"You failed the one hour glucose test. I'm sure it was whatever you ate for breakfast that day, but you'll have to go for the three hour test."
That was the beginning of my gestational diabetes (or GD as the cool kids call it) journey.
*Spoiler alert* It was not what I had for breakfast. I failed my 3 hour one as well.
When my midwife called me I was in disbelief. Me? Diabetes?
When I came to terms with my diagnosis I started spiraling a bit. This lasted 3 years.
I'll explain. I did not have GD with Fletcher. Although after being diagnosed during my third pregnancy (Finley) I asked my midwife about my test results with Fletcher. Apparently it was pretty close. His birth weight was that of a tiny elephant. When I tell people how much he weighed and that I had him naturally, they make a cringing face. He was 10 lbs 3 oz. I can picture your face right now, I’ve seen it many times.
So after my initial appointment with the diabetes team at my hospital, I learned that GD babies can be born quite large. So of course I think, my blood sugar must have been uncontrolled with Fletcher, that is why he was a bigger baby. But, the other thing I started to think was, the uncontrolled blood sugar is probably what caused his allergies. I couldn’t find anything on the internet that would back this theory, but I was convinced that this was the case. I wish I could go back and eat less Nanaimo bars, less croissants, less butter tarts (mmm, I miss butter tarts) less of all the horribly delicious things I was craving and thought I deserved because I was "eating for two".
I know now that his allergies are more genetic than blood sugar related (Ophelia also has food allergies). But blood sugar is still important to regulate. Babies should not be bathing in copious amounts of sugar just because we think being pregnant is a free-for-all for food. I still wish I could go back, and not just so I could have had a less cringe-worthy delivery.
I learned a lot about diabetes during my pregnancy with Finley. I followed the diet the endocrinologist and nutritionist gave me at the hospital as much as I could. I felt like the carb allotment they were giving me seemed a little high. I thought, if carbs make my blood sugar spike, shouldn't I eat less carbs?
So I ate to their standards and cut carbs whenever I felt like it. I didn't force myself to eat a piece of toast because their diet wanted me to. I listened to my body and never forced myself to over consume.
I was able to stay completely diet controlled, which allowed my to avoid using medication. This was extremely important to me because if I were to have to go on any drugs my care would be transferred to an OB. Not to diss any OBs out there but my midwives were so important to me and my birth plan. They were almost as important as my husband being at my birth (more if he’s not reading this).
I was hoping to have a home birth with Finley but the GD diagnosis put a damper on that. This didn’t devastate me, because at this point I hadn't fully convinced my husband to jump on board with a “scary” non-hospital birth.
My midwives didn't want me to go too far past my due date so I was so lucky that I went into labour completely naturally (for the first time) only 3 days late.
Finley's birth was pretty awesome. I mean as awesome as it could be, it’s always painful. I laboured while watching Trainwreck at the movie theatre, because my parents had agreed to watch Fletcher for a "last date night before the baby comes". I didn't want to miss out because I was in active labour. I still consider Amy Schumer to be one of my birth partners/my comedic doula.
When my midwife checked me at home a few hours later I was 6cms and was told I needed to get to the hospital.
Yada, yada, yada. I went into the tub at the hospital to get some pain relief. After about a half an hour my midwife could tell it was almost time to push and she told me we should move back to the delivery room. At this hospital unfortunately water births are not permitted.
I tried to get up out of the tub but instead screamed something along the lines of "No she's coming!”. And within a few seconds I was holding her in my arms and apologizing to my midwives for breaking hospital protocol.
So that’s my accidental water birth story. After having 2 births laying on my back on a bed, I knew hands down that water was the better option. Everything about it was better. Besides everyone running around frantically because they didn’t have the proper supplies and what not, the whole thing was quite calm and possibly even a little comical. It was definitely less painful and my whole recovery with Finley was better overall. I was walking around like nothing happened the next day.
Long story, long, I knew if we ever had another baby I would have to have a home birth. Since my hospital won’t allow water births, home was the only way I’d be able to have another one.
