As I sit here contemplating Morgan turning one next month, her first birthday party and all of the arrangements and trying to thinking of gift ideas that people have started to ask me for, I also need to think about booking in for my annual diabetes blood test.
I use the word annual like its something I have been doing for ages, but actually, it is the first year that I have needed to do it after Morgan has been born.
I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant with her, and I now carry a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes at some point in the future. Because of this, I have to be tested yearly, for the rest of my life.
I was actually devastated when I got the phone call from the hospital telling me I had it, though, it wasn’t really a surprise. I was overweight when I fell pregnant with Morgan as hadn’t lost my pregnancy weight from Sydney, and in the year it took to conceive Morgan, I comfort ate.
At a routine Midwife appointment, I was told I was “too big for my weeks” and I was sent for an additional scan to investigate. At first they thought I might have polyhydramnios, but the scan showed my fluid levels were fine but Morgan’s tummy was looking large. It was strange, as I had had a similar experience in my pregnancy with Sydney, yet a diabetes test in that pregnancy had been negative.
A sugary drink and a blood test, followed by a long and boring wait in the hospital, followed by another blood test, indicated that I did have Gestational Diabetes.
I was booked into a specialised unit at the hospital and had to attend a clinic to talk me through what it all meant, how my diet would need to change, and to teach me how to use the blood sugar monitor. I am not particularly squeamish but I felt really nervous taking my blood sugar measurement for the first time during the class with other pregnant ladies who had also been diagnosed.
When we discussed diet, it was nothing other than sensible and balanced eating, but the fact was, that the chocolate, and cake and hot chocolate needed to go. It didn’t seem fair. Surely that’s one of the good things about being pregnant? Being able to indulge in nice things – it’s not like you can have alcohol!
I was told I needed to check my blood sugars four times a day – on waking, and an hour after each meal. I was told my readings would need to be less than seven on every occasion and I had to report in on a weekly basis with my scores.
Breakfast the next day I had porridge. I had a small bowl and a black coffee and took my reading an hour later. My reading was twelve! I couldn’t believe it. It shocked me – and I started panicking. It also made me realise that I did actually have gestational diabetes. I somehow had thought I couldn’t have it that bad, or it had been a mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking – but that first day was an eye opener. I managed to deal with meals and readings ok for the rest of the day and vowed to tackled breakfast again the next morning. This time I had a piece of wholemeal toast and a yoghurt but again, an hour later, my reading was high. I called the diabetic unit in a panic. The diabetic midwife was brilliant and calmed me down and said that lots of people struggled with breakfasts and blood sugars did tend to run higher in the mornings. She suggested bacon and eggs for breakfast but knew that that would be more time consuming, and I had a two year old (at the time) to look after as well. The other thing she suggested was to have two small breakfasts. Something small, followed by an hour and then a blood sugar check and then something else that was small. This seemed to work and I soon fell into a routine of checking sugars and emailing across my results on a weekly basis.
After three weeks, things changed. It didn’t seem to matter how small my portions were, how healthily I ate or how few carbohydrates I consumed, my blood sugars started going haywire. I went to the diabetic clinic for a check up and there were lots of ketones in my urine suggesting I was starving myself. I was told I would need to go onto medication to control the diabetes, which would mean I would be able to eat more, but would mean I wouldn’t be allowed to go to full term. I was nervous that I would need to inject insulin, but I was prescribed Metformin, which is in tablet form, and I was advised to just take it in the morning.
Things stabilised for a few weeks but again started going out of control again a few weeks later. Slowly, my dose of Metformin was increased so I ended up taking three tablets a day. I was told that, because my diabetes was now being controlled with medication, I would need to be induced before my due date.
I was really concerned about what the affect of all of this was going to be on baby Morgan. Her tummy size seemed to have stabilised but they were still telling me she could be a ten-pound baby! They warned that she could have low blood sugar when she was born, and I was advised to express colostrum from thirty-seven weeks that I would need to feed to her when she was born. I was scheduled to go to a session to be shown how to do it. I will never forget the lady who ran it. She told me that she usually had a knitted “boob” to demonstrate on, but had left it at home that day and therefore demonstrated on herself in front of us (over her clothes thank goodness)! Sydney was with me and I was anxious about her kicking off during the session. It was all so awkward!
I soon fell into a pattern of blood sugars, tablets and diet and I started expressing colostrum at thirty-seven weeks. I couldn’t believe how little I got out the first time – and how much I was getting by the end of it. I froze all of the little syringes and had about twenty by the time we went to hospital. I had a post-stick note on the front door, reminding us, to remember to get them out of the freezer when the time came to go to the hospital.
