So, last time I wrote on this topic, I was freshly diagnosed and finding the whole thing rather overwhelming. Yet, I began writing this new post whilst sat in the hospital waiting room, 2 days after Christmas, 5 weeks on, waiting for an appointment that initially felt a lifetime away.
Time really does fly when you’re having fun, hey?!
Now 6 weeks on, having successfully cleared the dietary hurdle that is Christmas and New Year, I feel like my mind, body and emotional state are all in a much better place than they were back then. The aforementioned hospital appointment assured me of a currently very normal sized baby, (smaller, in fact, than even my first!), and my notes now state that my diabetes is currently “successfully diet-controlled.”
Man, I have to say… that feels darn good!
So … what changed?!
1. Finding good advice- and empathy!- from people who have done it all before.
As I mentioned before, the conflicting advice I received at my last few appointments was more than a little unhelpful. This is especially stressful when you’re growing another person and desperately trying- but seemingly failing– to do the right thing by them. The added anxiety, mixed with the guilt that you should be “getting it” and you’re not, is rather a lot to contend with in the third trimester of pregnancy. The more well-meaning, (but ultimately inexperienced), people told me to “just do this” or “just do that”- the more incapable and overwhelmed I felt.
If it was that easy, then why wasn’t it working?!
What a relief it was, then, to have lunch with a diabetic friend and fellow mother of three, later on that week! Comments like…
“Ask any diabetic and they’ll tell you that general NHS advice doesn’t work…”
“It’s a huge thing to have to learn while pregnant…”
“Here are a few things that worked for me…”
Were sweet relief to my soul!
It’s not just me; this is hard for everyone; and there are alternative approaches!
She gave me advice, from experience, about the blood-sugar-value of a low carb, high fat diet (the opposite to that advised in the Eat Well Guide they dish out!); as well as some really practical tips about how to prepare for potential problems when the baby is born.
Basically, I came out of that conversation feeling ten times more confident that I had the capacity to get this thing underhand; that it also wasn’t my fault if I couldn’t; and that there were things I could do to help both myself and the baby adjust after birth.
(Friend… you know who you are… one very big thank you!)
2. Moving beyond empathy and putting the past back where it belongs!
During my initial freak-out in that second week of diagnosis, the lack of control and sense of failure that I was experiencing kept bringing me back to one thing… I have a history of disordered eating. And, once I’d decided that that was an issue; it became an issue. I found myself telling people about it quite openly; almost as if I needed an excuse for finding things so difficult. “I appreciate your cousin managed just fine… but I had an eating disorder for eight years so, you know, this pressure on food is just too much for me to take!”
It was only when I got talking to another woman at church, who had also had gestational diabetes, as well as a lengthy eating disorder in the past, that I realised what I was doing and the penny finally dropped.
“Me too,” she confided, “and the problem with eating disorders is, they never really go away, do they?”
Well, that rattled me.
Because it has gone away.
I am completely free, and have been for as long as I had it.
The comment was full of love and empathy… but it rattled my cage, because I realised that, after 8 years, I had inexplicably chosen to climb back into it. No one was keeping me there; nothing was forcing me to play victim to this vicious mind-game again; it was all me.
So, thankfully, I very, very quickly decided it was time to climb back out!
And you know, it has brought a new sense of freedom. A new understanding of what it means to live healthily, post-bulimia. I guess I always associated “diets” with weight-loss, and freedom with being able to eat whatever the heck I liked, when I liked, without a second thought. However, I now enter a phase where, at my age, I realise there is an awful lot more to be said for looking after my body, outside of how it looks. I am learning that it is possible to eat in a way that is controlled, contained and structured… without losing control of my mind.
It’s still not exactly easy, but that realisation alone is a gem to find!
3. Finding an entire library of research and advice- and a community to boot!
Once I had gotten my head around the fact that this could and would be contained in a healthy way, and had found the confidence to believe that even I could do it… I started Googling some of the things that first friend had told me about. And, in doing so, found an absolute gold mine!
