When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I was only 18 years old. Until then I had heard nothing about miscarriage, malformations or complications. In my then, possibly naive understanding a baby was born healthy.
Even a child with Down’s syndrome was considered healthy for me, especially since our happy neighbor Trisomy 21 had. At that time, I experienced the prescribed three ultrasound exams relaxed and never worried about a disability – even my doctor did not talk to me about it. But this time everything changed.
The first of three bad news
Many women and couples experience a pregnancy as a beautiful and powerful time. On books and in magazines you can see radiant women, who joyously touch their well-shaped belly and are full of health and bliss. But hardly anyone dares to think or talk about the backsides during this precious time. Especially the downsides for women over 35 who are at a higher risk (1: 250) to give birth to a Down syndrome child.
Currently I am in the 26th week of pregnancy and has been faced thanks to prenatal diagnosis with three bad news: When I looked full of anticipation for the little miracle in my stomach at the first ultrasound in the 9th week, the doctor said in a sober voice: “Oh dear, there but something is not right. I already had three miscarriages today, that seems to be the fourth. “Shortly afterwards he apologized to me and my partner. Only at the urging, please take a closer look at our child, he said: “Everything okay so far, but I can guarantee nothing.”
I am a “risk pregnancy”
If you become pregnant at the age of 37, you belong to the group of “high-risk pregnancies“. It took less than three weeks for us to be invited to the neck pleat measurement. This special sonography is routinely suggested to determine if trisomy 21 is present.
We did this test to make sure we did not put our baby in jeopardy. Because we planned a home birth, as with my other children too. The doctors told us: “If you have a case, you can decide within 72 hours whether you want to have the child or abort.”
One week after the examination, I learned on the phone from a very unpleasant and inquiring receptionist: “Your child is very likely to be severely handicapped, you have to come back tomorrow.” I could not believe it, my heart beat much faster, I touched my stomach, closed my eyes and thought of my baby. My intuition told me that something was wrong with the telephone information – and not with my child.
The less empathic way in which we were told this was inhumane. If I had not been a family and bond therapist for 15 years, I would probably have had a deep-seated shock that did no good to me or my unborn child. How are other women? Still, I felt a great deal of uneasiness in me, which came with the question, “What if it’s more than Trisomy 21?” Down syndrome did not scare me.
Trisomy 21 – alarmism instead of parental happiness
When we researched and found that nine out of ten parents decided to stop when diagnosing Trisomy 21, our breath caught. We looked each other in the eye, took a deep breath and almost simultaneously said, “We can do it.”
However, many parents are in such shock that they are barely able to make a clear decision, let alone trust their intuition. They describe a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. When people feel that way, they often decide out of fear. As a result, many parents say, “We only dare to build a bond with the child when we can be sure that everything is alright.” Or they say: “We can only rejoice when it’s healthy in the world, that does not happen, we have to say goodbye to our child in advance.” But this attitude has more influence on the unborn child, according to new findings of attachment theory we have suspected so far.
The fact is that women who choose to have an abortion often do so under heavy pressure and also because they are not adequately counseled or supported. Often the partners are so overwhelmed that they say, “Decide!” Or, for fear of the future, speak out for an abortion and urge the women to do so.
We wanted to help other affected parents
After deciding to drop the baby, we asked ourselves, “What could be done to help parents in a similar situation?” We decided to publicly speak about our decision in the podcast of my partner. When we commented on our history and our feelings, we received an awful lot of letters from families in a similar situation. Because of our podcasts, a family has even decided against an abortion. We noticed how little publicity is talked about and how much parents feel left alone when it comes to this serious decision.
We now know that when one learns that the child has or could have a disability, one should take time to study deeply. One should contact the baby and calmly feel how it can go on.
It is best to take this time before prenatal diagnosis and also to seek a discussion with a competent counseling center to estimate how to proceed in case of cases. Far too many parents opt for prenatal diagnosis and 3D ultrasound to take a “beautiful picture” home. Fewest expect that it could also be a bad news.
After a long wait, we have learned that in all likelihood our child will be born healthy. But it did not take me two weeks to get back to the prenatal center. The suspicion: The placenta could peel off. That, too, turned out to be a mistake after days of waiting. Therefore, we have decided to give up further diagnostics and to enjoy the pregnancy. As it was then, 20 years ago.