It was the 18th week of my second pregnancy. I lay in a fake-leather recliner, holding my breath and my husband’s hand as a maternal fetal medicine specialist slid an ultrasound wand over my abdomen. This wasn’t your standard anatomy check. The doctor was trying to see if our baby had all four chambers of her heart. And if she would be spared the 12 surgeries, six months of hospital life, and countless moments of pain and panic that our first daughter endured during her early years.
The odds of that were small, but much bigger than if it hadn’t happened the first time. So my second pregnancy was immediately classified as high risk. I underwent every genetic test and screening because my doctor was determined not to miss so much as a prenatal pimple. And so, after searching the grainy images of our baby on the ultrasound monitor for about ten minutes, my doctor turned to me with a huge smile. “Her heart is developing normally,” he said. “This baby gets an A+. Good work, Mom!”
I cried, of course. Until that moment, I hadn’t trusted myself to build a healthy baby heart. After all, the only other time I tried, I’d failed pretty spectacularly. That’s how it felt the day they diagnosed Violet’s heart condition. And now, with his horrible compliment, this doctor had confirmed it: If this baby was getting an A+, then that must mean I had flunked my first pregnancy.
Read the rest of this essay (from the April 2018 issue of Parents) here.
(Photo by Gabrielle Gerard Photography.)