One thing that every doctor had in common that awful week was to direct me towards the Diabetes UK website; which was, you know, OK; but largely covered the more permanent Type One and Type Two Diabetes, making it a rather daunting thing to approach. Dr Google, however, led me to Gestational Diabetes UK– a very specific, very detailed site, set up by a Mum who experienced the condition twice, was equally discouraged by the lack of good advice out there, and so went about doing her research, talking to others and compiling this amazing resource. Seriously, it propelled me to a new level of understanding and confidence- and so I would highly recommend it to anyone going through the same!
Amongst her many posts and pages, she has 8 golden rules for the GD diet; which actually make sense- and, more importantly, work! As well as detailed explanations of the condition, practical advice on things like packing your hospital bag (with a few key differences I wouldn’t have thought of!), and… my favourite… Why Typical GD Dietary Advice Doesn’t Work.
As a result, I’ve thrown out my Eat-Well Guide, declined the long-awaited appointment with the dietician (after receiving a letter, four weeks post-referral, offering an appointment in 6-18 weeks time… at 33 weeks pregnant!), and followed this site instead.
And the doctor says it’s working.
Can’t ask for more than that!
4. Putting myself at the top of the food chain!
I think one of the best, but also one of the worst, things about taking this diagnosis seriously whilst at home with two toddlers in the third trimester of pregnancy, is all the extra cooking!
I decided pretty early on that the only way I could actually do this well and stick to it was to cook really good food – stuff I’d actually enjoy eating. This obviously takes a lot of extra time and energy and, where I would normally throw something together quickly to engage in more child-friendly activities- or, you know, have a nap!- I’ve had to be a lot more proactive, and even selfish, about the amount of time I’ve spent in the kitchen. But, you know, it’s actually worked out well for all of us. Not only have I discovered healthier meals the kids actually like, but I’ve also discovered things I never imagined they- or, indeed, Husband!– would be willing to go without. It’s helped us to make decisions about small but significant changes we need to make permanently, for the health of the whole family, and has really opened my eyes to the amount of glucose present in even our healthiest meals. We still have a long, long way to go… but we’re a lot better off, in some ways, than we were before.
(On another note, as a baking Mum, I’ve also discovered that the kids enjoy cooking with vegetables as much as they like baking with a bowl to lick out! Winner!)
So … what have we been eating these last 6 weeks?!
Based on the idea of “food pairing“, I now try to make sure each meal I prepare has a small amount of carbohydrate, for fibre; a source of protein; a source of good fat and a whole load of vegetables for everything else! The protein and fat help to slow the digestion of the carbs, keeping my blood sugar stabilised. As a vegetarian, this largely revolves around wholemeal carbs and grains; chick peas, beans, eggs and lentils; avocado, nuts, seeds and a whooooole lotta cheese! Snacks pretty much consist of nuts, seeds, berries, yoghurt, banana… and a lot more nuts.
The meals pictured are loosely based on recipes from the following cookbooks:
(…But if you’d like any basic recipes, do drop me a message!)
In the spirit of full disclosure, of course, the kids are not eating everything we eat! But with some heavily adapted toddler versions, I do think they’re at least a bit healthier than they were before! We’ll get there in the end.
Of course this all sounds rather positive and wonderful…
But let’s not pretend it hasn’t been hard! I have, on more than one occasion, had to physically run from the cookie jar! Toddler does very well at making me stick to the plan… waving tangerines, biscuits,and jam in my face, saying: “Mummy can’t… but Daddy can!”
I pegged my nose feeding the Christmas cake, and would you believe the gifts we give start off like this?!
I can’t describe what a miracle it is, that in the making of these, no single spoon was licked!
But hey, back to the positive bit… a vegetarian, diabetic Christmas Dinner, at least, still looks like this!
Now, with 6 weeks gone, there’s only 4 to go… we’re nearing the home straight!
And, while this still makes me slightly sad, I just can’t wait to get Tiny out safe!
Still, just one more week to go, until I can start the next distraction…
Thanks to a tip off from GDUK, I’m now fully equipped for Colostrum extraction!
Happy New Year, folks!