Angelique Serrano and her daughter

Why Telling Co-Workers and Family About My High-Risk Pregnancy Was Tricky

I didn't quite know how to share the news of my second pregnancy. Was I thrilled to be pregnant after past difficulties conceiving? Of course. But since my husband and I had learned that our new baby was diagnosed with Mosaic Trisomy 13, a chromosome abnormality that in our case was isolated to the placenta, we weren’t sure how our pregnancy would progress.

Mosaic Trisomy 13

The condition is described as a disorder of the chromosomes, and it can cause complications for a birthed baby, and carries with it the potential for low survival rate once born.

I was set to be monitored by doctors at least once a month to check on how the baby was growing, and make sure it was getting all of the needed nutrients. Beyond that, there wasn’t very much anyone could do to help the situation. Every day it felt as though, in some way, I was holding my breath. 

One of the things that helped me function in this constant state of worry and what-ifs was to compartmentalize and not talk much about my condition. During the weekday, I focused on my work as a New York City writer and editor. At home, I gave my attention to my 2-year-old girl, Liv.

When the time felt right to share the news with my coworkers, I tried to do so with brevity. I didn’t want to dwell on my situation. If I let myself discuss it in much depth or detail with many people, I'd probably lose my grip and dissolve into tears.

I assured people that I was ready and able to work up until my delivery. I made myself available in the waiting rooms of my doctors’ offices over email and text. Staying immersed in my job, active and engaged in all of its aspects, as usual, was important to me. I didn't want anyone to think that, with everything on my plate personally and physically, I wouldn’t be able to continue performing with my usual dedication. But I wanted to, and so I tried my hardest.

Doing everything I typically did at work made me feel in control of something; it made me feel empowered.

If someone offered to lift a box for me, I tried to refuse. When anyone attempted to help me in any way, my instinct was to do it all myself. For some reason, I felt like I had something to prove. Doing everything I typically did at work made me feel in control of something; it made me feel empowered.

Surprisingly, telling my daughter was easier, and more fun, than I had anticipated. Perhaps she was still too young to understand (and therefore question) all of the details. My husband and I focused on what this news meant for her and shared that our new baby would be her new little brother. We stressed that this news was not only thrilling for us, but for her, too. We kept all of our conversations about the baby positive and exciting.

When I didn’t feel well, I would try and explain that the baby and I were sharing food, vitamins, and liquids—and that this sharing made me a bit more tired than usual. We told her that when the baby was big enough and strong enough, the doctors would help bring him out of my belly.

Incorporating Liv into the process actually made me feel better, too. It’s almost as though forcing a smile on my face and focusing on keeping my mood positive around her helped me temporarily forget about the worries. I even started feeling strong enough to go out with her on weekends, and we made some really sweet memories. We took walks, ate in restaurants, and even took a family trip to Sesame Place. We rode the merry-go-round together, with her little brother inside my belly along for the ride.  

I didn’t share the details of my high-risk pregnancy with very many extended family members. My parents knew everything, and I felt so grateful I could confide in them. When I felt weak or vulnerable, I was able to share my fears in safe spaces. But I couldn’t handle the questions everyone else might have about my condition.

I assumed family members would want to know details about the disorder. They'd want to check in with me regularly, and would surely ask for updates. I just didn't have the reserves to handle the questions without quivering lips and a queasy stomach over my fears of not knowing how the pregnancy would progress. The doctors couldn’t really make those predictions, and sometimes it was all I could do to keep myself from thinking the worst.

So I held a lot inside. I spent a long time in the beginning of my second trimester trying to convince myself, and those around me, that everything was fine. It was a coping strategy, the only one I felt I could lean on at the time.

Letting that one person in, and creating that safe space for myself at work, was an enormous support to me during the days, both mentally and emotionally. It became a pivotal decision I was grateful to have made.

Today, looking back, I wonder: Perhaps letting more people in, allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable, and accepting more help would have made things easier. I'll never know. However, I did tell one person absolutely everything. She was a co-worker and had become a close friend. Letting that one person in, and creating that safe space for myself at work, was an enormous support to me during the days, both mentally and emotionally. It became a pivotal decision I was grateful to have made.

And when I crawled into bed every night, I was also grateful that I didn’t have to say much of anything. My husband and I would hold our little girl, watch a cartoon or two before tucking her in, and silently pray to keep growing our baby healthfully through the next six months. 

1 Source
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  1. Mustaki U, Jackson S. A patient with Trisomy 13 mosaicism: review and case report. BMC Proc. 2015;9(Suppl 1):A51. Published 2015 Jan 14. doi:10.1186/1753-6561-9-S1-A51