The Congenital Anomaly Scan

When people are asked what their worst day ever is, they usually take time to think about it and it’s of course different for everyone. It could be that time they lost their cellphone, got mugged, caught their other half cheating on them, lost a big opportunity, etc. For me it was the day we had our CAS (Congenital Anamoly Scan) ultrasound.

CAS usually happens on the 5th month of pregnancy and its main objective is to check the progress of your baby. That’s when they check the development of the vital organs like the heart as well as count their toes and fingers. As a bonus, if the baby is positioned right, you can also find out if you’re having a boy or a girl.

We had our scan scheduled on our 20th week as advised by our OB at the time. We arrived at Perpetual that Saturday afternoon. I don’t know why but while most mom-to-be’s are excited about the scan (since they get to find out the baby’s sex and see their baby again) I was feeling quite uneasy about it. When we got to the ultrasound area, there was already a couple of women waiting to be scanned. We inquired at the reception (not really sure how else to call this) to get listed. We were told that the doctor has not yet arrived so we got my name listed and told the receptionist that we will just grab something to eat and come back.

It was perfect timing when we got back to the hospital because it was already our turn. So we entered the room where I had my first ultrasound. The sonologist instructed me to lie down and put the cold gel on my tummy. As soon as she put the hand-held device on my tummy, our baby’s sex was revealed. We were having a boy! I looked at my hubby and he was grinning from ear to ear. He really wanted a boy. The sonologist continued with the scan and was moving the device around my tummy. She asked me why I was having the CAS, if I got sick or something. I told her it was just advised by my OB since we were already on our 5th month. I thought it was a bit weird for her to ask me that since CAS is supposed to be a routine procedure on your 5th month. She was quiet as she continued with the scan. She then asked me “May lahi ba kayong Mongoloid?” I was shocked with the question and my blood ran cold. I don’t know what she was seeing but it made me really worry. Was there something wrong with our baby? It took me a while to answer as I try to remember each relative to confirm and I said “No.” She then said, “Di mo alam?” which was so not my answer. I mean sure I wasn’t that confident with the way I answered her no but can you blame me if my mind was still reeling from her question? I told her “None that I’m aware of.” She then just continued with the san without explaining anything. We let her do her thing and after a while she muttered something like “Bat di ko makita ung ilong nito?” I wasn’t sure if she was asking me but obviously I won’t be able to answer her question. She then said that she could see the nostrils but not the actual nose. If the things that she said weren’t serious and had nothing to do with my baby’s future I would have laughed at the thought that my baby doesn’t have a nose and I could give birth to the next Voldermort but I swear everytime she opens her mouth I just want to cry. Nobody answered that last question and then after a while she commented about our baby’s ears. She pointed to one of her assistants and asked her to confirm that what she was seeing were ears and then said that it was lower than where they were supposed to be by that age. Again, she didn’t explain anything and proceeded with the scan. After a while, she abruptly ended the session.

You might ask why we didn’t ask her questions or to explain what she was saying. It’s because there were a couple of signs outside and inside the ultrasound room that says it will be our attending physician who would explain the results to us. It felt that they were basically saying that we’re not allowed to ask questions. And of course, there was that part of me that was just completely scared and couldn’t really talk.

As we were exiting the room, another couple with their eldest child was going in. We were asked to sit at the waiting area as they prepare the results. By this time, I was restless and my worry level was just out of this world. I couldn’t even lean back on my seat to rest. I was literally sitting at the edge of my seat. The hubby looked at me and asked if I was ok and I could only shake my head no. The couple who came after us went out smiling and I thought how unfair it was that they get to be happy while I felt so bad when we all came back from the same room.

When we got the result, I immediately checked what was on there. I have absolutely no medical background so I couldn’t really understand most of what was said there but some of the notes really worried me even more. It said that my son had “soft signs of trisomy”, he has “left ventricular echogenic focus” and “low set ears”. I had no idea what trisomy meant at the time but I do know that only the heart has the left and right ventricles which made me think that there might be something wrong with our baby’s heart. There was also that “mongoloid” comment that the sonologist said which meant that my baby could have Down Syndrome. I felt numb. Unfortunately, our OB’s clinic hours has already ended by the time we got the results. We couldn’t rush to her and ask her about it so we headed back home. I don’t even remember how we got back to the car. I just remember sitting at the backseat and telling myself not to cry and to hold it in until we get home. But I couldn’t help it. The tears came rushing and I couldn’t stop. The hubby could just tell me not to worry and that I shouldn’t cry. We got home and I told him how I was worried that there was something really “wrong” with the baby and that it was my fault. He just said not to think that way and not to worry myself too much. I didn’t leave our room that night. I couldn’t deal with people. I didn’t want to talk or even see anyone.

