48 Hours

by Jessica Shyba on June 11, 2011

in Parenting,Pregnancy

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

Tuesday morning started out especially exuberant. It was Jack’s last full day of pre-school and promised to be nearly perfect, weather wise. I had the tingle of Summer in my bones, the same feeling I got around this time of year in grade school. Freedom, sunshine and endless fun were anxiously awaiting us around the bend. My morning sickness seems to have passed along with the resurgence of energy-which is both totally bizarre and hugely welcomed.

Zoe and I kissed Jack goodbye at school and headed out for our typical morning walk together around the city. I had planned on taking a gander through the park on our way to run an errand at Anthropologie. We decided to stop and see Justin at school, as he has recently begun clinic and seeing patients regularly… And I secretly wanted to steal a peek at him in his white coat.

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As promised, handsome as ever with his proud little girl in his arms.

It is so exciting to see him accomplishing his goals before our very eyes.

Tucked away in my purse was an order for a routine ultrasound, given by my OB. It had been sitting there for a few weeks, and while I couldn’t wait to see our babe on the screen I was secretly stalling so that we might sneak a peek at the gender as well. Patience has eluded me my entire life. I’ve come to accept it.

On our way out of NYU Dental School, I placed a call to the ultrasound unit at NYU Langone. I knew I had to get in for this particular screen before we left for California this coming Tuesday, as I was exactly 12 weeks, 5 days along (however, I thought I was 13 weeks, 5 days and assumed this was much more urgent than it really was). They asked if I could head to the department right then, and knowing that I had a few hours before we needed to get Jack, I snagged the appointment and buzzed over to the hospital in a taxi.

Nothing was on my mind except for learning the sex of our third child. Normally Justin would have been with us, but given that his hours are compromised and the timing was of the essence, we decided it was fine that Zoe and I were together when we found out if they would have a brother or a sister.

We checked in easily and I filled out a pile of paperwork. We were then instructed to head down the hall to have a chat with the genetic counselor, as this was an elective screening, the Nuchal Translucency Test. I talked with her about my absence of worry over whether the baby has chromosomal abnormalities or not. This was my third child after all, and I’m only just barely 32 years old.

Zoe wasn’t able to come with me into the ultrasound room, so she sat with the nurses at the reception desk and-from what I remember-charmed them all with her wit and smiles.

“Baby is beautiful”, the ultrasound technician said in her thick Russian accent. Tears seeped out of my eyes and ran down the sides of my face into puddles in my ears. How lucky are we? I thought. Three perfect babies. I’d never weeped before in an ultrasound, but this time was very different. I was alone watching my baby bouncing around in my womb, showing off two perfect legs, two perfect hands, twenty perfect digits and a teeny, darling little Shyba nose.

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Eventually-after what seemed like the longest moment-she mentioned softly that she needed to bring in another technician to evaluate “something”. My euphoria dissipated immediately into a mushroom cloud of worry. The second technician confirmed the concerns of the first, telling me that a red flag had been raised given the thickness of space between the baby’s spine and exterior skin. “Three millimeters is considered to be abnormal, and the point in which we recommend further testing”. The thickness of the fold can be an indicator for chromosomal abnormalities, in most common cases Trisomy 21-Down’s Syndrome. My tears quickly turned to waterfalls, and I couldn’t keep my face from distorting and my belly from heaving back the sobs. “How often do you see this in a person my age?” I asked her during a moment of clarity. “About two percent of the time”, she honestly answered. My world shattered. These are not good odds.

I was instructed to head down to the genetic counselor-whom I had just seen- but was 7 floors below now. I gathered Zoe and my things and made my way downstairs. Calling Justin at that point was the only thing I could think to do- and as I pushed Zoe through the lobby of the hospital, I crumbled into a heap of choked words and muffled sobs as I told my husband that our baby might be “sick”. With the help of a Patient’s Advocate that happened upon us, we found the counselors office through the labyrinth of hospital doors and sterile, musty smells.

Justin left clinic immediately upon hearing the news and rushed over to be with us and learn more about exactly what we were facing. “This procedure is not diagnostic” the counselor explained. “This test basically gives us an idea based on the correlation between a thick nuchal fold and birth defects- how many cases we see like this, and how often they turn out to be ‘something'”. It’s the sickest game of odds that I’ve ever found myself playing. We quickly agreed to further testing, whether it be an amniocentesis or a CVS test. Again, patience is not one of my virtues, so for the sake of knowing I had to press on. We scheduled the CVS test for the following day, two hours after Jack’s graduation from pre-school and his promotion into pre-kindergarten.

I let Justin take Zoe home, as I had a lunch meeting scheduled on the Upper East Side. I’ll never forget the hours I spent wandering the city completely stunned and balancing on a high wire between positivity and realistic awareness. I stopped and picked up candy at Dylan’s and a couple of new maxi dresses at Bloomingdale’s… yet nothing seemed to help fill the holes that the news had made my heart a doily out of.

