- I am a scientist who works in a genetics laboratory analyzing samples from pregnant people.
- I help determine the viability of a pregnancy and if there are any genetic conditions.
- Becoming a mom has changed the way I look at the work I do: I know what’s at stake.
Nobody expects me to do my job. I also wish that no one needed my services.
working in the genetic laboratory, I am in the business of trying to provide answers during some of life’s most difficult situations. Chromosomes help diagnose cancer, developmental problems, and a variety of viable Y less viable conditions present in the womb.
I will most likely never meet the people whose samples I am testing, but I often know a bit of their backstory. One thing is certain for me: these people are grieving while they wait for the results. Your biological samples come to me, and I literally hold your anguish in my hands.
I find genetic testing during pregnancy to be the hardest to process
For me, it’s the prenatal cases that tend to hit the hardest.
While there are never guarantees in medicine, I guarantee that there has never been a pregnant person who wanted me to be a part of their journey. If I’m involved, there’s a question, a big one. A question that required a doctor to collect cells from gestating life and send them off for a series of tests.
Through scientific and practiced procedures, I cultivate those cells, allowing them to multiply and grow outside of the body. From there, our team can often diagnose a chromosomal or other genetic pathology. As I see my fair share of chorionic villus sampling Y amniocentesisit’s the products of conception, the general term for samples that come from pregnancies that no longer grow, that sticks in my mind.
I have to apologize for the sterility of my language, a consequence of working in the medical laboratory. Personally, it feels more like a defense mechanism. A pregnant being is called a fetus. Miscarriages before a specific time are classified as missed abortions. A stillbirth is often called an intrauterine fetal death. Everything is anguish.
Working behind the scenes makes me feel like a nameless testing machine. The samples are sent out and the results come out, at least most of the time. But I care about other people’s anguish. Regardless of her name or her background, I know that there is a grieving mother, probably going through one of the worst moments of her life. And I want to give you an answer, something simple and clear, based on genetics, to try to explain what happened.
But the cruel truth is that often we can’t give a clear answer. Science and biology are not as simple as they are presented in high school. Like most of life, they are complicated.
being a mom changed me
Something changed in me after experiencing my own pregnancies. The decision to create a new person is heavy, but it is also full of excitement and hope.
While I know the science of embryonic development, I also know the emotional future you create for yourself and your family. I know the love and care that can be manifested even in the first days of finding out that you are pregnant. I know the exhilaration, relief, and anxiety of trying to get pregnant for years and seeing that early heartbeat; it feels both real and unreal at the same instant.
My focus on the lab bench changed after I had kids. Of course, my colleagues and I have always been respectful. But I give more care, thought and tenderness, if that is possible with cell culture. I think of the person carrying the pregnancy. I can’t reach out and hold her hand, but she will gently hold her broken heart.