FEELS FRIDAY: Lessons from Gestational Diabetes

As I attempt to catch up on my blog posts, I will be talking about bits and pieces of my pregnancy journey. While we are not expecting again, I hope these bits will help the next mom — and maybe kind of remind me what I had gone through to try to replicate or do better in the future.

This was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy so please bear with the lengthy post.  I’ve also included links to some additional reading regarding gestational diabetes mellitus. 

If there’s one thing I was dreading throughout my pregnancy, it has to be the oral glucose tolerance test. I had heard so many horror stories about it and I was not looking forward to it at all. But when Week 25 came around, I was given the go signal to head to a lab for the test.

The first time, it was a drink. And OMG WAS IT A DRINK OR WHAT. It was sweet af and I couldn’t chug down it faster. I was reminded yet again of why I do not drink soda — that was the worse than soda. After a few (or one???) hours, they drew my blood and I was told results would be sent to my OB within the next 2-3 days.

The clinic called and told me I barely passed. According to the Mayo Clinic, normal range for the one hour test is 140 mg/dL. I was probably at 139. The NP offered two options: (1) start treating me for gestational diabetes or (2) see if I can pass the three-hour test. This brings me to the first lesson.

Lesson 1: Just get treated as a gestational diabetic.  My ego was so determined to pass the three-hour test, so I opted for that one.  Another week passes, and nope. It was a massive failure.  I didn’t even pass the fasting numbers.  And I had to kick myself because the smarter option was to just go ahead with the diabetes program.

12-10-19_DN_OGTT-Gestational-Diabetes

As soon as we got the results, we were setup with a nurse specializing in diabetes management.  If I didn’t insist on that three-hour test, I would have started managing it sooner.  So if presented with that option again, I would just go ahead and choose to be treated with GD.  The sooner this is managed, the better for me and the baby.  Because…  

Lesson 2: Gestational diabetes can be manageable.  I thought a one-hour block was enough to meet with my nurse.  Nope.  I ended up talking to her for 2.5 hours.  I don’t think I’ve ever consulted with a health professional for that long in my entire life.  During that time, we talked about the following:

  • Frequency of testing my blood sugar level:  four times a day — upon waking up and an hour after the first bite of every meal
  • Required activity level:  30 minutes a day with heart rate at 100-150 bpm, preferably speed walking
  • Required caloric intake and portions
  • Meal plan from that point forward until 6 weeks after delivery

The meal plan was my favorite part of this consultation.  She took her time in asking what type of foods I eat, how frequent, and even asked about my indulgences (fast food, desserts, and the like), based my meal plan on my responses, and because of that, it was easy to follow.   The main thing she highlighted was portioning.  It’s the tale as old as time:  too much of something is not good, so every component of every meal was moderated.

AAA

Another thing:  because I was sending my sugar numbers every week, we were able to pinpoint the type of food that triggers a high glucose reading.  The meal plan was then adjusted accordingly, and we looked for substitutes that are as accessible and as tasty as the one replacing it.

One thing that that she emphasized was the importance of carbs in my diet.  We determined early on that rice is the main culprit of my increased glucose levels (ASIAN LIFE <3) so I started removing rice altogether from my meals.  I was able to meet my glucose levels, but she called me out for not substituting rice with another starch.  She advised that I cannot go into ketosis and start using my body fat for energy because the baby needs my body fat, so my energy has to come from carbs.  This is of course an oversimplified explanation of the whole thing, but that’s my takeaway from it.  Right after hearing that, I started substituting rice with quinoa.  All is right again with the world.  Or is it?  This diagnosis really fckd with my head until I came to realize…

Lesson 3:  It’s not my fault.  Did I welcome the diagnosis with open arms?  Of course not.  While I have not been the most consistent person in terms of physical activity/exercise during the course of our getting pregnant, I do make conscious decisions about my diet.  It was very hard to accept that I was a diabetic.  Even The Husband didn’t understand how I “caught it” because I’ve always made healthier choices.  My OB was quick to clarify that it is through no fault of my own.  She phrased it as another “mystery gift” of pregnancy.  She even went on to say she’d had patients who compete professionally in CrossFit turn out to have GD as well.  It is not my fault.

And I wish I accepted that sooner.  I wish I didn’t waste time thinking if I had continued going to the gym regularly or if I had gone meatless every other day or if I just didn’t have that last bubble tea.  I spent a fair amount beating myself up for it when I really shouldn’t have because…

Lesson 4:  There is an end in sight.  I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t eventually get sick of pricking my fingers.  At one point, I didn’t know where else to prick myself.  I even had to go on insulin because my fasting numbers weren’t ideal, so that’s another injection site that completely ran out.  But there is an end in sight… and it is childbirth.

Almost immediately after giving birth, they took my blood sugar reading and it was normal.  The woman’s body is insane.  Hahaha.  I swear, I don’t understand how that all went down but it did.  There are more details to come with my son’s birth story but yeah, everything pretty much went back to normal after he popped out.

Important thing to note though:  I was advised by my nurse to continue the course of my meal plan until I get tested again for Type 2 Diabetes.  She mentioned that some 60% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes develop Type 2 Diabetes within 7 years after giving birth, a statistic that hit close to home when one of our friends hopped the diabetic train early last year.  She had advised if I’m breastfeeding, follow the current plan. Otherwise, slash 500 calories off of the daily meals.