I barely remember the following 24 hours. I sat down to watch my beloved Top Chef to numb my state of panic, yet all I heard out of the mouths of Padma and the chefs were the words “three millimeters”, “nuchal translucency”, “chromosomal abnormalities”, and “Down’s Syndrome”. I neither slept nor ate during these long hours, and could not-for the life of me or the benefit of my family- pull myself together. I felt as though everything I knew about myself was in question, the decision I would most likely have to make would determine my strength, and through it I would find out right away if I was a decent human being or not.

Am I strong enough to carry a child to term whose life is statistically not viable? Could we raise a child with Down’s Syndrome? How will this all affect our lives and ultimately the lives of our children?

Jack’s graduation was sweet and, of course, emotional. I resisted the urge to bawl loudly as we watched him proudly sing “This Land is Your Land” with his class, all of them decked out in tie dye like a rainbow of innocence.

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I received the call during the reception to go in for the CVS test that afternoon, where they would remove part of my placenta to test living cells for chromosomal abnormalities. I went in confident and petrified at the same time, but mostly at peace knowing that we would have an answer to to the litany of questions that had plagued us for the past day. The test was painless if not a bit uncomfortable, and due to the timing of everything we would be fortunate to receive the news the following afternoon.

On my walk home from the procedure along the East River, I received a call from the genetic counselor. They had found another marker for Down’s Syndrome in the same ultrasound from the initial visit. The baby is apparently “missing” it’s nasal bone. “Your odds” she confirmed, “for having a child with no birth defects or abnormalities are decreasing significantly”. The ground beneath me gave way.

For the following 24 hours, I was a zombie. I took the kids to the spray ground on a day with record breaking heat, and couldn’t bring myself to put this news out of my head. The mere sight of a stranger’s newborn baby’s toes sent me into a fit of heaving sobs. My purse that once held the order for the ultrasound was now filled with soggy, balled up tissues. Jack and Zoe knew I was sad, but I somehow managed to avoid scaring them with my emotional behavior.

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Life continued on as normal for them, and I was able to salvage some peace and joy through their giggles and smiles. They are my constant reminders of how incredibly blessed we are-no matter what.

That afternoon, I asked our lovely babysitter to come watch the kids for me, as I knew I would be receiving a phone call that would change our lives forever, and I didn’t know whether or not I could handle it if I wasn’t alone.

I went to the local, skeevy yet completely, perfectly anonymous McDonald’s with an Us Weekly and my headphones and zoned out until I got the call at 5pm.

Oddly enough, whenever I receive a call from the genetic counselor or my OB, no number shows up on the caller ID. Not even an “Unknown”… just totally blank. So, when “blank” called, I flipped my dark sunglasses down from their perch on top of my head and, grasped my hands and answered.

“Hi Jessica”, the stern yet ever confident voice of my doctor spoke through my headphones.

“Your preliminary results are in from the CVS test. They were able to test 6 cells and found all 46 chromosomes in each one”.

“Your baby boy is ‘normal’ and healthy.”

I dropped the phone and buried my head in my arms. Absolutely unbelievable. I didn’t cry as I had expected myself to… my smiles were far too overpowering. I spent the next hour sitting at McDonald’s calling my husband and relatives and sharing the miracle that I had just learned about our third child, our second son.

I felt as though I had lost the previous 48 hours of my life, but it was a price I was willing to pay and I am without a doubt, a different person as a result of this.

Will I elect to take this test the next time, hypothetically? I’m not sure. The fact is that there are so, so many “false-positives” associated with this type of genetic testing, and it’s a very personal decision. I’m still sitting on a cloud of restrained elation, and looking forward to embracing the next 6 months with everything I’ve got- no matter what.

What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy June 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Wow. I can’t even fathom the anxiety you were feeling, and I’m SO thrilled to hear all is well. Really moving, beautifully honest post.

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sara@domesticallychallenged June 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Jessica,
You made me cry. You are a wonderful mom, and surely can handle anything that comes at you. I can’t wait to hear more about your new baby boy as he grows and develops!

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Jenni Williams June 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Crying tears of joy for you all over again. SO happy everything is okay and congrats on your little boy!
Though they tell me this test is the most accurate yet, I still think it’s a cause for needless worry. I passed the ultrasound with flying colors, it was the blood test and previous history part I failed. If I were to have another one, I would NOT do the test.

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Anthony from CharismaticKid June 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Wow what great writing. My mouth dropped halfway through that. Then I smiled again at the end. It was apparent on your kids faces that you were feeling upset as they were eating ice cream. So happy for you and your fam for your next baby!

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Amy @ Muddy Boots June 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Having been on the receiving end of a T18 diagnosis, your good news brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations on your perfect baby, and a happy, healthy nine months!

