A God of Small Things.
I laid on the exam table and prayed it would be over soon. The room was muggy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe- an obvious byproduct of my ever-growing belly, but also, my nerves. The mounting anticipation of our ultrasound was laced with worry. And now- in this very moment- it was creeping closer to panic. When the nurse called back with the AFP results and said that they were “slightly elevated,” I had naturally/obviously/understandably decided right then and there that something was devastatingly wrong with our son. (“Slightly elevated,” she had explained, had taken our risk from .5% to a whopping 1%). I rested in that in the impossibly long few weeks between our conversation and the ultrasound. But just then, sitting in that tiny room with all of the buttons and controls and a blank monitor gaping back at me, I felt like my heart was coming up into my throat (or wait, maybe it was breakfast).
An eternity later, the tech breezed in with a short but friendly introduction and pressed the probe down on my belly, giving me a painful reminder of my full bladder. And there was my sweet boy: a pound-ish ball of flesh and bone, hiccuping, squirming around, and otherwise looking pretty content. Jake gave my hand a reassuring squeeze, and I focused on the perfection of Milo's little silhouette. Despite the fact that I’d done this once before, I still found myself completely and utterly in awe that a tiny, beautiful body had been fused together inside of mine: the four chambers of his heart working in perfect rhythm, the sections of his brain that had divided where they were supposed to, the curvature of his spine- even the way he balled up his little fists and kept them close to his face. The tech reassured us that all of his major organs and systems were working perfectly, and I felt myself exhale three weeks of "what-ifs."
There was just one thing she wanted the doctor to look at though, and she’d be right back.
Um, what? Once again, time seemed to stop. The crinkly paper underneath me was loud and obnoxious. All I really wanted to do was pee. And also cry. Just then, the doctor walked in and sat down beside me at mission control. I watched his face like a hawk as he scanned over Milo’s entire body. I think we made small talk in those three or four minutes. I think he might have asked us what we did, where we lived. Whether or not unicorns really existed. I don’t honestly remember because I was too distracted by the fact that he kept zooming in to Milo’s left hand. It was then that I vaguely recalled the tech doing the same thing. He finally cocked his head ever so slightly to one side.
“Well,” he declared.
“He’s stone cold normal. Except that he only has three fingers and a thumb on his left hand. He’s missing his pinky.”
He said it as if he was giving me the weather forecast or describing the color of the walls. Granted, it wasn’t devastating news- far from it. At first, I think I actually laughed out loud, feeling absurdly relieved. I mean, if we had walked in to rule out Spina Bifida or some other truly life-altering condition, this was about the best “worst case scenario” we could have been given. I asked him if he was sure. Because maybe, just maybe, it was an odd angle or a weird shadow and by asking, I could pretend that I actually knew the difference between a leg and an arm on an ultrasound. But in his own words, he was 100% sure that Milo’s left pinky was gone. He explained it was most likely due to something called an amniotic band, in which tissue wraps around a developing fetus’s digits (in severe cases, it can wrap around arms and legs), creating a type of tourniquet by cutting off blood flow and ultimately resulting in a freaky kind of self-amputation. We were lucky that it was only a finger.