One Woman's Choice

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By Maria Eftimiades
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"So when do you go for the abortion?'' my friend asked, her voice sympathetic.

"Wednesday,'' I replied, and then hurriedly got off the phone. I called Mike, my boyfriend, in tears, complaining about how inconsiderate people are, how no one thinks before they speak. The truth was, until I heard the word "abortion,'' it hadn't occurred to me that I was actually having one.

I was, of course. But we'd been using euphemisms for days, ever since my doctor called to say my amniocentesis results "weren't good.'' We'd say "when we go to the hospital'' or "the appointment" or "after the procedure, we can try again.''

We were driving to the post office, Mike and I, near our home when my cell phone rang and I recognized the OB-GYN's number. I said, "It's the doctor,'' and then, a little later, "Oh, no.'' Mike pulled over and held my hand while I listened. It didn't take long; the doctor didn't have much to say. He suggested we digest the news and call him later.

When I hung up, I told Mike, "It's Down syndrome'' and we went home and lay in bed for the rest of the day. We were shocked.

Perhaps we shouldn't have been. I was a few weeks from my 42nd birthday. Mike was 52. This was to be the first child for both of us. We'd read the statistics: at my age, a 1-in-100 chance of a Down syndrome baby, although my doctor said later he'd put the figure closer to 1-in-40. Not the best odds, but somehow we never expected we'd be the couple to receive bad news.

When I first learned I was pregnant, I was thrilled yet guarded. It wasn't because I was afraid of a miscarriage -- though I was. I worried about what I might hear, given that Mike and I weren't married, and had decided to wait before taking that step.

My family and close friends were delighted, but I found myself filing away insensitive remarks from those second-tier friends -- a work colleague, a member of my softball team, a neighbor. Some examples: "It's Mike's, I assume?'' "So, is this good news?'' "Who's the father? Just kidding!'' And my favorite: "How did it happen? No birth control?''

From the start of my pregnancy, I tried to be so careful. Mike brought home fresh fruit for me every evening, and I fretted when the pharmacy didn't have my prenatal vitamins in stock and I had to wait an extra day. I even wrote to Starbucks to request they add black decaffeinated tea to their menu. (Herbals aren't good for pregnant women.) Though we tried not to get too excited, Mike and I began searching for names -- we even found ourselves studying the credits at the end of movies. For a girl, we were far apart; for a boy, we leaned toward John -- we both have a brother with that name.

Once I had the amnio and saw from the sonogram it was a boy, I thought I was in the clear: It didn't occur to me to wait for the test results before sharing the news more freely. One Sunday morning I told my softball friends I was pregnant and they cheered the prospect of a new player and told me I'd done the team well by producing a boy. The very next weekend, I stayed home from the game, devastated by my whirling misfortune.

Later, one of my teammates suggested that I tell others I had a miscarriage.

"You never know how people will react,'' he said.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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