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Avitable June 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

While I have no doubt that you would be able to handle, love, and raise any child that was a part of your family, I’m relieved for you that he’s fine.

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Pam @writewrds June 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Wow. That’s quite the emotional roller coaster. Hugs, mom. : )

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Allison Zapata June 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I am crying with you, now. So happy things turned out OK. So scary. Sorry you had to go through those moments of not knowing.
xoxo

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Loukia June 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I can completely imagine what you were going through. The 12 week test was very important to me. And the follow-up, at 18 weeks – that’s when we find out the sex of the baby – it’s totally a time filled with anxiety. We had a scare when I was 30 something weeks pregnant with Christos, when we found out he had hydronephrosis, a treatable kidney condition he outgrew when he was around 3 years old. Anyway, J, I’m so happy your precious baby is okay. Lots of love from me. xo

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Tracy D June 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Wow, what an emotional couple of days – so glad to hear that your baby is healthy! A very well written, engaging and emotional post.

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Kim @The Fordeville Diaries June 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I’m so relieved for you that everything is OK — and so sorry you had to endure the torture of worrying. I’ve heard this story one too many times about markers on a nuchal test leading to a mom in distress — often for no reason in the end. The false positive rate is so high. And while a CVS is no picnic (at least mine wasn’t), it does give some definitive answers. I’m so glad your answers were happy ones. Here’s to feeling good and worry-free for the remainder of your pregnancy :)

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Nikki @ Mommy Factor June 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I sobbed at my first ultrasound and then again at the 2nd when I learned the sex was different then i thought. *sigh* Glad to hear that Jack’s graduation went well. Life is amazing

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VDog June 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

A boy!!!!!

I’m so glad it was only 48 hours of worry. I’m sorry you had any though. Xoxo

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Kristen June 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm

LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A BABY BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Staci @ 7 on a Shoestring June 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I am in tears as I read mainly because I walked a similar path with my {now} 21 month old. It was some of the most anxious, nerve-racking days of our lives. So glad everything has turned out for the best. Congratulations on your healthy baby boy and may things continue to progress well! :)

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Andi June 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm

A baby boy! How wonderful!

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Elizabeth Aronson June 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm

What a heart wrenching experience- we’re just 6 weeks pregnant and that’s always in the back of my mind. Thank you for sharing this with us- I have no doubt you could handle anything- you’re 3 children and husband are lucky to have you.

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Ciaomom June 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Oh my goodness, what a roller coaster few days. Thank you for sharing such a personal and heart wrenching story… And congrats on your soon to be beautiful baby boy!!

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nic @mybottlesup June 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

i just realized that i held my breath the entire time i was reading this.

love and peace to your beautiful family.

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Scary Mommy June 11, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I just realized the same thing.

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Sarah at The Stroller Ballet June 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Wow! Thank you for sharing this story. What an up and down couple of days for you – and I’m so happy to hear that everyone is healthy. When I was pregnant with Peanut, Jerry and I decided not to do this testing. We discussed the issues of false positives, etc., and also discussed the fact that we would not terminate a pregnancy if the child did have downs (of course, I know Trisomy is a different issue). Reading your experience, I’m not sure I would do it the second time, either (no, I’m not currently preg ;), of course). What’s wonderful is that now your mind is free from worry – and you can truly enjoy a beautiful pregnancy.

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Natalie June 11, 2011 at 11:27 pm

You made me cry. I remember being in your shoes when I was pregnant with the twins. It’s horrible. I’m sorry you had to go through all that, but I am so excited that your boy is healthy!
Congrats and Cheers to an uneventful rest of your pregnancy,
Nat

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Serena @ MamaGoesNatural June 11, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Wow – what an emotional and honest post. It is so difficult to hear the test results especially since all a parent wants is a child to be healthy! So happy everything worked out and congratulations on your baby boy!

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neena June 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

hugs, hugs, and more hugs. Thank you for sharing such an emotional story.

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Amy June 11, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Thank you fir sharing your heartache an triumph. Mazel Tov on a healthy report and now you will have a girl sandwich(boy,girl,boy). One day I will share my story of my first pregnancy. It didn’t turn out like yours but noones story is the same:-)
Thank you and stay healthy

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Polish Mama on the Prairie June 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm

I cannot imagine how hard that was to go through or how hard that was to write and share. My prayers.

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Jill @BabyRabies June 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Awww, I’m so happy that little boy of yours is okay! I’ve been there, in that ultrasound room when the biggest bit of news you think you’re going to get is what flavor baby you’re having, and then BAM, they get all serious on you and consult with the Dr. It happened with my first, and at the time I seriously worried he’d be born needing a kidney transplant or worse. Turns out it was a whole lot of nothing to be worried about, but I’ll never forget that pit in my stomach and the feeling of my heart free falling into it in that moment.