The gestational diabetic clinic booked me in for an induction a week before my due date, which was actually the Monday after my brother-in-law’s wedding so it worked well in terms of timing.
However, things didn’t really work out as planned as Morgan decided to make an appearance in the early hours of the morning on the day of the wedding!
I started getting contractions at around midnight but actually thought they might just be Braxton hicks. But, then my waters broke and things suddenly escalated. I called the hospital and they asked me to go in immediately, but we still needed to wait for my mum to come round to look after Sydney and we had a twenty-minute journey to the hospital.
The car journey was horrific. I thought that I was going to give birth in the car. Jack was trying to navigate the country roads in the dark, whilst I was crying. Neither of us could believe the timing either! That she was deciding to make an appearance on the day of the wedding! It was unbelievable.
When we arrived at the hospital and went to triage and it was empty. When a midwife eventually came to see me and checked to see how dilated I was, I was told I was 10cm. But, before I knew it, I was telling her I needed to push and I was screaming for an epidural. Another midwife rushed into the room to help and she told me I was going to have the baby right then and there. I could not comprehend what they were saying! I couldn’t have the baby in triage! I couldn’t deal with the pain without an epidural (they told me that there wasn’t time for one), and it couldn’t be happening that quickly could it? I had only just got to the hospital!
The midwife said that they were going to move me between the next contractions and they did. They wheeled me at break next speed down the corridor, whilst shouting at me not to push. I felt broken. I didn’t have a clue what I was feeling. I was terrified that I was going to be giving birth to a supposedly, ten pound baby, with no pain relief.
Once in my own room, my legs were hoisted up onto stirrups and I was told to do everything the midwife was telling me. She was absolutely amazing. I listened to every single word she said. I breathed when she told me to; I pushed when she told me to. She told me it was going to sting at points and she was right, but after only two pushes I had a baby in my arms. I was still in the same clothes I had arrived in, and I had been in the delivery suite only five minutes. I could not believe it and still can’t believe it now. I am finding it quite difficult to write this, as it was so emotional. At the same time, I felt absolutely elated! My baby was well and healthy and I had got through it all without any pain relief. I hadn’t been monitored and I hadn’t needed to be induced. Also – my ten-pound baby, turned out to be a seven-pound baby! She weighed less than Sydney and Morgan was my gestational diabetic baby who was on target to be huge.
Once we had shared the news of Morgan’s arrival and Jack had phoned his brother to tell him we wouldn’t able to come to his wedding, which was another really emotional thing to have to do, we had to stay in the hospital for the whole of that day and night as Morgan’s blood sugars were affected by my diabetes. She had to have regular blood tests and had to breast feed from me constantly as well as being topped up with the colostrum we had bought to the hospital with us. It was a long process as she passed her first reading but then failed the second, which meant we had to start the process again (she needed to pass three consecutive readings). For a moment, we thought we would get out of the hospital the same day and Jack might have made some of the wedding. That didn’t happen and we were there until the following morning. It felt stressful and worrying as we were advised that if she didn’t pass the readings she would have to go into a special unit. All we wanted to do was for her to be ok and for us to be able to take her home.
Fortunately, by breast feeding her constantly, and topping her up with syringes of colostrum, we were able to keep her blood sugars stable and we were allowed to leave. Because I did breastfeed and give her colostrum and because Morgan didn’t need to be given formula in those first few hours, the risk of her getting diabetes later in her life is now just as much risk as anyone else. We were advised that if she had needed to have formula top ups at the hospital, that her risk of getting diabetes would be 50% higher than a normal person.
In terms of me and the diabetes, I was advised that as soon as Morgan was born, that I could stop the medication and there was no need to continue to take my blood sugars, or be so strict with my diet. I was told though, that I would need to have a diabetes test just before my six week check to see whether I would continue to have diabetes after birth or, whether it was just going to be during the pregnancy.
I was so nervous about getting the results, as I felt that having diabetes full time would be such a hard thing to live with – considering how hard I had found it for seven weeks! I was dreading the results but luckily I was fine! Yay! But I really did feel lucky. I needed to get my weight down as quickly as I could, and eat a more healthy diet as, I was always going to be at a higher risk of getting diabetes now that I had had it during pregnancy.
So, in the lead up to my next test, I can review how things have changed. I am a member of Slimming World and have lost nearly three stone since I gave birth to Morgan (two of which through Slimming World) and I am a member of a gym and go at least three times a week. There have been dramatic lifestyle changes for me so I am really hoping my results are going to be positive again. Fingers Crossed!