Near the end of the 12th week, we had an appointment with Angela’s OBGYN for a Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), a genetics test that checks for a number of different common chromosomal disorders.

NIPT is a simple blood test, but it reveals a lot about the baby. For example, it can uncover whether or not your baby is at high risk for the following disorders:

  • trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)
  • trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome)
  • triploidy
  • trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome)
  • microdeletion
  • more

For a lot of couples, this is a very important test. Because the risks of these disorders are much higher in women over 35, this test was recommended for us.

We walked into the office expecting that we would have an ultrasound. It wasn’t until we were in the room with the doctor that we found out that we weren’t going to have one. At least, one wasn’t on the agenda.

Trying to Find the Heartbeat

Before the lab would draw the blood needed for the NIPT testing, the nurse needed to take a current heart rhythm measurement. She took a handheld device with a little microphone and placed it on Angela’s stomach. This device is called a doppler, and it’s highly recommended that expecting parents not buy one of their own because not finding the heartbeat can make them freak out.

The sounds of the machine reminded me of fiddling around with an electric guitar with a distortion effect on. She spent what felt like five or ten minutes trying to find the heartbeat using the little gadget. She even stepped out to grab their other unit to be safe. No heartbeat.

Angela was a lot more cool-headed than I was. I kept quiet, but internally I was in a panic. Our baby’s heartbeat wasn’t coming through on the monitor. What could this mean?

After trying and failing to get the heartbeat the nurse smiled and said the doctor would need to give it a try, and if she was unable to find it either, we would try an ultrasound.

We waited in the little room for another five or so minutes for the doctor to come in. Angela didn’t seem worried at all. This is a common situation at this stage of pregnancy. The little heart isn’t always big enough or loud enough to find.

Surprise Ultrasound

The doctor arrived with a big wheeled ultrasound machine. It was beige, and reminded me of every computer I had used in the early ’90s. Sure enough, she said, “This ultrasound is twenty years old. We call it ‘dinosaur’.”

She fired up the ultrasound and it took a good minute or two to switch on. While we waited, Angela’s belly was coated in the ultrasound gel. I held Angela’s hand, and the doctor placed the sensor on her stomach.

Almost right away, the little baby appeared. He/she was dancing in the womb. I could see little arms and legs kicking around in the open space. After a moment, the doctor pointed out the little flutter of the heartbeat.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Everything was fine. We didn’t get to hear the heartbeat, but we did get to see our baby again. That made the whole trip worthwhile.

With that over, we went over to the lab where they drew some blood from Angela’s arm and we were done… for now.


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