Beautiful post! I cried/smiled with you the whole way.

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YUMMommy June 12, 2011 at 12:01 am

All I can say is that God is awesome. When it seems like the worst is upon us, He swoops in and makes it all better. So, glad to hear all the testing turned out well and that your baby will normal and healthy!

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Marinka June 12, 2011 at 12:54 am

This is so surreal.

I love the advances in medicine but gah, they scare us.

So glad that everything’s ok.

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Gail June 12, 2011 at 1:49 am

What an ordeal!!!!
So glad everything’s okay. You Shybas are made of tough stuff!!!!

xoxo,
Gail

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Jen June 12, 2011 at 5:11 am

I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through, although I know you could have handled any news. I’m glad everything is perfect.

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Candace (NYStateofMom) June 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm

OMG I can’t even imagine what those days were like for you!! Isn’t God awesome?!?!? So glad that everything was ‘normal’ and that you’ll get to enjoy your 2nd prince !!

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Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey June 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm

My pg was high risk and I had test after test… One of them was a very similar replay of what you experienced. I may need to post about it. But either way, so glad the baby is healthy! Xo!

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Sue Robinson June 12, 2011 at 8:20 pm

So excited for you about your boy, we must celebrate when you get in. My heart goes out to you for experiencing what you did. Love you.

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heather... June 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm

So happy for you all. Waiting for test results is an exquisite form of torture!

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abra June 13, 2011 at 2:26 am

thanks for having your heart so open to us. i can’t imagine what it was even like that 48 hours. but your outlook on everything is always so inspiring–no matter what the outcome!

and a boy!?! i can’t believe you were able to find out–wow–congrats!

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The Culture Mom June 13, 2011 at 4:57 am

I didn’t expect a good ending the way your story was unfolding, and I’m so grateful that you had one. We missed you in Cape May, but now I understand why you couldn’t come. Thank god your baby boy is okay, and you will march on.

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Jennie June 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Jessica, I’m so happy for your ultimately good news. Congrats on beautiful, healthy baby number three. xo

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Alethea Fitzpatrick June 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Wow, what a rollercoaster. I’m sorry you had to go through that but I’m so glad everything is ok.

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Katy June 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I’m so glad it all turned out well. A potentially life-altering scare like that is something no one needs, especially a very busy pregnant mama of two. I hope the remainder of your pregnancy is bliss!

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Gabby June 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thank you for sharing this, it was very moving. Glad everything is okay for you and your family!

Gabby – Customized Family/Nanny Matching Service, serving the Tri-State area, http://www.goldnannygroup.com.

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Jessica June 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

That was an absolutely beautiful post that brought me to tears. I am 29 weeks pregnant with my first baby boy and I love your blog. I remember how joyous and scary the ultrasounds and tests were… I’m sorry that you had to go through all of that worry… words cannot even begin to describe… I know you probably hear this a lot, but congratulations! I am overjoyed to hear that your baby is healthy and prospering :)

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Sean June 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I’m so glad everything is ok with your little guy.

You know, this is the second post I’ve read today that talks about chromosomal issue scares due to soft markers in ultrasounds. I had the same thing happen with my daughter. Ava had a soft marker with her kidneys in-utero and I was scheduled for ultrasounds every two weeks for 5 months. It was heart wrenching. But my OB/GYN put it all into perspective for us very early on. He said that before the recent needs for early testing during pregnancy, these types of things went undetected. He said the even he questions the need for this testing as the fetus isn’t far enough along to really know most of the time. And more often than not the issue works itself out at or before birth. His comments didn’t eliminate our fears of Ava having chromosomal issues, but it did ease them a bit.

Best of luck to you!

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cam June 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Wow… i’m happy to hear you’ll have another healthy baby. such a blessing. sorry you had to go through such a rough 48 hours. i can only imagine.

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Pam at TripleThreatMommy.com June 14, 2011 at 12:41 am

This is an amazing post, Jessica. Thank you for sharing such a crazy personal 48 hours with us. I am so happy that it all worked out in the end.

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lonek8 June 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm

I am so, so sorry that you had to go through all of that, but oh so relieved that you had a happy ending! Brings new meaning to the whole “i don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl as long as it’s healthy,” but yay, a boy!!

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Brittany June 19, 2011 at 1:55 am

You are grace and strength, no matter what that phone call would have brought, you would have had legions of us standing behind you, just in awe of you.

I am so happy for you all, and for your healthy, beautiful baby boy!

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Alicia @MommyDelicious August 7, 2011 at 3:47 am

You said it, Jess — what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. You have been through so many things in your life and in your time here in NYC. You have gotten through so much already. I cannot even imagine what must have been going through your head in the time you were waiting for those results. Wow! I’m truly excited for you and your new addition. Stay strong, Jess. xx

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