I was seven months pregnant and a frequent flyer at the high risk perinatal center when they found something amiss. I was immediately shuffled upstairs to talk to the pediatric cardiologist. You have got to love to the efficiency - no appointment, no wait, just take this elevator, turn right, walk 50 feet. Apparently pending open heart surgery merits special treatment.
And/or they wanted to shove the hugely pregnant, snotty weeping mess into someone else's office.
And/or they were trying to atone for the fact they missed the GIANT hole in my child's heart during the first three ultrasounds.
But I digress.
The cardiologist explained what an atrioventricular septal defect was and sketched out a picture for me. He told me how they'd fix it. I'd backed out of my scheduled amnio and my blood tests were clear so we still didn't know, but he explained this particular type of heart defect had an incredibly high correlation with Down syndrome. "Don't worry. Even if she does have it, they've completely revamped the way they teach these kids and she'll be more productive than half of society."
He was relaxed and upbeat. No tragedy here, folks, move along. They were going to fix her heart and teach her well and everything was going to be ok. [I don't think "productivity" should be the go-to standard now, but it was comforting at the time & I seized on it.]
At the next appointment with my regular OB, the nurse said they'd only had "this happen" once before… and she grabbed one of those happy family Christmas cards that line all OBs' halls, testament to the fruits of their, um, labor (couldn't resist!).
It was shot of a brother and sister, snuggling. The little boy had Ds.
"Aren't they beautiful?"
There are some ghastly diagnosis stories out there - doctors presuming and even advocating for termination, or coldly pointing out all the phenotypes of Ds on a newborn to parents, as if they were mid-autopsy or just found something in a petri dish. Most Ds organizations try to include doctor training in their mission but it's an uphill battle.
I was spared most the grieving and dismay many parents experience with the Ds diagnosis. We'd lost our first baby and contemplating losing another in heart surgery was so gut wrenching, perspective wasn't so much gifted us as forced down our throats. But I haven't given enough credit to those first conversations ~ they were beautiful.