Let me apologize from the get go for this next installment of the story. The 6 weeks that I am about to describe to you were the darkest of my pregnancy with Benjamin. These were the trenches that I had to battle and dig through to find my way. I promise you that there is light at the end of this period of time. So stick with me…walk through these trenches with me again. They were necessary in order for me to arrive at resilience.
The only way I knew how to get through the two weeks of waiting for the amnio results was to put myself into a tight, little, controlled box. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. I moved so slowly and barely breathed during those two weeks. I didn’t want to disturb the world. If I could just be still enough, quiet enough, then maybe nothing would get worse. I anticipated the phone call that would give me the news. I feared that noise. The “ring”. There were times when I didn’t know how I would be able to bring myself to answer the phone when that moment finally came. Where would I be? What would they say? How would I cope? My strength was in doubt and in fear of judgment.
Just before Thanksgiving, I felt the first kicks from Benjamin. It was early evening, yet found myself already in bed with the covers hiding me from truth. Then there he was. Letting me know him a little and forcing me to deal with reality. It was the first time in a week that I allowed myself to pull down my walls of restraint. To experience. To live again. And there was joy for an instant. Pure happiness. I was reminded that I had a life inside of me. Not a “case”, a “concern”, an “abnormality”, or an “issue”. But rather, a boy. A son.
I believe it was those kicks that carried my through Thanksgiving. Travels, family, food. A time of togetherness when all I wanted was isolation. I hated that I was the reason that everyone was “walking on eggshells”. It broke me to watch people stretching fake smiles and working so desperately to be sure there were no lags in the conversation. Any hiccup of interaction meant we would have to endure the uncomfortable silence. None of us were real that Thanksgiving. We just played nice.
There were no phone call over the holidays, of course. When I reached Day 14 of waiting, I couldn’t take it anymore. I called them. I asked them. Well, that is, I left a message with a machine. I pleaded with a device, “My name is Allyn Locker. I had an amnio done 2 weeks ago and still have not heard anything back. PLEASE, please call me at your earliest convenience. I may be going crazy.”
20 minutes later I walked into a middle school, headed to a meeting. Cue the “ring”. The passing bell had just rung and there were swarms of teenagers invading the hallways. Laughing, joking, holding hands. No cares in the world. And I, a soon-to-be, scared mom walked against their current. I answered my phone. The woman’s hello to me let me know I could breathe. It was bright and free…a voice that would be delivering good news. And it was. It was great news. The amnio had come back clear. I called Jon. He breathed. I cried. We had ruled out several genetic defects…Trisomy 18, Trisomy 19, spina bifida. Several others. Of course, there were defects that an amnio could not detect. But those would have to wait. For now, we were at least sitting in the best position possible for the situation we had been dealt.
Funny, you would think that the amnio results would have brought me to a calmer place. But it didn’t. I lost it over the next 4 weeks. Completely and utterly lost it. I was trapped. I had just been given news that my baby was not right, yet there were really no answers. No definitives. No reasons why. No plans of action. Nothing. I was stuck within the absence of certainty.
In my head. No way out. Call it depression. I think it may have been worse than that. There were episodes. Full 48 hour episodes of crying uncontrollably and completely checking out. Closing myself in the guest bedroom. Staring off at the wall. I was being overtaken by something I didn’t understand. I couldn’t find my footing. I didn’t know how I would be able to survive 5 months of waiting in the unknown. It seemed unbearable.
Then there was the frustration of being pacified. Family and friends, in their loving attempts to make me feel better, were simply not listening. When I would try to explain what was wrong with Benjamin, I would immediately be interrupted with “Everything will be fine”, “All babies look different”, “A small chin? Maybe he just has small features”. I was screaming, but nobody was hearing me. Even my husband, who I know only had the best intentions would just tell me to relax and that it was probably no big deal. No big deal? Was anybody seeing what I saw? Was anybody reading the research I had found? Why was nobody listening?????
My only refuge was work. For whatever reason, my co-workers let me talk and rediscover remnants of normalcy. Maybe it was because these were the people that I spent most of my time with. Maybe it was because so many of them were mothers and could relate. Not sure why, but they gave me my voice. Through my days at work, there were opportunities where I could say all of this out loud. I could make all of it real. Tell them what was wrong. Tell them I was worried. And they heard me.
Slowly, I was finding some traction. There were even some good days mixed in with the bad.
Then Christmas. Another holiday. I told Jon several times that I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to stay at home with him. Put my head under the covers and wait for the Monday after Christmas-that would be our next appointment with the specialist. I just desperately needed to see Benjamin again on that ultrasound. That was all I could think about. But, we went. We went to my in-laws and to my parent’s house. And the most amazing thing happened…there was relief. Relief from the agony I had experienced for the past 6 weeks. Christmas was glorious and fun. It was filled with serenity and peace. I laughed, I smiled, I enjoyed family….I realized how lucky I actually was and how much I had to be grateful for. It was Ben’s first Christmas with us and I wanted him to feel happiness through me.
So there it was. The crack in the door. The first glimpse of light. Something that could lead me out.
I would embrace the struggle and the uncertainty. I would fight for my son and my family.