Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Genes and Jeans

So this week I took advice from rookiemoms and went to go buy myself a pair of normal jeans. It does feel really nice to wear a pair of pants that is neither stretchy yoga pants nor maternity wear. Wearing them makes me feel more like I’ve begun to re-enter “normal”, non-pregnant life again. On the other hand, they were a somewhat horrifyingly large size. I’ve decided not to stress about it now at the one-month-mark but I really hope that breastfeeding and daily walks will help me not to still be wearing these jeans six months from now. I think I actually went a little too big, as they are jeans with a bit of stretch to them and after a few hours of wear, they start to fall down. I vaguely remember this being the norm for this type of jean from way back in my pre-pregnancy past. Just imagine; it’s been so long since I’ve worn regular jeans that I can’t remember how to go about it!

Another significant, more serious happening this week was a call we got from Grace’s pediatrician. They did the state-mandated tests and screenings in the hospital after she was born, and it turns out that Grace is a carrier for cystic fibrosis. This was quite a surprise to Rob and me because there is no history of CF in either of our families. (For anybody who is a little rusty on your Mendelian genetics, Grace will never get the disease but if she has a child with another carrier, their child could have CF.) My first response was really overwhelming thankfulness that Grace is OK. Rob and I turned down pretty much all the prenatal testing offered to us and talked then in an abstract way about the possibility of having a child with a serious disease or birth defect. This revelation now felt so much more real and immediate, though, and really brought me up short with the realization that Grace’s health is such a blessing.

So Grace’s status as a carrier means that either one or both of Robert and I are carriers. The vastly more likely case is that one of us is a carrier and thus statistically half of our children will be carriers. However, it is a slight possibility that we’re both carriers, which would mean that a child of ours would have a 50% chance of being a carrier, a 25% chance of being “normal”, and a 25% chance of having CF. A rather important item has just been added to both of our to-do lists; I think I’ll be able to be tested at my 6-week post-partum checkup. It feels sort of surreal to be thinking about all these genetic possibilities, especially as it could affect Grace’s future. Unlike whichever (or both) of us is a carrier, Grace will have this bit of information when she gets to her childbearing years. It’s crazy to think about how that could affect her decisions decades from now about children and relationships. It reminds me of quantum mechanics and Schroedinger’s cat and all that about how having information changes reality. Rob and I have started joking that we are going to subtly encourage her to date only non-white boys. We would love to extend the cultural depth of our family regardless, but CF is most common in the Caucasian gene pool and much more rare in other ethnic groups. Maybe we can have a nice Asian or black son-in-law? Shall we arrange the marriage now? Any takers?

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