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.