Real-Life Superhero: Part II


Ready to deliver

On June 30th, 2018, I was 39 weeks, one day pregnant and we headed to the hospital for check-in at 8 a.m., where we met our families in the waiting room. It was a surreal moment and I found myself fixated on what was about to take place. My ankles (more like cankles) were swollen, my belly looked like I was carrying triplets and I was hungry and thirsty. My adrenaline was keeping my blood sugars stable for a while, until I got the call back around 10 a.m. to begin the intake process in the pre-op holding area. My blood sugar took a gradual decline as the hunger/thirst worsened. I was not allowed to take anything, but after speaking with several nurses, they allowed me to dissolve a glucose tablet (or two, I don’t quite remember) in my cheek. Luckily, it brought my blood sugars exactly where we wanted them to be: 5.2 mmol/L95 mg/dL. I suspended my insulin and was ready to give birth!

I will never forget walking down that hallway and entering a very chilly room, chatting with all the anesthesiologists about my Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and insulin pump and their functionalities. In case you aren’t aware, people with diabetes LOVE to talk about their gadgets when the opportunity presents itself. When I registered for my delivery, I signed a form to assume responsibility for administering and managing my own insulin during labor, delivery and recovery. I believe type 1s are generally very much in-tune with their bodies and know how to handle insulin delivery best, even under new circumstances like labor and delivery. In the event I was unable to manage, I knew I could rely on Matt to step up. After receiving my epidural injection (which was a piece of cake for someone accustomed to shooting foreign objects into skin), I drifted off into a state of euphoria as I was serenaded by “Hey Jude” and “Tiny Dancer” and was lowered back for my C-section. I managed to keep my blood sugars very stable throughout the entire procedure 4.4-5.0 mmol/L80-90 mg/dL to be exact. I kept a screenshot of my G6 readings).

Moments later, I saw Matt enter the room and asked him to give me a play-by-play of everything. I remember telling him, “Tell me when they start!” He peeked over and told me “Oh, they’ve started alright,” as his eyes got really big. All this time waiting, I had no idea they were almost done! Seconds later, I hear everyone in unison say, “Check out that HAIR!” as I got the first glimpse of my big, chubby baby boy—who was indeed, all hair, like Elvis Presley. The doctor assisted Jack with a little fist bump and wave to me as he turned him over to the pediatric nurses and Matt to cut the cord, weigh him and clean him off. I just stared in amazement and pure joy, soaking in every single second. The song “Let it Be” by the Beatles was playing in the background as Jack entered the world (Yes, his first birthday party theme is naturally, The Beatles—the kid has really good taste in music). These moments were arguably the most beautiful Matt and I had ever experienced together. However, things took a very quick turn for the worst as I was being stitched up.

Unforeseen circumstances

I recall starting to shake violently with my teeth chattering so much, I couldn’t close my lips. I became extremely cold, shivering all over my body. I saw nurses and a couple new doctors rush back into the room as they began to push aggressively on my stomach. I had no idea what was going on, but it was all a blur as I slowly entered a state of shock. My body began losing a significant amount of blood, what I later found out was postpartum hemorrhaging. The nurses weighed blankets to get an accurate estimation of my blood loss. It continued to climb, as things escalated very quickly. I just recall a bunch of commotion, lots of shouting, lots of movement, and the anesthesiologists behind me trying to keep me distracted and alert but I felt my body drifting away. I actually remember asking if I could close my eyes and take a nap. I looked over to Matt who had a split expression of both fear and strength, holding it down with Jack and the other nurses, torn and trying to be there for the two of us. At the time, we didn’t even realize that Jack would also soon require critical attention as well.

Fortunately, the bleeding stopped with applaudable efforts of the nurses and doctors. My uterus was also saved. A Bakri balloon was placed in my body to add pressure to the bleeding inside my uterus. I was then taken to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) for two rounds of blood transfusions to replenish all that was lost. The pain was intense and I remember crying for water, as I was extremely dehydrated. All I wanted was to see my son. I was told that he was up in the nursery with Matt. Once I was moved to the Maternal Fetal Care Unit (MFCU), I waited in the room until midnight to finally see Jack (10 hours after my surgery). Matt came into the room and surprised me with Jack with our family in tow. This is another memory I will never forget. It was right after this momentous reunion that Jack was taken back to the nursery for further evaluation. He was quickly moved to the NICU for various reasons, mainly for his rapid breathing (transient tachypnea) and pneumonia.

Once I passed my required tests and ditched the balloon and catheter, I was finally moved to the postpartum unit (aka mother-baby unit), where I spent that next week recovering and learning how to get out of bed without screaming. My days consisted of managing the pain, rediscovering my new blood sugars, and visiting Jack in the NICU. Together, we recovered well thanks to the amazing doctors, nurses and staff at Cedars-Sinai. After our one week of recovery, we were discharged and ready to be home as a new family of three. Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave diabetes at the hospital.

New adjustments

Upon our return home and adjusting to a brand-new life as parents, I also was learning how to manage my wild blood sugars. With all the changes to my body, hormones, pain and healing, breastfeeding, lack of sleep and so on, it was almost as if I was a new person with diabetes all over again. It’s crazy how the very second I gave birth to Jack, my insulin changes followed suit. I enjoyed it at the beginning, as I was finally able to splurge on those so-called pregnancy cravings and indulge in all the bagels, breads and muffins that I so longed for. The best part is that breastfeeding allowed me to enjoy them without sending my blood sugars through the roof. Plus, I wasn’t plagued by the risks of insulin resistance with a baby on board. I enjoyed this phase for a while, but as I adjusted to my new role as a mother, I also discovered my new role as a pancreas manager—new basal rates, new sensitivity, new carb ratios, new insulin delivery with the extra calories consumed, new sleep schedule, etc. Talk about one heck of a learning curve.

Diabetes never sleeps. We carry it through every season of life—the highs, the lows, the day-to-day and the unexpected. Sure, it would have been nice to breeze through a pregnancy without constantly walking that fine line of perfect 5.0-7.2 mmol/L90-130 mg/dL. But the strength, discipline and resiliency it taught me through the whole journey is something I wouldn’t want to trade. Motherhood is a gift and a title that comes with a lot of work and a lot of tears. Diabetes prepared me more than ever to persevere through a tough pregnancy, to fight through an intense delivery and recovery and to become the best version of myself for my son. That is why I truly believe moms with type 1 diabetes (T1D) are real-life superheroes.

This story is a part of a series, read Part I here.

Check out more T1D Pregnancy + Motherhood stories here.

WRITTEN BY Marci Tatham, POSTED 06/24/19, UPDATED 11/09/22

Marci Tatham is 28 years old and has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2012. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) has become the theme in her family as her dad, brother and sister all live with T1D—all diagnosed around the same age. Marci is happily married to her husband, Matt. Together, they enjoy chasing after their 1-year-old son, Jack. When Marci isn't watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Jack or laughing at Matt's dad jokes, you can find her running or spinning on her Peloton. Marci's favorite hobbies include fitness, exploring new restaurants and party planning. Type 1 diabetes has played a significant role in her life and she has found purpose and passion in helping women journey through a T1D pregnancy and motherhood.