate families to tell them the ultrasound revealed some significant challenges.

When we got home we walked into the house together. Madeline was glad to see us. She gave us big hugs… exactly what we needed. She asked to eat. I jumped right into action getting her dinner. This gave me the confidence and reassurance that I could take care of her even though I was devastated. She became my focus. A focus I desperately needed.

My in-laws could see on our faces that something wasn’t right. We shared everything we could. The look on their faces was pure shock. My mother-in-law gave me a hug. I broke down. This frightened Madeline. We explained to her “Mommy is Ok. Sometimes I get sad like you do. But I’ll be OK.” She seemed to understand as she turned around and began to play again.

Wayne and I had a wake to attend for two friends’ father that evening so after my in-laws left, we started to discuss the logistics of attending the wake. I also wanted to see my parents. We decided to go to the wake and and ask my parents to come over afterwards. As we were getting ready to go to the wake, there was a knock on the door. It was my parents. They needed to see us as well. My sisters showed up a little bit later.  My in-laws came back over as well. It was nice for all of us to be together. Wayne continued making phone calls to our closest friends. We didn’t make it to the wake.

Madeline knew something was up. She became very still and just watched as all of the adults sat around digesting this horrific news. She sat on my sister Molly’s lap. Molly continued to reassure her throughout the evening. It’s amazing to me how perceptive Madeline is at such a young age. She knew it was time to sit like everyone else even though she is a very energetic 17 month-old.

Eventually it was time for Madeline to go to bed. She went to bed like a champ. Everyone was there to give her goodnight hugs and kisses- exactly what everyone needed.

Our family left a little while later. Then it was just us. In some ways we were exhausted. In other ways, we couldn’t sleep.

We got into bed. I know we slept a little bit, but around 3am, we were abruptly awaken to Madeline crying/screaming. This was extremely unusual. Both of us jumped out of bed and were practically running into each other to get to Madeline as quickly as possible. We brought Madeline into bed with us. She was fine, but wide awake now. We were up for 2 hours snuggling. Madeline was being silly and making us laugh. This healthy dose of humor and hearing those sweet baby girl giggles was a perfect distraction from replaying our terrible day over and over throughout the night. When we started to get sleepy, Wayne and I began “fighting” over who got to hold Madeline. Before we all fell asleep, Wayne was hugging her abdomen and I had her legs- a perfect compromise. Poor Madeline was a trooper even though it was rather strange to be “restrained” by your parents when all you want to do is sleep. Finally, we were all asleep. Maybe when we wake up this nightmare will be over… it wasn’t.

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