A couple of weeks ago, upon rather abruptly arriving at the third trimester, I wrote a blog post in honour of the second. The beautiful, blooming and buzzing second trimester, as I had experienced it. It was an indulgent exercise in nostalgia; capturing the joy and awe that I was feeling once more, at growing a human for the very last time.
I wanted to write it before things got messy; before I was ready to let go.
And, lo and behold…
Barely a month on… it’s as if I must have known!
See. I want you to imagine…
Imagine, (as someone who generally struggles in every way possible when Husband is out of town for a few days), that you are quietly studying the confectionary aisle in Sainsbury’s, (with a conveniently sleeping Toddler); prayerfully discerning whether Dairy Milk or Jelly Babies are the most appropriate comfort food for the long night ahead…
… When the phone rings.
Whilst you’re in that zone…
What do you imagine is the worst possible phone call you could receive at that precise moment?!
(Ok, I’m being dramatic. Nobody died! Maybe not the worst phonecall… but maybe the most excruciatingly ironic?!)
Maybe… I don’t know… something like this?
“Hi! This is Joy Stealer from the Diabetes Clinic at-“
“Oh you have GOT to be joking?!”
“Please don’t tell me I have Diabetes now too?!”
“Ohhhh… are you kidding?! No, no… it’s not really funny is it? Sorry…”
“**Lots of words**”
“Hang on, sorry; I can’t hear you-”
(Over the mournful shrieks of a particularly desperate Galaxy Caramel, predicting my betrayal…)
“Ok. I’ve moved…”
(“Goodbye my lover! Goodbye my friend…”)
“So… what does this mean?!”
What DOES this mean?
Besides making this the most medically monitored pregnancy of the three, by a long shot; it also means:
1. I have gestational diabetes… which thankfully means it shouldn’t be permanent! (Although there is a much higher risk of developing Type 2 later in life, so it does overall mean a kick up the bum in the longterm health department…)
2. It means, as my pharmecuetical sister so eloquently put it, “your endocrine system is all to pot!” Besides not producing enough thyroxine, my body now isn’t producing enough insulin either… meaning all of the (and I mean Aaaalllll of the) glucose I’m consuming is staying in my bloodstream for far too long, and putting my baby at risk.
3. So… to me, at least, that now means absolutely no sweets, chocolate, cake, juice, pop or any other unneccessary sugar product for the next 2 months. (You know, just over Christmas and my birthday really! Smashing!)
4. But apparently… it also means so, so much more than that! With each successive appointment, (there have been more this fortnight than I had with the other two put together!), each health professional has told me more and more about what I should and shouldn’t eat; what it could do to my body; what it could do to the baby and the interventions they may have to make if I can’t control it with diet. So, after initially thinking I’d just steer clear of the confectionary aisle and have a few more scans; I’ve very quickly come to realise that this diagnosis requires a complete dietary overhaul and, temporary as it might be … that ain’t no picnic!
5. It means measuring and recording my own blood glucose levels at home, with a nifty little electronic testing kit, three or four times a day. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m amazed at modern technology, and so so thankful that this is the alternative to spending the next 8 weeks trudging back and forth to the hospital for monitoring! But… one thing I feel I must communicate from some kind of platform is… I have a long standing phobia of blood.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes; after birthing two children through two particularly messy deliveries… I no longer request to lie down for regular blood tests. I have indeed come a long way! But, you know… I still wouldn’t volunteer to watch the stuff coming out!
In fact, the funny thing is, in my very first pregnancy, I was so adverse to blood that Husband used to buy me a McFlurry at the McDonald’s near the hospital everytime I had one done! And at the end, as I lay in surgery; exhausted, numb and high on diamorphine; getting stitched up after forceps, whilst the medical team scooped a good litre of blood into a bucket between my legs… I rather famously turned to a traumatised Husband and asked, “how many McFlurry’s was THAT worth then?!”
Evidentally, it would seem…
So, it might just be four finger pricks a day; but, as I sit and squeeze each one to make sure enough blood flows before I scoop it up and measure it, (error messages are NOT fun in this situation!), I can’t help but feel a little proud of myself… and yes, a little bit queasy… and more than a little bit gutted that there’ll be no ice cream involved whatsoever!
