What does “high risk” really mean?
When I was young and thinking about my future, I always hoped I would get married and have children. Then when I met and married my husband, our first child was conceived exactly when we hoped and life seemed to be happening according to “plan.”
Little did I know that life was going to derail into uncharted territory very quickly. Morning sickness and ligament pains had me pretty miserable for the first two trimesters, but I was healthy. And then out of the blue, in my third trimester, my blood pressure sky rocketed and I was hospitalized with severe preeclampsia at 33 weeks into the pregnancy.
Suddenly I was confined to a hospital bed. Blood tests, ultrasounds, urine tests and non-stress tests were my daily routine.
Our daughter was delivered via C-section at 33.5 weeks when my blood pressure continued to rise despite the medications and liver enzymes were found in my blood. Her lungs were immature and struggled to breathe in the NICU. My body was still struggling to stabilize a normal blood pressure.
Our first few weeks as mother and daughter were rough to say the least.
She and I are both doing fine now. You would never guess she was only 3lbs. 15oz. when she came into this world.
So we had a rough patch and lived to tell about it, right? Well, sort of. You see, since I had severe preeclampsia I am at an increased risk of developing it again.
Thus I am labeled “High Risk.”
This is what “High Risk” means for me:
It means…a heavy knowledge that if I chose to continue to build my family through biological means, there is a greater than average chance that I will be putting myself and that baby at significant risk. The exact odds vary from expert to expert but I have seen anywhere from a 13% to 25% increased risk as a result of my specific history.
It means….I have had months when some unexplainable nausea would cause me to become terrified that, despite our use of two forms of contraception, I thought I was pregnant. It was always a false alarm, but frightening none the less. Not that a pregnancy would be the end of the world. A baby is always a blessing. But an “unplanned” and “unprepared for” pregnancy honestly scares the living daylights out of me.
It means…I sympathize with those women who have struggled with infertility and miscarriages but am often too afraid to say so. I have a healthy child and she was conceived without trouble or interventions, but I have an ache in my heart for more children in my family than I honestly believe my body will be able to carry.
It means….I am trying to build my family through adoption because I feel called to adopt and to avoid putting myself at physical risk. But I know that there are those who judge me for it because there are so many childless couples out there, and I already have one of my own. I fear that expectant mothers who are looking to place their child with family pass us over because we already have a child.
Sure, there are women who have healthy pregnancies/deliveries of babies after an episode of preeclampsia. I praise God that they did not have a recurrence, but it is an individual choice whether and when to pursue a second or third pregnancy. Only that individual can know the “right” answer.
I don’t know whether God will eventually lead me to pursue a pregnancy or spontaneously bless us with an unexpected one. But I know He will be with me either way.
For now we wait on the adoption process, follow God, and I learn the lessons of what it means to be “High Risk.”
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Assit Ed: Dana Gornall/Ed: Sara Crolick
Photo Credit: Pixoto