Type 1 Diabetes and High Risk Pregnancy
Pregnancy Tracker: 27 weeks, 3 days
Size of the Baby: Over 2 pounds!
Biggest Obstacle: Finding time to exercise daily.
Last night my husband and I attended our first of six weekly childbirth classes. We met with about 10 other couples in a conference room at our local hospital. This happens to be where I will be giving birth and is conveniently located less than a mile from our home! We keep joking that we'll walk to the hospital!
This class was right up my alley. The instructor obviously has a slight bias toward natural birth. Much of the class will be focused on education, breathing, relaxation techniques, and basically just the physical, mental, and emotional well-being on mom and baby.
I figured there would be some sort of introductions, or like in school, we'd play the "name game." However, the instructor added a nice twist. She had the mom's partners (husbands, boyfriends, life-partner) introduce the mom and fill the class in on how the pregnancy was going. We learned everyone's due date; whether they were having a boy or a girl, or like us, being surprised; which hospital they'd be giving birth at, and what the partner's highs and lows had been during the pregnancy. Then, the moms got to share their highs, lows, and discomforts.
It was so interesting to hear the common themes of each couple's experience. Everyone loves feeling the baby move and kick. The ultrasound pictures were a high point for many. There were also several complaints of nausea, insomnia, heartburn, etc. Many of the men expressed frustration at not being able to soothe their partner's aches and pains.
During our turn, I told the class that I have type 1 diabetes and thus was having a high-risk pregnancy. I explained that many of my low points during the pregnancy have been related to elevated blood sugars and the fear of what those were doing to the baby.
As I listened to the other women recount their pregnancies thus far, I found myself thinking, once again, about how well diabetes management prepares one for being pregnant. For example, the instructor advised us that one of the best ways to avoid heartburn is to eat frequent, small, easily digestible meals. To my knowledge, I've never experienced heartburn before, and obviously diabetes control requires eating small meals every few hours.
Also, I found myself puzzled when one woman complained of having to wake up around 4 a.m. each night to use the bathroom. As I've explained before, when you are diabetic and pregnant, you wake up at least twice a night to test your blood (and use the bathroom). I hadn't seen this as something very bothersome.
Diabetes, in general, exposes you to a lot of knowledge and information about how to eat well and be healthy. A highly nutritious diet, regular exercise through walking and swimming, a generous water intake, moderate to low weight gain, a very set sleep pattern, and a lot of physical pampering have been the hallmarks of my pregnancy. For all of these reasons, I've been quite energetic and feeling great. Of course there was some morning sickness during that first trimester, but other than that, I feel healthier and stronger during my pregnancy than before.
Obviously attitude has a lot to do with it. Some people naturally put a positive spin on things. However, I think living with diabetes tends to give people a different perspective on health and well-being. For pregnant women with preexisting diabetes, there's a lot of work involved in maintaining both mom and baby's health. When you're focused on testing your blood 15 or more times per day, calculating ever changing insulin needs, and dealing with the many other factors of a high risk pregnancy, somehow whether or not you can sleep on your back doesn't seem to matter as much.
While I did notice several differences between my pregnancy experiences and what would be considered a "normal" pregnancy, I felt a great camaraderie with the other moms-to-be. It was fun to see so many bellies, all about the same size as mine! We all expressed similar fears and concerns about childbirth. In many ways, regardless of diabetes, the next few months will be exciting and challenging ones for all of us.