So you’ve told some people, you’re over the initial shock, what now? What is actually expected of you in the time leading up to the birth? I am sure some of the men who read this will have found themselves in a similar situation as the one I found myself in, so I will do my best to break it down for these few. In my opinion, at the very least, turn up to all of your baby’s scans, you will regret it if you don’t, and there is nothing quite like it.
Darcy’s mother and I, for the majority of her pregnancy, were posted 260 miles apart. I won’t lie, this made everything a complete ball ache, every time I had to do anything it was attached to a 4-hour drive. No one can say I didn’t put in the effort, I made it to every scan and even drove up for the weekend a few times to aid her in any way I could. Until the actual birth I found it was difficult to do contribute as much as I wanted purely because of the distance, and I was just lucky that Darcy’s mother is a descendant of hardy folk and took everything on the chin without much complaint.
An interesting turn of the pregnancy wheel is cravings. These can literally be anything, I read an article once that stated whilst some can be totally harmless, some women have dangerous cravings. A woman who has never been a real drinker can suddenly crave vodka and other alcohols, and one woman was reported saying she craved sponges. Not the Victoria or apple kind of sponge either, the soap and water kind of sponge. So remember, if you get sent out for marmite, tuna, chocolate or fruit, you could have it worse!
The first major milestone you come up to is the 12-week scan. Contrary to what you believe, the 12-week scan is not so you can walk away with a picture for the memory book. The reason for the 12-week scan is so the ante-natal nurses can do some tests to determine whether your baby has one of two life threatening diseases (Edwards syndrome and Patau’s Syndrome) and there is also a preliminary test for down syndrome. This is done by taking a measurement at the back of the baby’s head which is then cross referenced with the age and chromosomes of the mother. At the end of the scan you get sent home with a photo, and a promise that no news is good news and told not to worry. I had a call after 3 days to inform me that the results were low risk for the fatal diseases, but high risk for down syndrome. It’s a strange reality to be faced with, there is nothing that anyone can do to alter the inevitable. If your child has down syndrome there is nothing you can do about it, no drugs, no operation, no cure or preventative measure it is just one of those things. If your results come back anything higher risk than a 1 in 50 chance, your partner will be offered another test called an amniocentesis. This is a procedure where a needle about 15 inches long, is inserted straight into the stomach of the mother, and a sample of either placenta, or amniotic fluid is taken. This test is not obligatory, it’s an option. It will give you a definitive yes or no as to whether your child has down syndrome however it carries a 1 in 100 risk of causing a miscarriage. I will not tell you what is the best thing to do here, because there is no right answer it is all down to what you and your partner decide. Darcy’s mother decided to go ahead with the amniocentesis. It is not nice to watch, and just one of the many times you will realise just how much a woman goes through to bring a child into the world, both emotionally and physically. After the test, you wait another gruelling three days of unknown, before you get the call. Depending on what news you get, you have a series of options available to you, however I will not go into detail about these, everyone has their own circumstances to deal with and it is not my place to tell anyone what to do in this situation. What I will say is this; when I found out there was a possibility my child could have Down Syndrome, I did an awful lot of research on how to cope with this. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much information and support is out there. The Down syndrome community is massive and to assume that people with the condition suffer a less than full life is completely incorrect. People with Down syndrome can live happy independent lives and you only have to look online to confirm this for yourself, so do think hard before rushing into any decisions. Our test results were negative. Usually you will not find out the sex of your baby until the 20-week scan, but if you have had an amniocentesis, you can find out the sex early.
Now that the deep bit is covered, during your scans there are a couple faux pas you’re going to need to watch out for to avoid looking like a twat. First is simple, a lot of midwives are young ladies who may have just recently graduated from University and look rather…. fresh faced shall we say. If you find this is the case with your midwife, don’t flirt. Its considered terribly bad form to flirt when your pregnant partner is laying there in the room, you’d think it was a given, but according to a midwife friend of mine, it happens. Second, no scan related jokes, I learnt this one the hard way when during our 12- week scan, I commented that I was sure I could see a Cornish pasty in there – no one laughed, I looked like a twat and I heard all about it on the way home. Third and finally, if during the scan you either get told you’re having a boy, or have a keen eye and spot you’re having a boy, there is no need to exclaim to the rest of the room that he’s clearly your boy because of the size of his appendage. It makes you look like gimp, and any educated person in the room will laugh at the irony, because at this point, your baby’s penis is the same size as a grain of rice.
The scans are all pretty similar, 20-week will determine the sex and 32 will give you a clearer picture of the baby but ultimately, there is not an awful lot to it. At around the 30-week point, after rather a lot of persuasion from my siblings I decided I was finally going to have to tell my parents…