Pregnancy and diabetes are each difficult on their own. Put them together and you have two full time jobs. If you haven’t been following, I’ve been writing about my pregnancy with diabetes for ASweetLife (see here, here, and here), and now, after a long nine months, I can tell you not only about diabetes and pregnancy, but also about diabetes and delivery.
During my final month of pregnancy, I was chronically sweating. I passed the time gulping cold water, opening windows, and using my hand as a fan. Never mind it was winter. In my 40th week, I had brunch at a restaurant and asked the waiter to turn down the heat. He smiled and told me the heat wasn’t on.
That’s how I knew: The Girl was coming.
A day later – two days before my due date – I was in labor. By the middle of the night, my contractions had progressed to five minutes apart. It was time to go to the hospital. But my husband Gary and I couldn’t leave yet. First, I needed to review my checklist of things I’d need for diabetes and delivery. The list had been sitting on top of my packed suitcase for two weeks.
In the margin I had written:
DIABETES AND DELIVERY REMINDERS
CHANGE PUMP SITE BEFORE GOING TO HOSPITAL!!!!!!!! INSERT ON RIGHT HIP!!!!!!!!
DOUBLE CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ALL DIABETES SUPPLIES + TAKE INSULIN FROM FRIDGE!!!!!!!!
All I could see were messy capital letters and an inappropriate amount of exclamation points.
I thought to myself, CRAP. I have to change my site. Now?
When I had made that checklist, I’d predicted my hospital stay would likely last three days – the duration of one pump site change, which meant I could change my site right before going to the hospital, and then again when I returned home. All of this calculating was done in order to avoid having to change my site in the hospital, which really shouldn’t have been something to fear. I’d also figured that inserting my site on my right hip would be the most logical spot for labor. (That is how crazy/unprepared I was.) And speaking of being unprepared, I had no idea how painful labor contractions would be. But there I was – in labor – and wishing I could think about nothing but my baby. Changing my site was the last thing I wanted to do. But you know diabetes. It always takes center stage. Somehow, in between contractions, I managed to change my site.
Gary and I made our way to the hospital. Unfortunately, my doctor wasn’t on call that night. The physicians and nurses on call didn’t know me or my labor plans. Not that I had big plans. I only had plans for my diabetes:
Insulin pump stays on.
No sugar in the IV.
That was it.
But the staff wanted to follow protocol. They wanted to put sugar in the drip. And they were urging me to disconnect my pump and let the nurses take over.
I thought, Hell no. I just changed my site!
I adamantly said “No, thank you.” This was before the epidural, so there may have been some grimacing.
They called my regular OBGYN to make sure it was okay for me to manage my own insulin during labor. I felt like a child. Couldn’t they trust me to care for myself. “Diabetic” doesn’t mean incompetent.
My doctor gave them the okay.
Labor was a whirlwind. I was excited, nervous, and still sweating. And in the middle of everything, I was still managing my diabetes. Gary was an amazing coach and helped lighten the load. He brought my meter over every 45 minutes so I could test my blood sugar. He inserted the test strip and charged the lancing device. He did everything short of prick his own finger. My blood sugars hovered between 90 and 120 the entire time.
As strange as it sounds, managing my diabetes during labor didn’t annoy me. Like any first-time-mom, I was anxious about meeting a new little person! My old pal diabetes felt familiar. Every normal blood sugar made me feel like I had control over the situation.
After several hours of waiting to fully dilate, the doctor came in to examine me. She told me that I was 10 centimeters. It was time to push.
I nodded and said hold on.
Gary was already walking over with my meter and a juice box. The juice box. The telltale sign that the woman giving birth has diabetes.
An hour and twenty minutes later, out came The Girl. But she was no longer The Girl. She was a real person.
The nurse whisked her away to the table to clean her up. I tried to see what they were doing. I kept rambling, “Is she okay? Is she okay?”
Why wouldn’t she be okay? But diabetes makes you ask those questions. What if my efforts to keep my blood glucose levels in check hadn’t been enough?
I watched Gary hover over our baby girl. He looked at me and gave me a thumbs-up. He said, “She’s so cute, Jen.”
As I reflect now on my 40 weeks of diabetes and pregnancy, all I can say is: what a long haul. I had debilitating nausea. Fatigue. Aches and pains. Anemia. Blood sugar swings. Then came Hurricane Sandy. A car accident. Excessive sweating. My little baby endured all that before even entering the world. She’s a fighter and a survivor.
My daughter’s name is Maya. The M in Maya is for my late grandmother, Grandma Miriam. Grandma Miriam was a Holocaust survivor and the original tough cookie. I thought it fitting that Maya’s name came from her.
The nurse checked Maya’s blood sugar. (Babies born to mothers with diabetes sometimes have low blood sugar at birth. That means a trip to the NICU.) Thankfully, Maya’s blood sugar was fine. She could stay with me. However, the nurses periodically pricked her heel for the next 24 hours. Just in case.
I felt angry at my diabetes for getting in the way. Now it was affecting Maya! I thought, Leave her outta this! Maya’s blood sugars remained normal through her first 24 hours. They stopped pricking her.
Usually, I am my own biggest critic. I allow diabetes to make me feel like I’m not doing enough.
But not when Maya was born.
I beat the monster that lives in my body and brought a healthy little miracle into the world. I did do enough! For that I feel both proud and blessed.