Catch “Mr. Universe Comes A-Calling” from the beginning! Read part 1 here!
Quad Screen Positive
“Your Quad Screen came back positive for Down Syndrome. Now, this doesn’t mean your baby has Down Syndrome. The numbers resulting from this blood test indicate an elevated risk that it’s possible. “
The doctor rambled on. He scribbled numbers, letters, and statistics, something about hormone levels, onto an ancient, marker-stained whiteboard hung neatly against a pastel green wall of the exam room.
Not that the patient was actually taking any of the technicalities in.
She reeled on the exam table, stunned. She was too dazed to focus on the conversation. Too shaken to concentrate on picking up what the doctor was putting down. His words poured over and ran off of her in a shower of what-the-fuckery.
“Oh, dude…,” I protested, shying away from the pitiful vision of Spot.0, my younger pregnant self circa fall of 2010. I looked desperately to Mr. Universe; I had zero desire to relive this moment. It was painful enough the first time, without being forced to look at my own wrinkle-free mug. And I knew what was coming. Did NOT want to hang around for that.
Standing next to me, Mr. Universe was oblivious to my discomfort. He gave not a singular fuck about what I did or did not want, and in fact, seemed utterly disinterested in the scene entirely.
Well, not entirely disinterested.
I gasped. “Dude, really ?!” His particular focus was on the attending nurse, an attractive middle-aged blonde with an amply-blessed bosom accented by a plunging neckline. Guess the office dress code doesn’t apply to her. Hmph.
“Pay attention,” he ordered, snatching me by the chin and forcing my direction back to scene replaying. His gaze never left Debbie-Does-Nursing’s cleavage.
“Rude,” I mumbled.
He snapped his fingers and gestured towards Spot.0.
Talk about painfully awkward.
Me… but not me. But me still… Pregnant for the third time, yet the little human renting out my womb would come to be my second-born child. Powerless. Clueless. Shell-shocked and feeling absolutely alone in a cold, sterile exam room listening to but not really hearing the doctor info-dumping while Nurse Debbie offered handfuls of cookie-cutter words of comfort.
I looked to the doctor and Debbie. They exchanged brief glances here and there. What were they thinking? Were they expecting a breakdown? Were they expecting tears?
“That’s not about you.”
“Tears are the least offensive body fluid that table will see today.” He grinned. “Debbie Does Nursing, indeed.”
“Well, thank you for that disturbing image. Ew.”
Nurse Debbie grabbed Spot.0’s hand and patted her back reassuringly, and the late 20-something pregnant woman stiffened beneath her touch. Her eyes widened, began to glisten.
No, not here.
No public displays of emotion for Spot.0, not if it could be helped. Vulnerability? Gross and unacceptable. No, thank you, Sir.
I remembered wishing The Husband had been there that day. He’d had to work, of course—the bills don’t stop rolling in just because you get a “we need you to come in so we can speak with you” medical call (those are rarely light matters, by the way, in case you weren’t aware).
“Ok, this sucks. Can we go?” My heart ached for her. That confused, scared woman, her mind swirling in a terrible storm of what-ifs.
“Get a closer look.”
“Wha–!” I stumbled and fumbled to catch myself from falling as Mr. Universe shoved me forward. “You’re a real dick sometimes, you know that?”
Turn around, he gestured with a whirl of his hand.
I sighed and complied. Spot.0 set her mouth in a hard line, fiercely and firmly fighting back emotions churning inside her, threatening to burst out. I Listened to her breath catch and release in tiny, nervous little snatches that betrayed the “I’m cool, calm and collected; I’ve got my shit together” vibe she was always so desperate to project.
A marker scritched and scratched and squeaked softly against the whiteboard as the doctor continued scribbling. Its sound snapped Spot.0 out of her own thoughts and back into her present moment.
“We will schedule a detailed ultrasound,” the Doctor explained, “to get a better look at your baby. They will look for physical markers of Down Syndrome and possible indications of any other medical issues the baby may have.”
