Panicking During My Amniocentesis

Gestation: 19 Weeks, 6 Days

I panicked during my amniocentesis today, which reminded me of a fat, gray seal I startled once while scuba diving.  

We came upon each other suddenly.

He was eating a crayfish and I was peeing in my wet suit to warm up.  

He quickly hid his face behind a rock seeming to think I wouldn’t notice the rest of his body sticking out.  

I’m the fat, gray seal.

I hope if I hide my face behind a rock and don’t have the amnio nothing bad will happen.

It’s my fervent desire not to have to make any painful moral or ethical decisions regarding a baby with health challenges.

I’d rather die a shallow person, who has lived an unexamined life with no discernible character whatsoever.

I’m thirty-eight and my ob-gyn wanted me to have the amnio.

I wanted to have it so I’d know my kid’s okay and be able to finish my pregnancy eating canapes with carefree elan.

didn’t want to have it because I didn’t want to know my kid’s not okay.

As my ob-gyn inserted the ten-foot long needle into my abdomen, I realized my mistake. I was coming out from behind the rock.

My womb reacted by clamping down and refusing to allow the needle to extract any amniotic fluid from the placenta.

I was consequently informed I have a “nervous womb.”

I prefer to think my womb went gangsta bitch on that needle.

It was like, “Oh no you di’int!”

And the needle was all, “I gotta job to do Home Skillet.”

And my womb was all, “Girl, you better just back up out my face!”

Time went by with the needle entrenched in my belly, waiting for my womb to surrender.

Neither was willing to shoot first. Weeks went by, months, millennia. Bad thoughts rushed in.

My womb’s going to spontaneously burst like the Death Star … or Superman’s birth planet.

This is what I get for messing with Mother Nature. This is what I get for wanting a perfect baby!

I started to hyperventilate and whimper piteously. 

Okay, I cried. It didn’t help that when I glanced at my husband he was gaping in mute horror, like Shelly DuVall in The Shining

“Panicking just makes it worse, Shannon,” my doc gritted out. 

In my mind I thought, “You try not  panicking when a ten-foot long needle is stuck in your nervous womb for the twelfth of freaking never!”

I should pause to interject — my ob-gyn has had four children of her own, pushing the last one out at the heroic age of forty-three.

While raising them with her brain surgeon husband she also performs amnios, pap smears, circumcisions, cesareans and vaginal deliveries on a daily basis (she punctured my friend Zookie’s amniotic sac with her bare index finger).

When she walks down the corridors of the maternity ward at St. John’s hospital she’s greeted by new moms like The Beatles by ovulating teenagers during the British Invasion; shrieks, moans, fainting, musky panties thrown at her head.

She takes family vacations to Sardinia or Marrakech or the Mongol Valley or something where they build schools for poor kids (or maybe go skiing).

In her spare time, she runs the fucking Los Angeles marathon.

I’m hoping to discover she’s addicted to amphetamines or psychotropic drugs, but I suspect it’s simply her iron will that fuels her on.

She’s the kind of person you’d want on deck bailing water if the ship were going down. Not like me, a person who’d be screaming, “The water’s too cold. We’re all going to die of hypothermia!”

She has a reckless penchant for thinking all will go well and that she’ll deal with the problems only when they actually occur.  Yak.

Finally, my womb relaxed and allowed the smallest bit of amniotic fluid to be extracted. The procedure was over.

In my relief, I felt embarrassed by my panic attack.

I determined to be more like my doctor for the rest of my pregnancy; efficient, pragmatic, cool-under-fire like the wingman of an 8-10 Warthog.

I also determined to never run a marathon.

Later, as I lay on my sofa, feet up, raptly watching Baby Story (hoping the woman who wanted natural childbirth would beg for the epidural) my doctor called.

She sounded contrite and asked, in a kind, maternal voice, how I was feeling. I thanked her for her concern and assured her, in The Voice of Reason, that I was “fine, just fine.”

But as we hung up, I knew I wouldn’t really be fine until I got the phone call two weeks hence telling me my baby’s okay. 

Then I kind of had to laugh at myself.

Because the truth is, that phone call will be the first of so many phone calls, for as long as I live, where I won’t want to live unless my baby is okay.

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