We had plans the next day. We were supposed to meet a supplier I booked to make a wedding album for us at Megamall, then go to Glorietta for a mom/baby expo then the hubby would drop me off to my parents where I would stay the night. Things didn’t exactly go as planned as I felt worse than I did the day before.

As we were talking to the album supplier, the hubby’s phone automatically connected to Megamall’s WiFi which doesn’t always happen so when we ended the meeting I took the chance to Google some of the notes in the ultrasound result that I could remember at the time. I searched for Trisomy. And that’s when I found out that it is a chromosomal disorder, an extra chromosome to be exact (47 instead of just 46) and that there are different kinds of trisomy depending on which chromosome has an extra. I found out that Down Syndrome (DS) is Trisomy 21 and my heart sank. It just meant that our baby could potentially have DS. As I read about it more though, I learned that there are types of trisomy that is so much worse. When I searched for “trisomy” and “low set ears”, most of the results were for Trisomy 13 and 18. Both of which are fatal birth defects. I read about how babies born with these have very low survival rate and usually don’t live long enough to reach their first birthday. I felt crushed and I started crying again so the hubby decided to just take me home.

When we reached the house, I read more about Trisomy 13 and 18 which made me feel even worse. At one point I felt so numb that I just laid in bed for a while hoping that it was all just a nightmare. I was blaming myself. What did I do wrong? Did I miss a day without taking my prenatal vitamins? Should I have kept on drinking milk the way people kept telling me to even though I just end up vomiting it anyways? Should I have listened to some friends and avoided passing through the scanners whenever you enter a building? Or maybe it was because I had my picture taken (superstitious belief in the Philippines) while pregnant that caused this? I felt devastated. I wanted to die. If the water in the pool that was set up at the garage wasn’t so filthy I probably would have drowned myself. It might sound overly dramatic but that was what how I felt at the time. Can you blame me? We were having our first baby and it felt like everything is going wrong and who else can I blame but myself?

The next day was hard. It was Monday. Time to go to work and I wasn’t sure I could deal or keep my sanity while working. I had to smile and pretend like nothing was wrong with my life when I felt like everything was falling apart. I was hoping to take a day or two off as I felt like I was so stressed out with everything and that I needed to take a break but there was so much work I had to do at the time and one of my teammates was feeling so sick that he decided to work from home the whole week and I didn’t want to leave my other teammate by herself at the office. It was so hard though coz I couldn’t keep myself from crying specially when I was doing some more reading about trisomy in between work. It was a good thing nobody was sitting beside me or he/she might think I was going insane.I think everything was taking a toll on my body though and I was feeling sick so I asked to have half the day off on Tuesday to see my OB. This would also let us find out some more about the results since we can ask her directly.

Monday night, the hubby just held me and told me that no matter what happens, we will deal with it together. I guess that was what I really needed because after that I felt much better. I needed his assurance that everything will be alright and that he will be there for me and the baby and deal with everything as a family.

Tuesday afternoon, he picked me up from work and I remember feeling nervous as we get near the hospital. When we arrived at my OB’s clinic though, I felt calm. When it was our turn, we handed the result to her and waited for her to check it. I noticed that she was very careful with her words which was more than I could say for the sonologist. She said that these were just soft signs and there wasn’t really any assurance whether the baby has DS or not until the day he comes out. The whole reason for the CAS is that so we could prepare ourselves in case there is something wrong. She tried to make me feel better and suggested that if we want, we could have a 3D ultrasound on my 7th month to have a better look at our baby. She also advised me not to worry too much and get stressed out about it because our baby would feel it and might think that I was rejecting him. This really struck me and I felt so guilty because I was not giving our baby enough attention than usual. Ever since our ultrasound I felt distant from him and I was afraid that he would think that I was rejecting him. The OB also told us that all we could do really is wait and pray the our baby will be alright. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any water works during our whole consultation. I guess I can say that by this time, I have fully accepted our situation. I wasn’t 100% alright but I was getting there much faster than I anticipated and all I could think of is taking care of our baby.

I still wasn’t that keen about talking about it with other people though. The hubby and I just decided to tell our moms respectively (and they can pass the message to the rest of the family if they feel like it). The first time I told a friend about our whole experience and what we were going through, I still couldn’t help but cry a little even though I have already accepted it.

From here I tried to prepare myself and researched about DS. I have learned so much and the more I read about it, the more I thought that everything is going to be alright and that the hubby and I will go through all of the challenges together and our main concern is for our son to live a happy life.

I don’t know how things could have been different if our OB asked for a second opinion or if we changed hospital and OB early on since Makati Med (MMC) has a different way in handling situations like this. Our CAS experience was the worst ever but I am glad that because of it we learned to prepare ourselves for our baby’s arrival and count our blessings.

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One thought on “The Congenital Anomaly Scan

  1. Pingback: Our Birthing Story | randomlittlemusings

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