“Boom. There it is.” Mr. Universe glanced to me and threw a nod back towards Spot.0, cocking an eyebrow.
There it was, indeed. The fear hitting home.
“There are some common co-morbid conditions associated with Down Syndrome…” the doctor started.
AFTER THE APPOINTMENT
Spot.0 wound her way through the halls and down the stairs, purposely avoiding the elevator. She’d had about enough peopleing for one day. She continued on to the parking lot, seeing nothing, saying nothing.
We beat her to the rust-eaten silver Ford Windstar. I balked at it. Many a game of Russian roulette had been played inside that death machine on account of its temperamental transmission. Flashbacks of mechanical shudders and near-collisions crashed back into my mind.
I shook my head. “Huh uh. Nope. Nope. Not going to happen”
“Hm. Funny. You took that for a request.”
I blinked. And found we were both seated inside the minivan.
“For the record, I DO NOT like that. It’s weird”
“Well, I don’t like being told no. And we can’t exactly open the door, now can we?”
Meanwhile, Spot.0 had taken her place in the driver’s seat. She was white-knuckling the steering-wheel but made no attempt to start the minivan. She shuddered and broke into a sob, leaning into the wheel and cradling her head in arms folded atop the faded and sticky leather.
“You were here then, too?”
My words were more an accusation than a question.
A small smile played at Mr. Universe’s lips.
“You think this is funny?”
“What? No. This—,” he kicked the back of the driver’s seat, where Spot.0 continued her storm of tears. “I’ve seen this. It’s boring.”
Half-enraged, half-frantic to shut myself up, I launched into the passenger seat beside her.
“Oh, dude. No…” I pleaded, awkwardly attempting to lay a hand on her shoulder (I’ve never been particularly great with the feels and such—most especially not my own.). “Stop. Don’t—don’t freak out.”
She didn’t respond, of course. I wasn’t really there. And so there I sat. Watching. Waiting. Thinking. She cried. She cried hard. And if it was for 5 minutes it may as well have been for 5 hours. The sound was excruciating, the pain palpable, and seemingly endless.
Outside the minivan, the day continued. The sun kept on shining. Moms-to-be came and went about their merry ways with beaming faces and bulging bellies. Yet all the while inside the minivan, the world had stopped. Bleary-eyed, I glared back at Mr. Universe. I had never hated him more.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“You need this.”
“NEED this? I need this?! I’ve seen this story, too, dude, and let me tell you, you know fuck-all about what I need. Let me tell you about what I need,” I snapped as Spot.0 sobbed harder and louder in the background. “I need… I need for this b**** to stop crying. She needs to shut the f*** up and listen.”
Mr. Universe cocked his head, grinning.
I turned back to my younger, snot-nosed self, knowing she couldn’t hear me but continuing anyway.
“Okay, yeah. What you’ve got coming, it’s scary sometimes. And frustrating. And it can feel so fucking lonely… But your kid—she’s awesome, your family is awesome. Tons of love. Lots of laughter. You’re going to learn so much—and you’re going to become a stronger person than you ever thought possible. In time. But you’ve got to pull you s*** together and pull yourself up out of the dark. I can’t do it for you. I can’t. Believe me, I want to. Dude, if you could hear me, I would tell you so much about what I’ve learned, what I wish I would’ve known up front, what I’m still learning…” I let out an exhausted sigh, tasting the salty tears on my lips. “You’re not alone. And you don’t ever have to be.”
As I turned to look back at Mr. Universe, my face a swollen, tear-stained mask of quiet realization, I found myself back in my present-day kitchen, phone in my hand, where Miss Guided continued bawling into my ear. I waited. When her tears broke into a hushed silence on the other end of the line, I took a deep breath and prepared myself.
“Okay, dude…Dude—Don’t freak out,” I began.
Mr. Universe snorted. “Like I don’t know what you need. Puh-lease…” As he turned to walk away, his form transmuting into the world around him, he paused, looking back into the house through a window smeared with tiny handprints. “Now…now it’s about to get interesting.”