Having the Baby. And Diabetes, Too.

Several weeks ago, I insisted that I wasn’t going to bother with a birth plan. I may have been lying.

I’m at 34 weeks now — too swollen and exhausted, it seems, to keep up with much of normal life, including regular blogging.

All along, I’ve tried to ignore the fact that this child I’ve been growing actually has to get out of my body somehow, but I can’t really do that anymore. Faced with the reality of things like nature and physics and the miracle of life, I signed up for a few birthing classes. Those classes have done more than introduce me to words like “effacement” and “fontanelle” — they’ve opened up an entirely new can of gummy worms when it comes to how I think about my body, how sick it is, and what I can and cannot pull off as a person with diabetes. What fun!

Last weekend, we completed our hypnobirthing course. As batshit crazy as the name makes it sound, hypnobirthing is essentially just an approach to childbirth that emphasizes deep relaxation and trust in the capabilities of one’s own body. (Can you guess where this gets tricky?) The basic idea: the more educated you are about what’s actually happening with your muscles and body parts and your baby, and the less freaked out you are, the easier the birth. I decided I wanted to take this class because the group teaching it is supportive of necessary medical interventions and emphasized staying cool no matter what obstacles or twists might come up during the birthin’ process. I didn’t want to end up in a class where some nutso with dread locks would to try to shame me into having my child at home in a baby pool full of kombucha.

When I signed up, I made sure to let the instructor know what my situation was: that I was pregnant with Type 1 diabetes, that — so far — I had no reason to expect a cesarean section, and that I’d made it this far without any diabetes-related pregnancy complications. “Lookit me!” I thought. “I’m almost normal!”

As we went through the hours of instruction and homework assignments, I realized I was going to have to put my diabetes in its own little cage for portions of the process. The CDs we got, the reading materials we received and the instructor we worked with all repeat the same message: Relax. Your body knows what it’s doing. It’s a hard message for me to absorb — at least without a bit of maniacal laughter.

So I removed my pancreas from the equation. Yes, it’s true that I’ve spent the last two decades regulating the tumultuous relationship between my liver, my pancreas, the food that keeps me alive and almost every other system in my body, but this whole baby thing hasn’t been half as disastrous as I’d been led to believe it would be. Maybe my body sucks at keeping its immune system from attacking its own digestive organs, but has been waiting all these years to demonstrate how good it is at growing a person and then bringing that person into the world without any unnecessary drama.

The doula/instructor kind of blew me away when she posed the question to the class: “We’re all preparing for the bad stuff. But what if you have your baby and everything goes okay?” I realized it was a thought I’d never even considered, and what a difference it could make in the way I view the events of the coming weeks. Or hell — the way I look at my entire life, with and without diabetes!

But since I am who I am and because I have an OB who’d like to hang on to her medical malpractice insurance, things may not be that simple. When I saw her on Monday, I brought up some of the bigger issues that were floating around in my head. Like, can I move around when I’m in labor? (A little.) Will I be on a strict labor progression schedule while I’m in the hospital? (Pretty much.) How long can I go before you guys get all induction-happy? (39 weeks.)

I could tell she was getting flustered. “I don’t want you to have a vision of this perfect, ideal birth, and then feel like you failed because we end up having to do something different than what you planned,” she explained. She then went on to mention complications like intrauterine fetal death and placenta degradation and how it was her responsibility to avoid these things.

I get (and appreciate) that. I do. I love western medicine. I just don’t want to be treated like another faceless Type 1 diabetic mother from an outdated study — especially when I’ve worked my water-retaining ass off to keep my blood sugars as close to normal as possible and there’s no evidence of any diabetes-related badness taking place at this point. Does that make me prideful? Ignorant? Completely naive?

Here’s what’s hard: managing the day-to-day details of the world’s most intense do-it-yourself treatment plan — for 20 years — and then being expected to surrender complete control of your body and your baby to a team of doctors and nurses who may or may not make certain decisions for their own convenience.

