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An unfortunate consequence of putting off child bearing until your thirties is the increased risk for having a child with a genetic disorder.

Accordingly, Tennisfiend and I decided to have a procedure called amniocentesis performed to identify any serious problems with our new baby. Now those of you who are familiar with the procedure know that it involves a very long needle. Those of you who are familiar with me know that I don’t like needles (please read “Why I Don’t Like Needles” for the horrifying details). Anyway, a needle is inserted into the abdomen to withdraw a sample of amniotic fluid, which is then tested for abnormalities.

I prepared for the procedure by reading avidly about it for two weeks straight. I then pretended that the test was never going to occur up until the moment that they whipped out the giant needle, which I vowed not to even glance at. As a result, I went into the procedure room cushioned by a Zen-like calm. When Loretta, the ultrasound tech handed me the legal paperwork, I read it dispassionately (having familiarized myself with the risks extensively two weeks ago), signing and initialing in the appropriate places.

Then Dr. Agitator entered the room. Dr. Agitator, the clinic’s amnio expert, resembles a smug, blond Stephen King. He swept into the exam room twenty minutes late, positioned himself tic-tac distance from my face and with intense, almost threatening eye contact, dramatically recounted every single risk associated with the procedure. Every sentence seemed like an accusation. I felt like a crime victim being cross-examined by a particularly hostile and morally outraged defense attorney.

My Zen-like calm disintegrated. It would have been replaced by mortal terror for my unborn child if I hadn’t been very determined and half pissed-off by the doctor’s theatrics. Prior to the test, I instructed Tennisfiend to distract me during the procedure, which was supposed to last under five minutes. Six minutes into the procedure, as Tennisfiend was nervously struggling to keep up conversation, when Dr. Agitator quietly exclaimed, “Huhn! That’s really weird!”

I then felt a punching where the needle was being inserted, followed by continued jerks of pressure and the certain rupturing of various tissues and organs. I was afraid to look up and find Dr. Agitator with one shoe on my hoo-hah and both elbows bellybutton deep in my abdomen. Tennisfiend went white and our banter died, just in time to hear Dr. Agitator faintly say, “Damn, look there’s blood!” My insides went cold. You know that feeling when you see your first crush kissing someone else when they are supposed to be your steady? A clenching in the bowels that indicates that something very, very wrong has happened? It was like that, but icier.

Containing my terror, I looked back at Tennisfiend and asked him (in Russian) to talk about our dog. He sputtered out a laugh and looked away. Then the hand that was clenching mine began to tremble. We stared at each mutely for a handful of excruciatingly long minutes until my quavering voice broke the silence with some inane remark that I had made three times before. At that moment, Dr. Agitator announced that the procedure was finished.

As the ultrasound tech swabbed my belly, I made eye contact with Dr. Agitator and gave him a weak smile. “Were you scared?” he asked. “I felt a few scary moments,” I confessed. “Well, I wasn’t scared at all,” he replied proudly, as if I should congratulate him for being so brave during my procedure. I laughed and quietly congratulated myself on not fainting, screaming, puking or crapping my pants during the ordeal. When Dr. Agitator left the exam room, I quizzed Loretta about the Doctor’s comments. As it turned out, my skin is extraordinarily thick and tough, so he had difficulty inserting the needle. This complication resulted in a wisp of my blood finding its way into the sample. Loretta soothed our frazzled nerves with an ultrasound of the baby, revealing to us that we are expecting a boy. Yay!

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