Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sweet Memories: the story of gestational diabetes

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…”

Raise your hand if anyone has ever said this to you. 

This story is a throwback to February, when I heard that phrase over the phone.  I was given the word that after drinking the horrible orange stuff and getting poked and prodded for hours (aka the “second round of glucose testing”), I indeed had the big, bad GESTATIONAL DIABETES.

Gestational diabetes means I had pregnancy-induced high blood sugar.  High blood sugar – doesn’t that sound better than “diabetes?” 

You see, kids, the word of the day EVERYDAY when you’re expecting is hormones.  People talk about the dang hormones all the time.   My pregnancy hormones were preventing the insulin in my body from doing its job.  If I didn’t pay attention to my blood sugar levels, it could lead to a high birth weight for baby, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes for both of us.

So not only were the hormones making me stress over ridiculous things, burst into tears at my husband’s harmless teasing, become extra-hot with anger at disrespectful students at school, wake up in the middle of the night drenched with sweat, and break out like a teenager…now I had to be diabetic. 

When I got the news that I’d failed my second glucose test, I had a horrific meltdown in the teachers’ lounge at school.  I was on the phone with a nurse from the OB clinic.  The poor lady probably thought I was a psychopath.  I cried “what on earth could I have done wrong??”  Seriously—I had been VERY careful with my pregnancy diet, especially during those couple weeks leading up to the glucose testing. 

Apparently “being careful with diet while you’re pregnant” has ZERO to do with gestational diabetes!!  Who knew?!

The nurse reassured me that I didn’t do anything wrong – it was simply my body’s reaction to pregnancy.  She also told me I’d have to meet with a dietitian and a physician who specializes in diabetic care. 

Dietitian?  So, now I have to think about food even more.  I am pretty well-versed in that topic.  I battled exercise addiction and anorexic tendencies 6 years ago.  I went through a very unhealthy phase, physically and mentally.

The last thing I wanted to do was go back to thinking about food all day long. 

I was so worked up that I left school and went home sick for the day. 

Looking back, that was pretty extreme and I should have just pulled on my big girl panties and dealt with things like a grown-up.  But I was a hot mess.  I just really, really hate the word fail.  I failed at something BIG and IMPORTANT, and there was nothing I could do about it!

I called my sister on the way home from school.  If you read the post about Jude’s birth story, you know that my older sister Anne is a very gifted family practice/OB doc.  She is AMAZING.  She told me everything would be okay…and she worked her “doctor magic.” 

Doctor Magic is THIS:  Not even five minutes after I hung up the phone with Anne, I got a call from Dr. Mark Johnson, a diabetes specialist here in Mason City.  Dr. Mark is a member of First Covenant Church where Tom and I are active on the worship team, and he and Anne have been good friends for years as he is a regular presenter at her hospital in Pella. 

All it took was for Mark to ask how I was doing and I started crying again.  He told me not to worry; he would “pull some strings” and take care of everything. 

Pull strings he did!  I hung up the phone with Dr. Mark, and ten minutes later the receptionist at his diabetes clinic called and told me to come in for an appointment at 2:00 that afternoon.  Wow.  The OB nurse had told me I’d have to wait at least a week to get in with Dr. Johnson, and here I was going in that same day.  Dr. Mark did indeed take care of everything.  In fact, he jumped through all the hoops for me so I wouldn’t have to do it. 

I have some pretty terrific people in my life.  A lot of them happen to be doctors.  

God bless doctors.

Tom assigned his study hall class to a few other teachers so he could come with me to my appointment.  The appointment was painless—I got my blood sugar checked, more blood drawn, and met with Dr. Mark, the dietitian and a nurse.  Everyone was so kind and friendly.  And, I have to admit that I learned a lot about food and how my body processes it.  I thought I had had a pretty good knowledge base about nutrition, but I actually had no idea about blood sugar!  Did you know that a glass of orange juice has the same amount of sugar as 4 or 5 oranges, and drinking it can make your blood sugar soar way above where it should be?  Carb counting is a lot different from other diets—the focus is not on fat and calories at all.  It’s about the amount of sugar in all foods, even the healthiest ones, and the combinations of carbs and proteins that you put into your body.  On Weight Watchers, it is permissible to eat large amounts of fruit because they have a zero point value.  However, with GD a serving of fruit may hold potential danger for my blood sugar UNLESS I pair it with a protein.  So an apple or banana all alone is a no-go.  An apple or HALF banana with peanut butter is fine.

Peanut butter is actually a “zero value” for carbs!  Awesome!!  In Weight Watchers, a single serving is like 5 points!!!  Same goes for avocados.  And cheese.  And BACON!!!  Cue the Bacon Angels!  Bacon Angels singing praises from heaven above!

