Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: The Pregnancy: My Imperfectly Perfect Baby

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Pregnancy: My Imperfectly Perfect Baby


So, to cut a long story short we did actually have a baby...

It was a miscarriage that never was but a threat that loitered menacingly for the duration of the pregnancy. My lovely, green "low risk" sticker was obliterated by an angry, red "high risk" stamp as further complications ensued: gestational diabetes, gestational thrombocytopaenia (no platelets and therefore an inability to clot) and "measuring small for dates".

At nineteen weeks we had our anomaly scan. This was booked early as, although undiscussed, there was a palpable expectation from the medical team that an abnormality would be discovered. Our previous conversations held in the scan department cloaked us in pessimism and the phrases uttered a mere two months ago rang clear:

"There is no fluid..."

"We usually find that this is not compatible with a viable pregnancy..."

"... normally due to a chromosomal abnormality..." 

And sure enough they found an anomaly.

Our baby had a "unilateral talipes". What this actually means is that one of their feet had developed in such a way that it turned in on its self. Historically the affliction had the rather attractive name of “club foot”. The good news was that it was entirely treatable to the point that the vast majority of those born with it actually go unnoticed. They can expect their feet to be different sizes, their calf muscles to be a little under developed on the affected side and they may need to rethink any aspirations to be a professional footballer or ballet dancer but they will run; they will jump; they will play. It takes five solid years of a parental commitment to physiotherapy but it is fixable.

It wasn't the abnormality that they found which caused the concern but the increasing possibility that there would be something more fundamentally wrong with our baby. Any sort of structural anomaly increases the likelihood that there is some underlying chromosomal irregularity but there was no way to know for sure. This was a worry that we would just need to live with and we did.

When she came she was beautiful, there was no denying that. She was tiny, which was fine, as she cried and fed without any fuss but when they passed her on to my tummy I saw it straight away. It didn’t fill me with dread or panic me to the core. She was here. She was never meant to make it this far and she did. There was little that could take away from that. She was my miracle. The miscarriage that never was. A proper human. With nine fingers and ten toes.

They tell me, with the aid of hindsight, that the attempted miscarriage was probably due to the membranes popping in early pregnancy but she had put her arm through the whole and sealed that cocoon up good and tight (my little dutch girl!). The tight seal around her arm restricted the blood flow and prevented it from developing properly leaving her with a slightly smaller right hand and only four functioning fingers. The lack of fluid meant that her legs and feet did not have the freedom of movement to develop correctly which led to her left sided talipes but there were no other abnormalities to find. She was imperfectly perfect.

The above summary is a beautiful thing to be able to write as it now feels like it has always been that way but the certainty I felt when I cradled her for the first time wavered in those first few weeks. You see, we weren’t told those reassuring explanations to begin with. They had to rule out some pretty nasty things first. We needed genetic testing and this couldn’t happen for another six weeks.

It takes its toll on a marriage that: genetic testing. You think you have found the one; your companion into old age. You agree on the fundamentals and you like most of the things about them (let’s not lie, there is always something). You have been through some pretty tough times together and come out stronger at the other end, but then there is a possibility that you do not match in the most important of ways. There is a possibility that in bringing a child into the world you cannot give it the simplest of things: health. It takes a while to navigate your way around that.

I am not sure we enjoyed her until we knew for certain. I am not saying we wouldn’t have enjoyed her if it had worked out differently but there is something to be said for knowing. Once you know for sure you start to cope. You readjust your expectations and move on.

Looking at her now I sometimes forget how amazing she truly is. She is a bright, chatty, happy three year old who runs, jumps and skips. She draws, uses cutlery and picks things up using both hands almost interchangeably. She has the most amazing team of plastic surgeons who have recreated her hand to make it function like a normal hand (apparently opposable thumbs can be built from other fingers) and if you didn’t know, it would definitely take you a while to notice.

I do sometimes feel sad that she might not enjoy a good manicure or may prefer not to draw attention to her hands by wearing the jewellery that most women enjoy. I do worry about bullying and people saying cruel things or shying away from her touch because her hand doesn’t look like it should. But mostly I feel proud. I feel proud that she was strong enough to get here. I feel proud that she is as amazing as she is turning out to be. I feel proud that even though she may not feel it at times, she is a fighter. I am one proud mother.

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