Former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson East and her husband, Andrew East, recently found themselves reeling when they received some truly scary news after a routine pregnancy appointment.
The couple attended their anatomy scan, which is arguably the biggest pregnancy milestone for many couples. Most of us leave that scan excited to have made it to the halfway point of the pregnancy, and lots of parents look forward to this ultrasound because it often reveals the baby's sex. However, as the couple learned, anatomy scans can show much more than whether you're having a boy or a girl.
They opened up about the experience in a recent video posted to their YouTube channel. "[After the scan] our doctor comes in...she turns around and she's like 'well, the ultrasound was just okay.' I felt like someone knocked every ounce of air out of me," Shawn shares in the video.
Shawn goes on to explain that in about 1% of pregnancies, it's discovered that the umbilical cord that connects mother to baby only has two vessels (as opposed to the standard three). On top of that, the baby's kidneys appeared dilated in the scan, which can be a pretty common occurrence, However, as Shawn explains, seeing these two factors together can sometimes indicate that the baby has Down Syndrome or another genetic disorder.
The news understandably upset the couple, who suffered a miscarriage during Shawn's first pregnancy. They opted to undergo genetic testing to learn about their baby's health, and opened up about that experience (and the results of the testing) in a subsequent video.
Luckily, it was good news for the couple, who learned their genetic testing showed no abnormalities. "I just sat there and read and cried and prayed," Shawn says of receiving these results. "I was just in shock."
Hopefully this couple's willingness to share such a personal story will show other parents-to-be who are working through similar situations that they aren't alone.
"If our test came back and our baby had Downs Syndrome, we would love that baby more than anything in the entire world," Shawn says. "But in our hearts, as parents, as every parent in the world prays and hopes, you hope for a healthy baby. Getting those results back was a huge weight lifted off of our hearts."
Shawn meant no harm in sharing her update, but her words did sting for some fellow mamas who are raising children with Down Syndrome, who are using this news story to open up a broader dialog about what it means to have a "healthy baby."
As mom Kelly Simpson (who is parenting a child with Down syndrome) writes for The Mighty, "Down syndrome is a genetic condition that can have virtually no medical complications or bring with it serious medical complications, and everything in-between."
She understands Shawn's feelings because she felt them herself, but she hopes that continued conversations about this topic and Down syndrome will make these kind of test results less devastating and more informative overall.