Twenty weeks / by Susie Lubell

Sometimes it's best not to ask for advice. Like when you're 37 and pregnant, for example, and you can't decide whether or not to do an amniocentesis. Hypothetically. And your gut tells you the baby is fine. And your screening scores tell you, really, the baby is fine. But you ask your friends. And everyone has a story about this one who miscarried because of the amnio and that one who had a baby with Downs Syndrome even though the Nuchal Translucency reported favorable odds. And then your head is full of stories instead of your own good sense.

So you end up shrieking on the phone at your poor midwife, a woman you refer to as Mary Poppins, for not returning your calls when a decision must be made because the window of opportunity is closing. Hypothetically. Though, in your defense, it would have been nice if she had called you back five days ago when you first called to express your anxiety and gave you a little of the support that you needed to make this decision before all the panic set in. And she apologizes profusely for being so unavailable and it is not like her at all, which it is not, and you both cry. And she sets you up with an appointment to see a genetic counselor, which you do, and even your husband comes because he can tell you are hanging by a thread . And the genetic counselor is lovely and helpful and informed and is probably wondering why you're even there since all signs point toward a normal, healthy baby. At birth anyway.

You breathe a sigh and remember your gut. And the next day you see your midwife for your 20 week appointment and you both cry again and you try to explain how emotional you are in this third pregnancy because so much is at stake and how could it be, what with the law of limited good, that you might end up with three perfectly healthy babies when so many babies are sick? Or can't even get conceived?

And she reminds you that you are worthy of many good things in your life, a concept that is hard for you to embrace. And that goodness can be mysterious. And you remember the conversations you've had with your husband about chasing perfect babies and how there are no guarantees. Even an amnio can't guarantee that something won't go south at delivery, or age 2 or sixteen or forty-five. Or ever. There is no going back.

So you surrender to the knowledge that control is only temporary and more than likely a total illusion. And you breathe deeply and trust that this baby and this experience is exactly as it should be and that you are prepared for whatever comes.*

* prenatal testing is a very personal experience for every woman/couple. This was mine. Everyone comes to their own decisions based on many many factors. For some, the decision is not quite as fraught with anxiety. We do what we have to do.