Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse by Claire

The appointment for my 12-week scan was due and I thought it would be a good opportunity for my on-off boyfriend to bond with his unborn child, you remember; the one he thinks is fathered by someone else?

The relationship happened to be (briefly) back on again and I had been trying to get him to think a bit about the future. Basic stuff really, like what he was going to do if I died in childbirth, that sort of thing. Persuading him to come along to the scan was all part of the plan and believe me, it took some persuading (“What do you want me there for? I bet most blokes don’t go along. But I’ll have to take a day off work and we’re taking the roof off tomorrow” these were just some of the objections – my god, what did I EVER see in him?).

Anyway, cut a long story short, he turned up, which in itself was a miracle. As I am under Kings College Hospital, London one of the world leaders in foetal medicine - I believe they pioneered the use of amniocentesis, I felt it only fair and right that I sign up for all the research investigations going, so I wasn’t unduly worried that what, in my opinion, should have been a straight forward scan seemed to be taking ages and ages... and the room was filling up with more and more people as the scan was proceeding.

At the end, and after about an hour and two armfuls of blood, they pulled me and him to one side and told us that the foetus had a high chance of chromosomal abnormality: a 1: 20 chance of Down’s Syndrome (higher than the 1:36 which would have been just the age factor – I’m 43 next birthday) and a 1:13 chance of Trisomy 13/18 * Patau’s or Edward’s syndrome, which, the doctors said meant the baby would be lucky to live beyond a year if it carried to term but would most likely miscarry. I vaguely remembered the nice doctor saying something about CVS (Chorionic villus sampling), and risks of baby being born with abnormality as being higher than risk of miscarriage if I were to have the procedure. I kinda heard myself agreeing to go ahead with the procedure the next day and in a daze was introduced to and shook the hand of another nice doctor who I was told would carry out the procedure in the morning.

I then went home and put on a brave face for my other children who, incidentally, still don’t even know I am pregnant. I'll be honest, I hadn’t worked out how I would break it to them that the man they saw as stepdad had got me pregnant but he didn’t think it was his!

I had to go for the CVS procedure the next day on my own. HE texted me to say he couldn’t make it and wished me the best of luck. I texted back that he could go copulate with himself. Best thing he could have done frankly. It was the final nail I needed to convince me that this man would bring me nothing but pain in the future and I vowed to shut the lid on this coffin once and for all. Then I let the tears come. They had kindly put me in a waiting room by myself. I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t know what was worse – being let down by that complete basket just when I needed him most or the thought that there could be something wrong with my long-awaited-for baby. And the decisions I may have to make about the future of the pregnancy.

The procedure itself was straightforward. Local anaesthetic, long needle through the abdominal wall, into the placenta, aspirate a few cells and stick a plaster on. Wouldn’t like to go through it again tho! Then the worse was to come, 5-7 working days to wait for the results…All I could do was pray and hope that I would have the strength to do whatever was the right thing to do should the time come. And the knowledge that I would have to do it alone, strangely, somehow made it easier...

* Trisomy – an extra chromosome. Normally chromosomes come in pairs so there are 23 pairs or 46. In a trisomy, there is an extra chromosome making 47. Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome) is an extra chromosome on pair number 21.

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