The First and Last Christmas

As soon as the geneticist introduced herself, I started to cry.

It was early December, and I was four months pregnant with The Kid.  It was our last childless Christmas, yet it really wasn’t; our new child was there, readying for a late spring debut.

We’d gone in for a routine ultrasound.  This was the second or third time, so Petey and I knew the drill.  I’d lay down on an exam table, the technician would cover my belly with goo and run a wand around it. 

But this time, the vibe was kind of off.  The tech was a bit quiet and didn’t chat about names, nurseries, and unexpected cravings like usual.

And, instead of saying goodbye and leaving while I cleaned up, she stayed, then took us from the sonogram lab to a consulting room when we were ready.

We knew something was up.  Petey was quiet, but I jabbered non-stop, wondering aloud if we were having twins, triplets, or even a basketball team.

When faced with scary situations, it’s what I do.  I become so ridiculously optimistic that it doesn’t verge on magical thinking, it is full-on abracadabra land.

Then the geneticist arrived. 

So, we knew it wasn’t good, and was potentially very bad.  I was nearing the end of my twenties—my eggs weren’t farm fresh.  I assumed whatever crisis we were facing was my fault.

We were informed that the images were troubling because the fetus had a short neck and a tail.  Every embryo has a bit of a vestigial tail, but it should disappear around eight weeks gestation.

We were fifteen weeks in.

She gently explained that this combination could signal Downs Syndrome.  The only way to know for sure was an amniocentesis, which came with its own risks.  It was our choice, but there was no question for me; I would not survive the next six months unless I knew, one way or the other.  If it was Downs, I needed time to mourn our expectations so that we could greet our baby with joy.

We had the procedure the same day and were told the results would take weeks, well beyond Christmas.

All the excitement and pleasure of being pregnant during the holidays instantly drained away.  I was furious at all the happy people I saw.  Didn’t they realize and appreciate what we were going through?  Couldn’t they sense our hollow hearts?

Petey had bought us a gorgeous Christmas tree for this unique holiday.  It remained on the back porch, undecorated, a cruel reminder of the jubilant anticipation which we had before that sonogram.

Petey had to work overnight Christmas Eve, so at his urging, I went to Elizabeth City.  I wanted to bury my face in my mom’s lap and cry until I was empty.

I’d forgotten the four-hour drive to get there, with nothing to keep me company except my terror and sadness.

Back home Christmas night, Petey and I strove to wring every measure of holiday happiness from our situation.  

We held close the fact that we were together and would face what came with love and courage.

Petey’s birthday is January 3rd, and that year he got the best gift ever when we found out everything was okay.  The Kid just had a short neck (like Mom & Dad), and the tail should reabsorb before birth (it did).Later in January, family threw us a baby shower in New Jersey, so we took a road trip.  The shower was terrific, and we loved our presents—all except for our parting gift; Norovirus.

But that’s a whole other story…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s