Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey

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9780807028162: Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey
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A powerful story, based on an award-winning series of articles, about a modern family and Down syndrome

Halfway through their first pregnancy, Greg and Tierney Fairchild hear the news all expectant parents dread: their baby isn't perfect. A routine ultrasound reveals that the fetus Tierney carries has a major heart defect. Making matters worse, the nature of the defect leads doctors to suspect it might be a symptom of Down syndrome. With those events as its starting point, Choosing Naia examines the exploding world of prenatal information—and the emotional maelstrom that ensues from an unwanted test result—through the prism of the Fairchild family's experiences.

Rapid advances in prenatal testing are enabling doctors to diagnose with great certainty a wide assortment of problems inside the womb. But that's where certainty ends. As they struggle with grief and confusion, would-be parents have only days or weeks to make choices—abortion, adoption, or continuing the pregnancy and keeping the child—whose reverberations are bound to alter the course of many lives.

In the Fairchilds' case, those choices are further complicated by race. Having married across racial lines, Greg and Tierney can imagine the discrimination felt by the disabled. Ultimately, that understanding informs their decision about whether and how to parent a disabled child. Once the choice is made, they face a difficult delivery, where Tierney's vigilance literally saves her baby's life, and high-risk open-heart surgery before the baby they name Naia can celebrate her first birthday. After clearing those hurdles, the Fairchilds face new barriers they must tear down on behalf of their beloved child for all the days of their lives.

Mitchell Zuckoff won the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for his series "Choosing Naia," which also was honored by the National Down Syndrome Congress and the American Association on Mental Retardation.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Mitchell Zuckoff won the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for his series "Choosing Naia," which also was honored by the National Down Syndrome Congress and the American Association on Mental Retardation.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

"don't worry, mom. everything will be fine"

Mom, did you have a baby shower?"

"No, Tierney. But there was a reason."

Tierney Temple-Fairchild and her mother, Joan Temple, were passing time in
Tierney's car, driving northeast on Interstate 84 outside Hartford. It was a late
afternoon in early May. The sun was bright, the spring air was warm, and new
leaves graced the trees lining the highway. Forsythia bushes were ablaze
with yellow blossoms.

Mother and daughter had been talking about work, weather, and nothing
terribly important. Then Tierney casually asked about the shower. The
question brought to her mother's mind a memory, long buried in the place
that stores unsent letters, unpaid debts, and unmade apologies. Joan could
see no reason not to share it with her youngest child.

It was forty years ago, Joan began. She was a young married woman, around
Tierney's age, pregnant with the first of her three children, Tierney's brother,
George. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, one of her closest friends
delivered a stillborn child. It came as a devastating shock; the friend had
already painted the nursery, assembled a layette, and dreamed the dreams
of all happy first-time mothers.

After her friend's loss, Joan told Tierney, she wouldn't allow anyone to throw
her a baby shower. She didn't want to celebrate in the wake of her friend's
tragedy, and she didn't want to tempt fate by acting immune to such pain.
Lightning had struck someone standing next to her, Joan figured, and she
wasn't about to wave an umbrella in the air. No one could persuade her
otherwise, and Joan had dug in her heels right up to the moment her water
broke. She had so refused to prepare for a baby that Tierney's father had
missed the birth of his namesake son. He was out buying a crib.

Tierney listened quietly. Normally she loved hearing family stories. But as
Joan spoke, Tierney gripped the steering wheel and kept her eyes trained on
the road ahead. When Joan finished, Tierney quickly changed the subject.

Tierney had a secret she was keeping from her mother, and the last thing
she wanted to talk about was a stillborn child. That could lead to thoughts
about bad omens and a mother's intuition, and no good could come of that.
The conversation moved on, and Joan let the memory drop.

What Joan couldn't possibly have known was that next to her on the front
seat, tucked safely in Tierney's purse, were the first recorded images of her
first grandchild.
One night several weeks earlier, Tierney had been at home with her husband,
Greg Fairchild, in the book-filled one-bedroom apartment they shared in a
convenient but unlovely part of downtown Hartford. They had just come home
from dinner at a nearby restaurant, and they were alone except for their
excitable black poodle, Onyx.

Almost on a whim, Tierney decided to break out the last in-home pregnancy
test in her medicine cabinet. She had already gone through nearly a dozen,
each one a disappointment. Tierney's urine had never revealed a pastel
stripe, a red cross, or any other indication that parenthood was in their future.
Tierney had equally low expectations for the plastic wand she held in her
hand. She suspected that she had ovulated when she was out of town for
several days on a business trip, costing them yet another month.

Tierney and Greg had known each other for almost nine years. They had
been in love for eight, married for nearly four. A graduate student, Greg was
thirty-four. A corporate manager, Tierney was thirty-one. They'd trash-canned
their birth control almost a year earlier, feeling ready to start working on their
imagined ideal family: three children, two biological and one adopted.

