A Mother’s Sweet Journey: Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes
I remember the phone call quite clearly. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was counting down the hours until our baby shower that weekend. I felt the pesky vibration in my pocket, and by the third series of vibrations, I knew something was wrong. I was right, my doctor was calling to inform me that I miserably failed my glucose tolerance test. I tried my best to hold it together until the phone call ended. I cried more than I have ever cried before. I felt like a failure. I had unknowingly created a toxically sweet environment for my growing son. My job let me leave a little early so I could begin the quest of gathering all the diabetic supplies I would need.
By quest, I mean several pharmacies, phone calls and a grand total of four hours in order to successfully put all the pieces together. I sat in the car, on the way to Tulsa, with a mound of lancets and testing strips as tears fell down my face. The equipment itself wasn’t overwhelming—I am a nurse, and use it often for my patients, but the “what if’s” started invading my mind. That weekend, I tried my best to hide my diagnosis. I won’t lie, I felt embarrassed. There are unfortunate stigmas attached to diabetes. I blamed the multiple trips to the bathroom on my pregnancy bladder, but in reality, I was checking my blood sugar.
That following Monday, I had a follow up visit at my doctor’s office. Everyone told me, “You should be able to control your blood sugars with diet and exercise.” Well I couldn’t, and I felt like I failed my son, yet again. Early in my pregnancy, I was spilling glucose in my urine but spot checks of my blood sugar were okay. My doctor was at a loss for why I had gestational diabetes. I gained no weight during my pregnancy, ate well and was physically active. I was immediately prescribed metformin and insulin. I was willing to do whatever it took to keep this sweetness under control.
Our son was followed by a perinatologist. She noticed I did not fit the typical mold for someone with gestational diabetes. She recommended that I be tested for antibodies commonly found in people with type 1 diabetes. I raised an eyebrow because I thought only children could get type 1 diabetes. I still clung to the idea that once Jacob was born, the gestational diabetes would go away.
One of the perks of a “high-risk” pregnancy were the twice weekly non-stress tests. I was hooked up to a monitor for at least 15 minutes, and Jacob was required to have a certain number of heartbeat accelerations. These moments were so special to me. Not every mom gets to listen to their baby’s heartbeat on a weekly basis. I’d talk to Jacob; we listened to music. I know he won’t remember those times, but I sure do. It made up for all the scary blood sugar days, tight diet control and multiple insulin injections.
Our son was born on January 1, 2015, weighing in at only 7 pounds 5 ounces. Out of caution, his first few days were spent in the NICU, but our baby was healthy. After his birth, I tested positive for the type 1 antibodies but honeymooned for a few months. However, with a new baby, a move halfway across the country and the start of a new job, my puttering pancreas was done. I started back on insulin, and thanks to a generous endocrinologist, soon after, I was able to start using an insulin pump integrated with Dexcom.
My son has taught me to be patient with myself. No one expects a 1-year-old to be patient with his mommy. His inquisitive eyes patiently watch me, while his chubby little fingers hug my legs as I check my blood sugar or treat a low, trying my hardest to take care of myself. He has taught me how to ask for help, especially on those days that diabetes has gotten the best of me. I do my best to not hide my diagnosis from him. I think the fear of the unknown would be so much scarier. I know my son doesn’t understand it right now, but he saved my life. He gave me life, because without this pregnancy, I would not have discovered this diagnosis until much more damage had been done.
At the end of the day, I have learned to work through my emotions instead of be eaten up by them. I find joy in something other than a big piece of cake. Trust me, there is plenty of sweetness out there, you just have to be willing to find it.