Today's topic is one that many people would not discuss in such a public forum. And I'd like to make it clear that I am writing about it precisely because I find it anxiety-inducing. Not because I take it lightly.
I spent a good chunk of the past month Googling Down syndrome. And other things I'd never heard of before, such as Trisomy 13 and 18. There is a lot of frightening information out there, and you can get yourself 54 kinds of worked up. Or more.
Because, I don't know if you know this - I didn't - but advanced maternal age begins after 35.
Advanced maternal age. It sounds old and scary. The image I get is of a grey haired, pursed-lipped, stern, non-child-friendly librarian. I don't know why.
I thought about my age as a factor in getting or not getting knocked up. But I didn't really think beyond that.
And then to my vast surprise, I got pregnant quite fast, and went in to the doctor. At which point I immediately learned a lot about my advanced maternal age. You are given all this information about different tests for different things that could be wrong.
Because of your advanced maternal age.
Nobody is pushing you to have these tests. But you're eligible for all of them. Because your eggs, they've been sitting around for a while. Which means there is a greater chance of a genetic abnormality. And they have had more time to accumulate more environmental damage and such.
Your odds of having a baby with Down syndrome, while 1 in 1,250 at age 25, increases to 1 in 100 by age 40.
So, being me, and being slightly obsessive sometimes or usually, and being an enormous fretty-pants, I Googled relentlessly. The advanced maternal age. The statistics. Screening tests. The percentage of false positives. The percentage risk associated with different diagnostic tests.
And so on.
This, as you might imagine, became my topic of choice. You should feel lucky I was keeping this a secret for a while. Anxiety level? Very high.
As with most things, I churned myself into practical hysteria. I obsessed. Endlessly. And then I worked through it. It's not resolved, but I've fretted about this as much as I physically can. Somehow, I needed to go through that to come out the other side.
I can say this now.
You don't necessarily think about your behavior around things like this while you're doing it, because, well, you're just living forward. Being yourself.
And then, one day, you might be sharing all you've gleaned from exhaustive searches with a close friend. And something happens to make you realize that perhaps, just perhaps, you have gone over the top with all of it. As you are wont to do.
The moment of realization? When your husband gently puts his hand on the friend's arm, leans forward in a confidential manner, and says the following.
"Basically, Downs is the new rabies."
And the friend, she nods knowingly.