Of course, I don’t know how any of this is going to play out. Maybe I’ll need a c-section after all. Maybe I’ll have one of those mythical 30-minute labors. Maybe I’ll have the baby in the back of a cab, even though I never take cabs, because that’s what happens in the movies.

I just need everything to be okay, and between now and September Whateverth, to be able to maintain the  assumption that it will be. Wish me luck.

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20 comments on “Having the Baby. And Diabetes, Too.

  1. Reading this post reminded me of how I felt a few (7-ish) months ago! In fact, I wrote something very similar on my blog at that point in time, if you’re interested in reading it: http://fashionably-sweet.blogspot.com/2011/12/ob-appointmentlimitations-due-to.html

    Our baby ended up staying breech the entire time, but my water broke the night before our scheduled c-section and she was almost born on the way to the hospital (two hours away)…so I suppose my birth experience (http://fashionably-sweet.blogspot.com/2012/02/eventful-delivery-of-precious-package.html) was a combination of all of the above scenarios! I had gone over all the diabetes-management-related stuff with my OB, but since he wasn’t on call and everything was moving so fast, I had to surrender my pump in the OR thanks to a reluctant anesthisiologist. Because of that, my baby girl’s BG was low after birth, something I (nor my OB) never would have imagined would happen due to my awesome numbers during pregnancy…but nevertheless, once her blood sugar went back up, we had a healthy baby girl in the end!

    I’m not telling you this to scare you…quite the contrary =) I just want you to know that despite any unplanned circumstances and however the birth goes, the baby makes it all worth it in the end!

    Love and prayers your way, and here’s to an amazingly easy, uneventful birth and gorgeously healthy baby!

  2. Jen says:

    You can do it! All WILL be well and be sure you DO tell them that you’ll be okay and so will baby. Good luck.

  3. Good Luck! and beautifully written – reminds me of what I went through 11 years ago! You’ll be brilliant, whatever happens, and then you’ll find the real impact on your diabetes (or at least I did) looking after the little thing after its out :) But, it’s all good – just enjoy every moment xo

  4. Scott E says:

    Every time I read the story of a person with T1D going through pregnancy and childbirth, I am absolutely amazed and astounded at the whole thing. How on earth do you keep your blood sugars EVEN BETTER than what you (generically, not you specifically, Jacquie) had believed was your absolute best? How do learn to work with a body that’s behaving and reacting in ways that it never has before? And how do you abruptly cede control over to someone who can’t possibly know your body as well as you do?

    Obviously, as a guy I can’t at all relate to you or give advice. I can only tell you how impressed I am at what you, and all T1D-moms-to-be, have endured, successfully, for the past eight-something months. I have no idea how you do it, but you did, and I’m sure you’ll be fine in the home-stretch. I’ll wish you luck, but I’m sure you won’t need it. I’m just amazed…

  5. Auntly H says:

    You are amazing. No matter what happens September Whatevereth.

  6. Sara says:

    Maybe if you spend some time organizing the DOC baby-notification-tree it will help set your mind at ease about the other stuff ;)

  7. Amanda says:

    Everything you just wrote resonnated 100% with my pregnancy experince…also at about 34 weeks, like it hit me “holy man, this kid needs to get out somehow”. All I can say is that I opted to not have a birth plan and just focused on accepting that I wanted and hoped for things to go “safely, smoothly and leave both me & baby healthy”. I got what I wanted, with a few bumps (induction…super fast onset of contractions that wouldn’t cease…baby not willing to move downward…emergency c-section) Of course there was more to the story but that’s the readers digest version.

    Had I had a birth plan, I think I would have been very frustrated since we (diabetics) all know that the body while able to “do this” doesn’t always cooperate as you’d hope it would and this can leave people feeling out of control. Baby girl was perfect, diabetes did not impact anything (other than induction at 39 weeks) and she came out perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

    The point of my comment is that I think you’ll be amazed that things will just happen and even if you envisioned one thing or another…it just may/may not happen, but your baby will get out safely and you’ll hold that baby and all of your super hard work will be so so appreciated and well worth it.

