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Zika is making me reconsider having a baby

My husband and I have been on the fence about a fourth baby for years. Ever since our third was born almost three years ago (and even when I was still pregnant with her), we debated. There are lots of reasons to stop at three. Babies are expensive. Could we really see sending four kids to college? One baby is hard. Two is exponentially harder. Three? Over the top.

All of those seemed manageable. But then, just as we were about to start trying this past fall, a new concern came up: the Zika virus.

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The terrifying mosquito-borne illness has been in the news for causing birth defects, specifically microcephaly — babies born with abnormally small heads and brains — after their mothers were infected with the virus. It was in South America and is now spreading rapidly to the United States. Just in time for mosquito season and the Summer Olympics in Rio.

As I near 40 and my time wanting to be a new mom draws to a close (I’d promised myself no kids in diapers after 40), it feels like waiting until we know more about this virus might be a decision in and of itself. We had planned to start trying last January, but since I had a trip to Nicaragua planned in February, we decided to hold off. The travel warnings were dire, and though Nicaragua was not initially on the list, we didn’t want to take any chances. Then Nicaragua went on the list, so when I got home, we waited a bit. Just to be safe. No one seems to really know how long Zika stays in the system or when it would be safe to try to have a baby after being infected. Zika has traditionally been very mild for adults who are not pregnant, but the unknown is part of what scares us.

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Why would we tempt fate or take the chance when we already have three healthy kids?

Basically it is now or never for me agewise. I don’t want to be pregnant and changing diapers into my 40s. And I don’t feel comfortable getting pregnant now and taking that chance. So Zika might ultimately make this decision for us. Pregnancies happen, but we are careful, and in the coming months we will make our final decision and make it permanent either way.

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This gives me a couple of months to watch and see what happens with Zika. It’s a heartbreaking reality, but we have already been so lucky to have three healthy children. Maybe in the fall as the weather cools and the mosquitoes die, I will feel differently, but for now, I am keeping my IUD and hoping this virus is eradicated and that women all over the world can soon get pregnant again if they want to.

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