6. Following on… this home monitoring means that I get to see, after each meal, the effects of the food on my blood glucose levels. Which is brilliant, but, for a self-confessed control-freak with a history of disordered eating … also rather difficult to manage in a healthy way. Unfortunately, the most difficult element so far has been the conflicting advice of the many health professionals I have spoken to, whilst waiting to see a dietician. Working on advice and instructions from last week, for example, I gutted the cupboards, scoured the recipe books, near-on obliterated carbs from my diet and gourged on fruit, eggs and vegetables in strictly scheduled meals. I definitely starved too much, trying to keep the levels as low as possible, only to realise that this had the adverse effect and that healthy snacks, (discovered by trial and error!), in between each meal, seem to be the better option. However, after each spell in which I thought I’d nailed it, my blood sugar flipped out over some unexpected item and my sense of failure spiralled. This is not as easy as I thought it was going to be…. why can’t I get this right?!
So, you know, I was already finding the whole thing rather overwhelming, before yesterday’s sparkling hospital gems:
First up… The Consultant:
“So, these are your levels after two hours, yes?”
“No… One hour. The book very clearly says one hour…”
“Ah yes, the book says that, but she should have told you to wait two. It’s an old book.”
“So these levels are void; let’s start again.”
Followed by… The Diabetes Nurse
“Ok, so your levels are incorrect, but they look fine for after an hour. I don’t really need to see you for a month, unless you ring in.”
“Oh, OK. That’s great, but… I am actually really struggling with knowing what and when to eat. Do you know when I’ll see a dietician?”
“No but I’ve seen the referral. Just go off the booklet for now.”
“Has no-one given you the ‘What to Eat’ booklet?”
“Oh… here you go.”
“Hang on… The first page here says eat MORE starchy carbohydrates?! With every meal?! I’ve been cutting those out!”
“Oh no. You need your fibre!”
“But the Doctor last week said that pasta and rice was full of sugar?! I mean I’ve bought brown versions, but I’ve been trying not to use them. Well… what about potatoes then?”
“Oh, yes eat potatoes.”
“He said they were the worst?!”
“Oh… Well, read the booklet for now and then ask the dietician when you see her.”
8. … I have no idea what it means.
I might have got home and cried.
Especially as the booklet turned out to be another simplistic, contradictory and outdated offering. And I confess, as I walked past the heavily pregnant woman who had gone in to see the diabetes nurse ahead of me, eating a Milky Way and smoking outside… The fact that we’re in the same boat severely hurt my pride!
Yes, for the first time in my gestatational history, today… 8 weeks feels like a really long time.
9. Finally, despite the frustration and the folly… It also means that I know we are actually in really good hands. I might feel like crap today, (pardon the expression), but I am also incredibly thankful. Thankful, of course, for the beautifully healthy and active baby that I got to see playing in the womb again yesterday; but also incredibly thankful that I live in a part of the world where I have such constant access to healthcare. By this, I mean that there is a dedicated team of people, over-worked and under-paid as they are, ready to monitor, measure, medicate, guide and listen to us closely, until we are safely on the other side. A team provided by the National Health Service, regardless of our wealth or status.
I am also thankful that I live in a part of the world where women’s voices matter; where my concerns are heeded, because they concern me and mine. I read a story recently about a woman in China who died in childbirth because her family refused a c-section. The doctors said it was needed; the woman begged for it; but the family had the legal right to refuse… And they did. They insisted on a “natural birth”, and both she and the baby died.
Yesterday, on the other hand, I sat down with a consultant –alone– and expressed, very clearly, that this new diagnosis presented one-too-many risk factors and that I would prefer a surgical delivery.
He said yes.
And that was that.
No woman should have to feel so lucky to have that.
See, I am convinced that, without medical assistance, both myself and my children would have died during childbirth. In fact, one of them got so wedged behind my pelvic bone that he very briefly did. I was incredibly thankful for the assistance then and am even more thankful now. Thankful that I live in a place where a safe and orderly exit can be prepared and planned for throughout.
See, we’ve all fantasised about the perfect “natural birth”,
But for some… This just isn’t real.
I am one without “clearly marked exits”,
But finally… I’ve accepted that deal!
For natural gestation and evacuation
Can indeed be a serene affair;
But there are those of us who need all the help we can get-
And for once-
So long as it ends well, I just couldn’t care!
For, as the awe and wonder give way completely,
To anxiety and monitoring and stress;
I’ll remain thankful,
For a life well-looked-after;
And be RELIEVED when it’s out on my chest!
And as I try not to worry,
Or wish away or hurry,
The kicks that still warm and bless;
I’ll also stay thankful,
That the diabetes is temporal…
And I’ll have that McFlurry in the end!