Fast forward 2 years when I found out I was pregnant with Ophelia. Immediately I started doing research on gestational diabetes. I didn’t want to get it. I was hoping there was a way I could prevent it from happening. One day I came across a podcast featuring Lily Nichols. I’ve mentioned it before but she is a superhero to me. Hands down, cooler than Batman. My admiration for her started after listening to this podcast. I wish I could tell you which podcast it was, but I have no idea. I’ve listened to soooo many since.
Anyways hearing her speak lead me to buying her book, Real Food for Gestational Diabetes which I read before going for my glucose test. I felt so empowered and full of knowledge. I started right away. I was eating real, nutrient dense foods with plenty of FAT. Lots and lots of fat. And the carbs? Did I force myself to eat carbs? Hells no. I stayed clear of the carbs, especially anything processed. Of course there are carbs in vegetables, so I was getting some; but not the recommended amount from most endocrinologists.
After getting diagnosed with gestational diabetes again, I felt so much more prepared. I had already been testing my blood sugar regularly (they were fantastic) and writing down my meals. For my first appointment with the endocrinologist and nutritionist at the hospital (my diabetes team) I brought in my blood sugar numbers and my little food diary jam packed with super nutritious foods. For some reason I thought that I’d go in and they’d say, “WOW! Great job, you don’t have to come back! You are amazing, you deserve a medal. You should teach a class on how to eat!”
This did not happen. I had to come back the following week and they also told me to eat more carbs. I did not listen. Instead I enrolled in Lily’s class on Gestational Diabetes. I learned as much as I could so if I needed to I could defend my actions. I felt better than I ever have while pregnant. My blood sugar levels were still amazing and I wasn’t gaining as much weight as I usually do while growing a human being.
The next week I went to my GD appointment and the team didn’t even look at my food diary, they just skimmed my blood sugar numbers and said to come back in two weeks.
This went on until I was discharged at 37 weeks after not once having my blood sugar out of whack. They made a couple comments about not gaining a lot of weight, but the baby was measuring fine so they guessed it was “ok”.
All while I was going to these appointments I was still regularly seeing my midwives. Luckily they were on board to have a home birth this time around since I was maintaining good blood sugar levels and my previous baby (Finley) was born perfectly healthy without any issues.
When the diabetes team at the hospital discharged me, the OB said that she was going to fax her recommendation to my midwives that I not go over my due date. I asked why and they told me that the risk of stillbirth is significantly higher if you go past your due date. I asked her for numbers. She did not give them. I asked if there was any data on risks for being induced. She didn’t provide me any information. I asked a bunch of questions about medical interventions etc., and she had no real answers.
I talked to my midwives maybe a day later, and they still supported my decision to try to go into labour naturally even if it meant going over my due date. I would be monitored closely and if anything seemed out of the ordinary I would probably be induced. I was totally ok with that. My midwives answered every possible question I had with long, thought out, well-researched answers. I swear they are encyclopedias of birth. More superheroes I tell ya!!
So yadayadayada. I went into labour naturally 2 days past my due date. 2 days. That’s it. I gave birth to Ophelia in a kiddie pool in my basement, while listening to the music playlist I created and even snapchatting some funny moments to my friends. It was so comfortable. It was exactly the birth I wanted.
I am so beyond lucky to have come across Lily Nichols podcast about Gestational Diabetes. I am so glad I bought her book and took her course. If you’ve been diagnosed with GD, or know someone who has who, tell her about this superhero I know. She’s full of knowledge, she makes a mean crustless quiche and she’s keeping woman around the world off of diabetes medication. Don’t let the diagnosis scare you too much, take it as a wake up call. Learn about nutrition, put real foods into your body and always eat mindfully. Your baby will thank you, and your own body will as well.
Sidenote: Lily also has a new book called Real Food for Pregnancy, so you don’t need to have GD to enjoy her stuff!! She is seriously a wealth of knowledge and breath of nutritional fresh air.