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Is Another Baby Worth the Hypertension Risks?


Today my doctor called with some news: I have hypertension. After a week of at-home blood pressure readings and record-keeping, the doc has decided that I need to go on medication. Apparently increasing my cardio routine to 45 minutes instead of 30, gravitating toward low-sodium labels, and eating more fruits and vegetables, were all great lifestyle changes, but not quite enough to keep the meds at bay.

All of this is no surprise. Hypertension runs in my fam (my father passed away at 46 from a stroke), and I delivered my son, Javier, two and a half months early due to preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension. He was hospitalized for two months, and I was a mess for about a year or two. Now it’s back, and I’m about to turn 38, which means my biological baby-making window is shutting, and I suddenly have to give serious thought to whether I want another baby.

If I go for it, life will change dramatically. Mine would be considered a high-risk pregnancy, with daily blood pressure monitoring and a strong likelihood that I’d end up on bed rest, with one hand on the TV remote and the other on a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. I’d probably have to take extra time away from my job, which could mean a shorter maternity leave, if I want to stay in the game at work. Would clients like Lego be OK with a conference call while I’m in my PJs? Maybe for a while, but it wouldn’t be the same. Visions of Diane Keaton handing her baby to a coat check girl in Baby Boom pop into my head.

After being a single mom for five years, I’ve finally got things under control. Awesome career that keeps growing and growing? Check. Happy, healthy, well-adjusted kid? Check. Cute house and enough money to pay for it and semi-regular vacas? Check and check. As if things couldn’t get any better, I’ve been in a fabulous relationship for the past year that stops shy of being Fifty-Shades-of-Grey scandalous but is certainly h-o-t. Mark is amazing—whether with his own son, mine, or frankly, me. I’ve found a real gem, and lately we find ourselves talking babies and baubles of the engagement variety.

But I’m scared. What would another pregnancy mean for my health—and my life—exactly? Life may be a whirlwind, but it’s a happy one. Some people say it’s busy, but I prefer to think of it as full. Really full. Do I want to risk jeopardizing that, let alone my health? My dad died at 46, for goodness sake, shouldn’t I just enjoy my life instead of trying to complicate it?

The doc has run through the stats. I am already 25 percent more likely to develop preeclampsia than most women in this situation. Daily hypertension meds only add another layer of concern. There are pills I can take while preggers, he says, but it complicates an already complicated situation. “It’s not impossible. I would never tell a patient not to get pregnant, but it’s certainly a concern,” he said. Not exactly the words a woman turning 38 wants to hear.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Shouldn’t I be happy that we’ve discovered this early and we can get it under control before it becomes life-threatening? Isn’t it enough that Mark and I have two healthy boys and a wonderful relationship? I have an amazing but huge job that keeps a steady stream of stress in my life, so it’s not like things are going to get calmer anytime soon. Maybe our little family is all we can handle. Still, I can’t help it. My friends are having seconds and thirds, and the feeling I get when I hold their babies is clearly one of longing. We don’t have a daughter. Wouldn’t that be great? Am I being ungrateful? Greedy? Can women really have it all?

Mark and I are not even engaged yet, and it’s not like it’s a shoo-in that a woman near 40 will get pregnant anyway. But when the choice is suddenly off the table, it changes everything. I’ve built an amazing life and career making my own choices, at times when folks told me I couldn’t. Is this that different? I think it is—and I don’t like it one bit.