  8. Ursula says:

    39 weeks sounds ridiculous. Isn’t a full term pregnancy 40 weeks? My son was born at 42 1/2 weeks, and he is a perfectly healthy 20 year old. I really understand your frustration. It is a balance between taking the necessary precautions and having a good birth experience.

    I agree with Amanda that no matter what happens, once you hold that baby in your arms, it will be worth whatever experience you have. In the meantime, think happy thoughts, and know that we are all keeping our fingers crossed for you.

  9. Laura says:

    Inspirational . . . a word massively over-used but so very apt. I have T1 and am hoping to try for a baby this year. It is something I have always wanted and the thought of it becoming a reality keeps me going. Your blog leaves me hopeful that we can do this! Like you, my head has been filled with fear and the risks seem endless but it is achievable and doable. You are doing it, remarkably well it seems! Thanks for sharing. I doubt I would be so brave or indeed write so well! All the best. I shall be thinking of you x

  10. Khürt Williams says:

    Well … I’m sure everything will be fine. It won’t be as bad as you are imagining it to be. My wife had gestational diabetes – twice – and was on an insulin regimen right up to delivery.
    Those mythical 30 minute deliveries are typical in the non-Western parts of the world.

  11. Thanks for your kind and encouraging words, all. I feel much better already.

  12. Katie says:

    I just recently started following your blog and I really enjoyed this post. Having a baby is a goal for me, when the time is right, and reading blogs like yours helps me keep the faith that this T1D can do it too. All the best to you and yours.

  13. Tina Kicklighter says:

    You’re my hero and you’re going to get through this birthing thing…you and that precious little punkin’ who will undoubtedly have great hair.

  14. quackademic says:

    Wow. This is such a great post. You make great points about the tension between trusting the body and trusting what you’ve learned all of these years–not to trust the body! Best wishes to you and your family.

  15. Jacquie!!! Thank you so much for posting this. Both my husband and I felt better about our situation (re: the run ins with doctors and they’re love of throwing all us diabetics in the same bin, regardless of how great we were pre-pregnancy, and how great we are throughout pregnancy) after reading this post.
    ps. We’re almost done! Eeeee!!!!

  16. Katie says:

    Jacquie!!! Thank you so much for posting this. Both my husband and I felt better about our situation (re: the run ins with doctors and they’re love of throwing all us diabetics in the same bin, regardless of how great we were pre-pregnancy, and how great we are throughout pregnancy) after reading this post.
    ps. We’re almost done! Eeeee!!!!

  17. Adrienne says:

    i am a T1D who just had a baby on july 27 and i had the exact same fears you do. and i had an OB who wasn’t exactly willing to compromise with me on things i wanted during my labour (like control of my pump). we ended up making some compromises, like not taking away my pump until active labour and giving it back to me as soon as the baby came. i just wanted to share that my experience ended up being really great. my body cooperated with the whole process, maintained great blood sugars and pushed out a beautiful little girl with no drugs/c-sections/etc. so, while i understand your fears, i want you to know that with all your great diligence in a healthy pregnancy – your body can be “normal” during delivery! good luck, can’t wait to hear how it all goes!

  18. k2 / kelly2k says:

    You inspire me daily with your honesty, humor and moxie and I’m so proud and grateful to call you my friend. And I just love you!

  19. mollyjade says:

    I realize this post is quite old, but I found it while looking for examples of type 1 birth plans, and it really resonates with me. From the “your body knows what’s it’s doing” of hypnobirthing, to the fear about giving control of my insulin to an OB who, while otherwise fantastic, doesn’t really seem to get the day-to-day mechanics of type 1 diabetes.

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