When Tierney hadn't become pregnant during the first few months of trying,
both of them had grown anxious but neither felt panicked. Tierney had been
on the Pill, and they knew it might take six months or so for her body to
readjust its cycles and begin ovulating normally again.

When those six months passed and nothing happened, Tierney sought
answers from her obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Michael Bourque, whom she
had known since she was nineteen. A battery of tests showed that she still
wasn't ovulating, so Bourque had started her on a relatively low dose of a
fertility medicine called Clomid, a synthetic compound in a class of drugs
called antiestrogens. Clomid is a first-line offense against infertility, designed
to trigger a woman's body to produce an egg ready for fertilization.

Bourque had told Tierney not to worry, but it wasn't easy as more months
came and went. She and Greg began wondering if they'd ever be able to
conceive. They started thinking about costly and invasive fertility procedures.
They discussed whether a sperm or egg donor might be necessary, or
whether they might have to adjust their family plans altogether and go
straight to adoption.

By spring, Tierney had reached what Bourque said was the highest dosage
he would prescribe of Clomid before sending her to a fertility specialist. He
knew that among patients treated with Clomid, 95 percent who become
pregnant do so within the first six months of taking the drug.

As part of her treatment, Tierney was monitoring her body temperature every
day, charting the peaks and valleys that indicate ovulation--the magic formula
is a sudden dip, followed by a three-day rise of at least two-tenths of a
degree over the highest temperature recorded during the previous six days.
One sign that ovulation has been answered by conception is the woman's
temperature doesn't drop back down after the three-day rise. Tierney doubted
it meant anything, but that's what seemed to be happening the April night
she took out her last e.p.t.-brand home pregnancy test.

Tierney went into the bathroom and shut the door. Watching her from the wall
was a black-and-white photo of jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, his eyes
closed and his cheeks pregnant with air. She followed the instructions--
allowing the wand's absorbent tip to sop up some of her urine. She left the
test kit on the counter for the two-minute lifetime it would take to show
positive or join its predecessors in the garbage.

Though she had been through this drill too many times before, Tierney was
nervous about returning to the bathroom. She paced around the apartment
while Greg stayed in the living room, keeping his hopes and his head down.
He sat quietly, reading in a high-backed burgundy wing chair. On a nearby
glass-front china cabinet sat Greg's bronzed baby shoes, alongside a sepia-
toned photo of him as an adorable, smiling baby. When she was certain
enough time had elapsed, Tierney waited a little longer. She steeled herself
and returned to the bathroom.

And there it was, staring up at her from the tiny round indicator window: a
bold pink stripe. She had never seen one before, except in the picture on the
package. "Oh my God, that's what it looks like when you're pregnant," she
said, bounding from the bathroom. She ran to Greg and jumped on his lap,
her cheeks flushed with joy. The moment had finally arrived: a first pregnancy
for both.

They basked in the news. They kissed, they smiled, they touched each
other's faces. Still, they remained cautious about the possibility of a false-
positive reading from the over-the-counter test. It would be awful to announce
that they were pregnant only to withdraw the news afterward. They agreed not
to tell anyone until Tierney could make an appointment with Bourque for
confirmation.

That visit took place April 15. A blood test, an ultrasound, and a physical
examination confirmed the in-home test results. Tierney was indeed
pregnant. Even Bourque was excited, circling the positive results on Tierney's
patient record and adding two huge exclamation points. And he added a
bonus: the due date was December 7, Greg's birthday. The ob/gyn also gave
Greg and Tierney tangible proof of impending parenthood: black-and-white
ultrasound images the size of baseball cards.

To the untrained eye, the pictures had all the clarity of Rorschach's inkblots.
Was that a leg? A lung? Tierney's placenta? Bourque assured them he could
see a healthy-looking, eight-week embryo taking the developmental leap to
becoming a fetus.

It was about an inch-and-a-half long. Fingers and toes were becoming clearly
defined. Organs were starting to work. Spontaneous movements were
beginning. Taste buds were starting to form. Tierney and Greg studied the
images and tried to convince themselves they could see what Bourque did,
but for the most part they had to take the doctor's word for it.

Thrilled as he was to have the pictures, Greg maintained a certain
detachment. "It's like looking through an aquarium glass. You can't touch
fish, even though they really are there," he said later. "You can't pick them up
and you can't hold them and you can't play with them. You can't do all these
things with babies when they're in utero. It's still a photo on an electric
screen. When there's someone there who's crying, moving around, with
needs, I think that creates a much different response."

Still, the grainy images were confirmation enough for Greg to phone his
parents, Bob and Mary Fairchild, at their home in a small central Virginia
town called Rustburg. Long eager to become grandparents, but unaware that
Greg and Tierney had been trying to fulfill that dream, the news caught Bob
and Mary by surprise. Bob expressed quiet congratulations. Mary let out an
ear-piercing scream. They hung up after promising not to tell anyone. That
was a treat Tierney and Greg wanted for themselves.

Tierney specifically...

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Zuckoff, Mitchell
Published by Beacon Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0807028169 ISBN 13: 9780807028162
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