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

What The Hey, Is It Hot In Here?

John Mayer, serial dater and troubadour for romantically challenged thirty-somethings sang, “Your body is a wonderland”.

But for many women, our bodies can be more of a creepy abandoned seaside amusement park; the kind Scooby and the gang would pull up to in the Mystery Machine.It starts at puberty.

Most girls in middle school are desperate for the commencement of their monthly visitor.  They think about it, talk about it, and read about it. When I was in junior high, they’d separate the class by sex, then show the girls films and pass out pamphlets about “Becoming A Woman”.  According to them, once mature there are lots of flowers, swelling violin music, and for some reason, horseback riding.Even Walt Disney Studios got in on it with the Citizen Kane of female reproduction, “The Story of Menstruation”.  Sadly, it didn’t include a scene of Minnie sending Mickey out to the Walgreens for supplies, chocolate, and Midol.But, once Aunt Flo actually showed up, we realized what a messy, bloated, crampy pig in a poke we’d yearned for.  And as a bonus, we’d get to experience it twelve times a year for the next forty years.

There’s a break when pregnant, but a whole new garden of earthly delights awaits; from head to toe.Pregnancy brain is really a thing.  I once left my car running and in gear when I got out at the dry cleaners.  How I didn’t run myself over and make the business a drive-through is anybody’s guess.Then, there was the clicking.  For weeks, I heard an odd sound coming from my belly, like the monster from the movie, “Predator”, but slower and muffled.  I just assumed auditory hallucinations were another part of the gestational swag bag.

But one night, Petey heard it, and I actually cried from relief.  He rushed me out to Duke for answers.  None of the OB staff had ever seen anything like it, so they did an ultrasound.

Not The Kid, but it looked just like this, and we saw the removal of the thumb, too.

Turns out, The Kid was sucking a tiny little thumb, and as the digit was removed from mouth, there was a pop, which translated to the outside world, as a “click”.

Funnily enough, after birth, The Kid was not a thumb sucker…

Morning sickness?  I spent nine months constantly feeling like a drunken sorority girl ready to revisit meals from preschool. Early on, I experienced a sleepiness of an industrial-strength.  I’d be reading or watching TV, when suddenly it would be 90 minutes later because I had fallen asleep as suddenly as a toddler passes out into their lunch.

Later on, I tried to sleep, but sometimes a solo soccer match would break out, and I’d be poked repeatedly from the inside by little knees and elbows.  I very often felt compelled to walk, which would tire me out and rock my passenger to sleep.  Unfortunately, when I then attempted slumber, the cessation of movement would wake The Kid, and induce a dance party.There are random physical curveballs served up by growing a human, as well.  I had a hair inside my nose grow backward.  It eventually showed up on the outside.  Then I couldn’t breathe through my schnoz, but I could smell anything anywhere that might turn my stomach—at one point I’m pretty sure I smelled a fish fry on Noah’s ark.

After the many splendored thing that is youth and fertility, at middle age a woman experiences the joy of menopause.This is a voyage planned by a psychopathic travel agent from hell.  Without my glasses, I can’t see myself in the mirror—which makes mascara a vision-risking adventure.  A magnifying mirror works, but the suddenly enlarged, dilapidated visage staring back shocks and horrifies.  My joints sound like I’m smuggling a box of broken glass. The mood swings and the hot flashes are a charming two-fer.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve been buttered and set ablaze.  If at that point, a human male informs me that it’s all in my head and I should ignore it, I suddenly experience strong desire.  A desire to snap said human like a dry twig and use the resulting pieces to toast marshmallows and weenies on the raging camp fire that’s my left thigh. campfireIt’s not all tragedy and cold French fries, though.  I’m anticipating the happy day I discard the last tattered fragment of restraint controlling my tongue.

That’s right, Gentle Reader.  I shall be the brutally honest little old lady that reveals to mothers their babies look like Newt Gingrich.  I’ll tell stupid people they’re stupid.  And I’ll inform that guy with the particularly ridiculous comb-over that he ain’t fooling anybody.Thanks for your time.