What It Feels Like To Fail Your Prenatal Screening

Somewhere around the top of my list of ‘scariest things that have ever happened to me’ is the time I failed my quad screen during my pregnancy. When my Science Mom brain is operating at full capacity, I’m able to explain that a prenatal screening isn’t really something you can ‘fail’ at all, and doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong: it’s just a heads-up that something requires further investigation. (We got lucky that the ‘further investigation’ revealed only good, albeit stunning, news.) But directly after getting the “we need to talk” result from my doctor’s office, though, Science Mom was not on the premises and all information had to be routed through Frantic Panic Mom instead. Here’s how the 72-ish hours between that dire phone call and the follow-up appointment went.


What are the odds something is actually wrong if you flunk your prenatal screening? Who else has gone through this and what happened to them? What could be wrong with my baby? What should I have done differently to avoid this? Is it all the ice cream I’ve been eating? I knew nothing Dr. Google said could help me, so I resolved not to go near an Internet browser.

2. Frantic googling

Avoid Googling? For three days? HAHAHA. A flagged result on a quad screen means somewhere around a 3% chance something is actually wrong, but good luck explaining those odds to your brain. Five minutes into reading search results, I was convinced my poor baby was suffering from anencephaly. Dear anxiety attacks, please go away forever. I reiterate: do as I say, not as I do, and do not ask Dr. Google for help.

3. Stress eating

My old workplace provided free microwave popcorn, juice, and milk. I ate more Orville Reddenbacher in those few days than I have eaten at every movie I’ve ever seen in the theater combined.

4. Convincing yourself everything is OK

Just shut up for a few minutes, brain! The weekend before our doctor appointment, we spent a few hours hanging out with some good friends, who (I learned later) my husband had strategically coached not to mention the elephant in the room, or rather, in the uterus. Being separated from my computer was the best possible thing that could have happened at this point.

5. Convincing yourself nothing is OK

Sleep? No. There is no sleep. There is only crying and pacing.

6. Getting zero work done

Probably less than zero, because I’m sure the volume at which I was honking my nose into my handkerchief disturbed my office neighbors who had no idea what was going on.

7. Clock-watching

If scientists want to figure out time travel, all they have to do is tell someone that something really bad might have happened, and that they’ll have to wait three days to find out whether or not it did. Bingo: time will start moving backwards.

8. Finally having/getting to go to the doctor

No, not that Doctor, although the sentiment is appropriate. I only just managed to restrain myself from pushing people out of the way in the hospital elevator and hallways. I HAVE AN APPOINTMENT TO BE AT, PEOPLE.

As it turned out, we got good news (it turns out when there’s a second baby lurking in there, it can affect the expected numbers for your quad screen results! Who knew!). But those three days of waiting, which ended with a giant squirt of ultrasound gel on my belly and then the very clear finding that there were two babies in there, were some of the worst of my entire life. If you find yourself in the same position, my email and Twitter are down there at the bottom of the post – feel free to get in contact if you ever need to talk, scream, or rail against those stupid numbers. I’ve been there, and I totally get it.

(Image: Avatar_0123/Shutterstock)

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