Oh, and another thing!  Because I was diagnosed with GD with this pregnancy, my OB said they will have to test me earlier (like at least 20 weeks) for GD if I choose to get pregnant again.  Chances are, I will ride this train again, but there is no way in actual hell will I ever drink that nasty drink ever again.  I’d rather be categorized as diabetic and “endure” the pricking and dieting throughout my entire pregnancy.

Why you ask?  Because I have never felt safer.  Going into my pregnancy, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and worry.  But when I got diagnosed with this illness, at least three more healthcare professionals are checking in on me, on top of my OB, every week.  And each week I was presented with numbers and images, each week I had solid proof that my pregnancy was going well and that my baby was safe.  I don’t know about you, but I absolutely loved the extra medical attention.  It kissed my anxieties away (at least for the time being).

There’s more to my GD journey than these four lessons, and those are reserved for another time.  But for now, if you are reading this and you are experiencing the same thing, hang in there and hang tight. Your medical team has you covered and this is but a bump in your journey to motherhood.

Thanks everyone.

FEELS FRIDAY: My Pregnancy Gift to Myself

It has been a while since I last wrote on this page and, no this is not a declaration that I am pregnant again.  While I wish I had updated my blog in a more timely manner so that I have full documentation of my pregnancy journey, let’s just say my emotions were then incapable of balancing so much at the time.  Now that I’m looking back, I can confidently talk about my experience and hopefully, it helps the next reader or so.

This is not a topic that’s commonly talked about — at least not in my household.  But it’s something that I truly believe was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.  In fact, I would even consider it as a gift from The Husband; he did after all urge me to go get it.

My pregnancy gift to myself is… going back to therapy.

As a person with a history of depression, the years leading up to my pregnancy was pretty rough.  After all, I originally did not intend to get pregnant.  I was perfectly content living the rest of my life with The Husband.  But, being a witness to someone else’s mortality shook me up pretty well and my thinking shifted from NO KIDS FO LIFE to OMG I WANT AN EXACT COPY OF THE BEST PERSON I KNOW AKA THE HUSBAND.

(Side bar:  I know my kid will be his own person.  I’m not really trying to recreate my spouse.  This is for those who think that I am trying to duplicate my spouse.  I made a choice to be a parent because I want to be a parent.  If my kid turns out to be like his dad, that’s just a bonus, not a goal.  Mmmmkay?)

Then of course, there’s the struggle of conceiving.  I had thought that the moment I got off the pill, I would be pregnant in a smack.  Big fat nope.  A year after being off the pill, I went to my OB who then referred me to a specialist because it was “better to see the complete picture of what we’re working with.”  Tests upon tests and six months later, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

Let me dwell on that for a second.  WTF RIGHT?!  I mean, what in seven hells is that?  After all that difficulty, they’re telling us that technically there’s nothing wrong and that conceptually we should be conceiving naturally, but eh, sorry?  For a moment, I wished so hard for something to be wrong.  That way, I would know that there’s something to be fixed, to be remedied.  But nope, unexplained infertility it is.

And just when we have come to terms with our options — hormone therapy, IUI, IVF, surrogacy and adoption (and yes, in that order) — the strip gave me two lines.  Flashing before my eyes is the stick screaming PREGNANT.

To go from not wanting to have kids, to wanting to have one, to not being able to have one, to not being able to explain why we can’t make one, to accepting that we are seeking extraordinary means to conceive, to actually conceiving in a span of 18 months????  Let’s just say it was mentally and emotionally exhausting.  While my depression was at an all-time high (yes, even higher than the time when my father died) upon hearing the unexplained infertility news, the pregnancy news kicked another condition in high gear:  anxiety.

My sisters will definitely tell you that I probably read everything that you can read about getting pregnant and being pregnant, and in therapy, I have learned that too much knowledge is not power.  LOL.  In my head, I was so prepared.  But each morning I woke up pregnant, all I had in my mind were the negative probabilities:  miscarriage, genetic illnesses, still birth.  It was getting out of control.  In fact, it was so out of hand that while driving to work, I would need to pull over because I kept visualizing that I would crash into the car in front of me and my child would be squashed under the steering wheel.

I never saw myself as someone pessimistic, until I realized that my mind had only retained all the worst case scenarios of my pregnancy and very little of the best case.

Therapy was a relief, a gift that just keeps on giving.  I learned various types of coping mechanisms and I found myself rekindling my love for journaling.  Because of therapy, I was able to manage my anxieties, get my controlling nature under control (LOL OMG), and find the silver lining in every Final Destination-like scenario in my head. I went at least twice a month, and in some months, thrice.  It was enough for me to feel more prepared and more relaxed as my pregnancy progressed.

Whenever I would speak to The Husband about my pregnancy journey, he would always say that it took me a while to be truly and wholly happy.  On the outside, I looked glowing and excited, but he knew my worries, my concerns.  He knew the nights when I would just stay up and check if the baby is moving.  He knew how bad it got that he bought a doppler that we can use at home, so each time I feel any tinge of worry, I can just go ahead and listen to our baby’s heartbeat.

He encouraged me to go through with therapy, and in fact, was the one who brought it up.  And I am so grateful that he did.  Therapy not only helped strengthen my resolve; it also helped The Husband feel that we have a solid support team in this absolutely insane journey.  I wasn’t passing on my anxieties to him, I wasn’t making family uncomfortable by being so negative and worrisome, and well, honestly, I slept better at night.  And I needed that doppler less and less.

I do want to put out a disclaimer though.  Going to therapy early on in the pregnancy does not guarantee that you’ll escape the horror that is post-partum depression.  That, my dear friends, is a topic for another time.

What about you?  What was the best non-material gift you gave yourself when you found out you were pregnant?