When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my first child I had amniocentesis and learned I was carrying a boy. It was one of the most wonderful and terrifying moments of my life. Based upon my family history, I knew the baby inside me had a 50-50 chance of having a devastating disease: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy(DMD).
How did I know this? Let me catch you up…My brother, Michael, was born when I was two and a half years old, and from the beginning, I cherished him. As he progressed into toddlerhood, my mother suspected something wasn’t right when he failed to meet some physical developmental milestones. The pediatrician brushed off her concerns and insisted that he would catch up. Michael did eventually learn to walk, but he never jumped or ran. Somewhere between his second and third birthday, she was referred to a specialist who had some suspicions about what could be wrong. A muscle biopsy around his third birthday confirmed that he had DMD.
Later I was tested and doctors determined that I did not have the disorder, but that I was most likely a carrier. There is something called a manifesting carrier, where some of the symptoms of the disease might be present, but are much less severe. My muscles have never been super strong and things like long distance running and the flexed arm hang/pull-ups in PE were totally humiliating, but that was the extent of my symptoms.
More testing, when I got closer to childbearing years, confirmed that my brother and I did in fact share the gene for DMD and I was definitely a carrier. Doctors told me if I ever had a boy, he would have a 50% chance of having the disease. If I had a girl, she would have a 50% chance of being a carrier.
When my husband, Mark, and I were ready to start trying for a baby, we went to see a genetics counselor. She laid out several options for us, including getting pregnant naturally, avoid having children, adoption and donor eggs. The part about donor eggs must not have sunk in because it was a few more years before I seriously considered it a viable option. As I said in my original post, we took our chances with the first one. I was just convinced I would have a girl.
Master Yi-Yi was conceived quite easily a few weeks shy of my twenty eighth birthday in the midst of my short lived teaching career. At the time, I was living in Richmond, but we had already decided to move to Fredericksburg before his birth, so I chose an OB up here. Other than some occasional nausea and fatigue, the first months were uneventful. I was busy with a recertification class and my first graders, and barely noticed I was pregnant. At 17 weeks, I had the amniocentesis, and found out we were having a boy. I was simultaneously thrilled and heartbroken.
The six weeks it took to learn if the baby had DMD was, needless to say, one of the longest waits of my life. I still remember driving to work every morning alternately praying for him to be fine and bracing myself for raising a child with muscular dystrophy. Luck was on my side, and it turned out Master Yi-Yi was fine. I spent the rest of my pregnancy preparing for the arrival of my baby boy, as well as finishing up my final school year and packing up the apartment for our move.
Master Yi-Yi’s birth came somewhat unexpectedly. The day of my weekly appointment dawned exactly two weeks before his due date. I felt a little off that morning with a slight backache, but didn’t think much about it. Normally Mark would not have been with me, but he planned to come to my OB appointment that morning. I can’t for the life of me remember why he was coming along, but I do remember that big bowl of Fruity Pebbles I ate! So, off we went to my appointment. I mentioned the pain to my doctor, and the next thing I knew I was being ushered to the hospital in the beginning stages of labor. Apparently, that was a popular day for babies because it was very busy.
Early in my pregnancy, I had decided (like many first-time moms) that I was going to give birth without the use of any type of pain relief. That was before I knew how much it would hurt. Labor progressed steadily, and as the pain increased I decided maybe I did want an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and announced I needed IV fluids first. I was in excruciating pain by then, and the nurse couldn’t get the IV in. It took about thirty minutes and she kept getting after me to stay still. If you’ve ever been in the middle of hard labor, you know this isn’t an easy task. Then they had to wait to run a bag of fluid. By then the anesthesiologist was backed up. Before he ever returned, they decided I was ready to deliver. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Thirty minutes later and about eight and a half hours after labor began; Master Yi-Yi was born. I never did get that epidural!
By the time I got settled into a room, I was starving, and the cafeteria had closed for the night. My husband wound up bringing me a McDonald’s milkshake and fries. He’s since brought McDonald’s French fries and milkshakes for Master Yi-Yi’s birthday every year, even though we’ve been divorced for six years.For the four short years my brother lived after his birth, he absolutely adored his little nephew, and today, as a sixteen year old, Master Yi-Yi’s personality is very much like his uncle’s was.
When it was time to try for another baby, we decided to take a more conservative approach. I had been researching IVF and the use of Microsort for gender selection. I was naïve enough at the time to think this would be a simple undertaking. It wasn’t long before I found out differently. Next time, I will get more into the trials and tribulations of conceiving via IVF and the complex journey to Little H’s birth.