20 weeks: March 27th- April 2nd

We had our 20 week sonogram on Monday, April 2nd.  I had been looking forward to this since our last one 8 weeks ago.  Now that I was feeling Keiki on a daily basis, I felt more connected to him/her.  I couldn’t wait to see it on the screen again. 

The technician showed us all the parts (well, almost all the parts.  We didn’t want to find out the gender).  It wiggled and squirmed.  We smiled and laughed, and then the doctor came in.

He reminded us that our 12 week nuchal translucency test (a fancy test that checks for your risks of chromosomal disorders such as Down Syndrome and Trisomys 13 and 18) had come back showing that all our numbers looked great.  We were in one of the lowest categories of risk quoted for those types of defects.

Then, he said there was something he needed to show us.  He zoomed in on an area of its cute little brain and said words that immediately sobered us.

Choroid Plexus Cyst

A what?  I felt the air leave my chest and the room got quiet.  A cyst?  In my baby’s brain?  What does that even mean?

The doctor went on to tell us that this is a normal finding.  If they sonogram 100 women a week, they’ll see it at least twice.  It’s in a part of the brain that doesn’t manage emotions or thought.  It doesn’t increase your risk of cancer, cause mental retardation, increase your likelihood of becoming a cat person or a Republican.  It basically does NOTHING.  Most articles about it refer to it as a normal part of brain development.

Why, then, is it so scary?

Well, some researchers have found a correlation between this type of cyst and Trisomy 18.  One third of Trisomy 18 babies will have this cyst.  However, less than 1% of babies with this cyst will have Trisomy 18.  It’s that old math Set Theory coming into play.  1/3 of Set B are also Set A, but only .05% of Set A are Set B.

Set theory aside, the fact that there is ANY correlation is scary as hell to an impending mommy.  To make things scarier, I have a personal bias in the matter.  My sister, Kristine, born before me, had, and died of, Trisomy 18 complications.

There it is.  The elephant in the room.

Now here are some facts. 

  • My sisters condition is not hereditary.  My babies have no greater chance of having Trisomy 18 than anyone elses babies.
  • Researchers don’t even agree upon whether there IS any correlation between having an isolated Choroid Plexus Cyst and Trisomy 18.  Some have found a very slight correlation while others have found no correlation.
  • Everything else about Keiki looks perfect.  All the other “real” warning signs of Trisomy 18 are not present.  Keiki has two sizable and functioning kidneys.  Its bowels and heart appear in perfect working order.  Its feet and hands are correctly formed and operational.  Its facial bones are all in place.  Its bones are all proportionate.  There is no inappropriate fluid around parts of its brain.  All of our hormones are at fantastic levels.  Keiki looks fantastic in all other areas.

In addition to those, there are things that just, personally, make me feel better.  Keiki is strong.  I have known this for weeks.  (S)he’s been kicking so hard that Ryan can feel her way earlier than expected.  (S)he’s actually measuring big right now.  (S)he was 11 full ounces on Monday, three days ahead of schedule.  This might be the last time EVER an Albrecht is accused of being “big”.

Still, though, it’s near impossible for a mother to stop worrying….or even a daddy, I’ve found out.  Sure, this is not at all the news that Ryan and I were hoping to get on Monday, but we just have to have faith in the real data and our doctors advice. 

It’s funny, one of the things they look at to rule out Trisomy 18 is the position of the hands.  A constantly clenched fist is indicative of a problem.  Keiki was moving its hand open and shut the whole time in our sonogram.  At one point, it raised its hand to its face and gave us the peace sign.  The technician snapped the picture.  We look at it now and laugh.  It’s like (s)he was telling us, “I’m fine, Mom.  Chill out!”

Chill out, Mom!

Our doctors only response was that he seriously wouldn’t worry about it.  He wouldn’t even go through any other testing if he were us.  In fact, the risk of miscarriage after an amnio is greater than Keiki’s risk for having this become anything other than nothing.

This leads me to question, then, the necessity of even testing for these “soft markers”.  Almost across the board these markers mean nothing when found in isolation of any other factor.  I’ve seen articles written that indicate that upwards of 10% of pregnant women will be told they have 1 of these markers by itself (of which, the CPC is only one).  That’s now 10% of woman who are likely going to spend the rest of their pregnancies wigging out over nothing. 

…and we’ve certainly done our share of wigging out over here.  I’m a data person.  I took comfort in the numbers.  Still, though, there is a part of me that combined this finding with what my own mother had gone through with my sister.  That part of me is petrified.  There is now, like it or not, a shadow over the former happiness of this pregnancy for me.  I am hopeful that this shadow will dissipate in time, but it’s there for right now.  Just in the last two days since hearing this news, it’s gotten better.  I am hopeful that I’ll continue to make progress.  I keep apologizing to Keiki for being sad and somewhat less excited.  It’s not fair to the poor little thing.  It’s done nothing wrong.

I’ve also allowed myself to cry.  I’m not a crier.  I cry easily over sappy things like commercials or the Nation Anthem (a good version of it gets me every time), but I don’t usually cry when I’m sad.  I usually quickly gather my pieces, put on my big girl panties and suck it up.  This time, though, I just had a good cry fest.  I don’t even know what I’m crying over.  Everything points to Keiki being just fine, but I guess I’m crying because I’m scared.

That brings me to the next thing I’ve realized in this process.  I am now, already, officially a mother.  Someone told me that there was a cyst in my baby’s brain and it was the worst thing I have ever heard.  It hurt infinitely more than hearing that I might not be able to race at Lake Placid because of injury.  It hurt more than any rejection I’ve ever felt.  It hurt more than I could have imagined.  I love Keiki.  Already more than I love myself.

Last week I cared about my foot injury and when I could run again and if I was putting on too much pregnancy weight.  This week none of that matters.  I don’t care if I ever do another triathlon again.  All that matters is Keiki coming into this world healthy.  That is it.  I feel like, for the first time ever, this is truly what it means to be an adult.  Nothing mattered before this.

I am comforted, though, by the belief that this will just be the first in a long line of worry.  Long after Keiki is born healthy and whole, I will worry and cry when (s)he gets sick for the first time or cuts her knee for the first time.  I’ll worry when I drop Keiki off for its first day of daycare or when someone breaks its little heart for the first time.

I know this worry is a part of me now.  Now that I am a mom.  Worry only means I have the capacity to love.  And that love is growing more every minute.

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