"Is this for your baby?"
That's what the person behind the desk asked me when I handed her my form. Maybe she saw that it was from a genetic counselor's office and so assumed that genetics testing = baby. I don't know. For a split second I thought about saying "yes," because sort of it is for my baby -- the one I don't yet have -- but mostly I just wanted to slap her in the face.
"Oh, no, for you," she corrected herself before I had a chance to. Glad we got that cleared up.
* * * * *
Maybe it's just me, but nothing makes me feel more alone in this world than going to a doctor's office by myself. I want to be taken there by a concerned parent, or bringing a child I'm caring for. Or at least going with a family member. Or, well, not going at all.
But here we are, me and my independent life. Me and my job as an independent contractor; me and my independent health insurance; me and my independent trip to the genetics department.
The entire visit was one big exercise in self-control. I had to prepare myself to ignore all emotional cues and be brave. Focus. I told myself to listen. Learn. Absorb everything the counselor said so I could understand all the possibilities. Who knows how this will go. No sense in getting upset before you know anything.
* * * * *
I met with the counselor who was very kind and non-condescending. I asked a lot of questions and was given a lot of information. I recounted my family history and the deaths of my parents and difficulties my nephew had that led the specialists to test for Fragile-X so early. I tried to sound matter-of-fact and clinical.
I smiled when I talked about my family, and my parents' respective personalities. Only once did I have to work hard not to cry, when the counselor had to take a phone call and I had nothing to do but sit there and process where I was, and why.
But she came back quickly and I regained control.
In the end, she told me I could get my blood taken that day and that they'd get the results in about two weeks and how did I want to get the news? I didn't like that question one bit, but it wasn't her fault for asking.
I told her the phone would be fine, I just want to know.
Then she asked me if I thought I was a carrier.
I didn't like that question, either. Especially after she told me the likelihood that I was carrying this "defect" was 75%. But I was honest.
I told her no, I didn't actually think I was. But I added that probably everyone says that.
* * * *
I got to the blood-drawing center and had to take a number. The room was overflowing with people who were mostly elderly and frail and sick, and I pushed hard, really hard, to not feel anything. Especially not alone.
I tried to focus on going through the motions. Heh. Take a number. Like I'm buying chicken at Whole Foods.
I tried to read the magazines. I called Ish and discussed with him what I'd learned so far, but also dinner plans. La la la.
And then they called my number and that's when the woman asked if the test was for me or my baby. Which is an innocent enough mistake, except I had spent all morning (and actually, the 8+ weeks I'd waited to get this appointment) working hard to distance myself from the implications. Facts were one thing, and I could speak in percentiles and likelihoods. But the reality, that having a "normal" child would be even more difficult than I already anticipated, is almost too much to bear, and I could hear my answers screaming in my head...
I DON'T HAVE A BABY AND MAYBE I NEVER WILL AND WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT A BABY??? I'M A 31 YEAR OLD DIVORCEE WHO LIVES ALONE WITH CATS AND IS DATING A MARRIED MAN BECAUSE I AM SO INDEPENDENT! SEE? WHY? DO YOU HAVE A BABY? OH? BECAUSE TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, I WAS JUST SITTING AROUND FEELING SO BORED WITH ALL THIS TERRIFIC INDEPENDNCE THAT I THOUGHT TODAY WOULD BE A GREAT DAY TO COME IN AND SEE IF I HAVE A MENTAL RETARDATION GENE HANGING AROUND IN ME. YOU KNOW, JUST IN CASE. MAYBE NEXT WEEK I'LL COME BACK AND WE CAN TEST FOR SYPHILLIS. YEAH? OOH, AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, WHY NOT THROW IN A HALF A POUND OF GROUND BEEF!?!?
I didn't actually say any of that and mostly just got in another line, waiting to get pricked so I could bleed into a vial and get on with my day.
* * * *
Two weeks later, I hadn't heard anything so I called and left a message.
And when the counselor called back, she was very straightforward about telling me that yes, I am a pre-mutation carrier. We discussed next steps.
I didn't cry.