So, yeah...the appointment lasted about three hours.  I left the clinic armed with a blood sugar meter, a lot of pamphlets, a food journal, and directions to check my sugar seven times a day.  I was to manage the high blood sugar with diet and exercise, and come back for a checkup in four weeks.  If my numbers were still high with a controlled, low-carb diet, we would have to discuss insulin injections and/or medication.

It was nearing supper time when we left, so we went to Pancheros.  I ordered a salad and measured the carbs: only one carb choice in that whole thing, and the one carb came in the black beans!   And I was able to have guacamole and cheese on the salad!

Maybe this carb counting thing wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Later on, though, I dumped all my new diabetes stuff out on the table, and started to cry.  It was overwhelming.  What if I forgot to take my blood sugar?  What if I forgot to write down what I ate?  What if I ate too much sugar on any given day and failed?  What if I ate the wrong things?

Again...I really hate the word FAIL.  And now the whole situation was giving me fear!  I hate fear!!  I’d had enough of it already, after miscarrying and worrying constantly about this baby.  And now there was something else to be scared of.

I felt like I needed to apologize to the tiny human kicking around inside of me.  I’m sorry, baby.  Your mother’s body is not taking care of you the way it should.  I prayed and prayed that he would be all right, and that my heart and mind would be protected from the evil that is disordered eating.

My team of doctors—Anne, Dr. Mark, Dr. LeDuc, and my good friend Dr. Chereen (Stroup) all reassured me that baby and I would be just fine as long as I was careful and followed the rules.  And really, the rules are NOT hard to follow as long as I remembered that if MY blood sugar went high, it meant that BABY’S blood sugar was high.  If I ate too much sugar, BABY’S system would be taking care of the damage done to my blood instead of my own system.  That alone was enough to help me follow the rules to a T.

My favorite things to eat while I had GDM were actually some of the things I love most anyway.  Avocados, Shaklee protein shakes made with almond milk, peanut butter, veggies, really wasn’t that bad.

I am actually thankful I had it.  Really.  I gained 24 pounds while I was pregnant.  After Jude was born I had 14 pounds still hanging on, but I didn't feel bad about my body (rather, I loved it more...see my Motherhood post for more on this).  I also didn’t have blood pressure issues or a single bit of swelling.  I learned the truth about sugar, which is something I'll always remember when choosing foods to eat.  I think GDM was just a unique blessing.  It was truly a small struggle that made both Jude and me stronger and healthier.

It wasn’t always a low-carb walk in the park, though.  Just for kicks and giggles one day, I made a list of sugary bad-for-you things that I missed eating during my bout with GDM.  This is pretty funny:

- grape laffy taffy (out of the picture forever anyway due to artificial color)

- sour patch kids (same story)

- mocha and latte drinks from Cabin Coffee and Jitters

- pizza.  The combination of ingredients on pizza is a blood sugar NIGHTMARE.

- berry mix from Hy Vee’s salad bar.  This one was heartbreaking.  I was allowed one serving, but do you know how SMALL one serving of fruit is?

- ice cream.  If you know me well, you know that concrete mixers with cookie dough from Culver's are my jam.  There were several times I actually cried because I couldn't have these after I got diagnosed.

- French toast with peanut butter and syrup.  Um.  Let’s talk about syrup for a second.  If pizza is a blood sugar nightmare, pancake syrup is a blood sugar DESTROYER.  One serving of syrup--1/4 cup--is 5 carb choices.  GDM patients are allowed 3 carb choices per meal!  So served with French toast, it would add up to 8 or 9 carb choices...more, if you like to eat breakfast like a normal person and have more than one serving of everything.  WHOA.

- chocolate.  Namely, Snickers.  The day we came home from the hospital with Jude, I discovered a Snickers in my kitchen, sang a song of thanksgiving and praise, and put the whole thing in my mouth.  Oops.  I still remember my sister-in-law Kelly laughing at that one.  :)

Wait a drinks and syrup come in sugar-free form.  "Couldn't you eat sugar free versions of those instead?"  Yes.  But I'm not a fan of putting artificial anything into my body.  Chemical food isn't food, people.  Our bodies weren't made to digest that kind of junk.  So sugar-free, fat-free, or processed not my cup 'o tea.

A million avocados, protein shakes and slices of cheese later, Jude was born on April 17th,  and he is now a spectacular 10 weeks old.  Gestational diabetes usually goes away when baby is born.  I didn’t check my sugar for 7 weeks after he was born, because I figured I’d have symptoms if my body was going to hang onto the diabetes.  I felt normal, so I didn’t worry about it.

My OB doc ordered me a follow-up glucose test at my 6-week postpartum checkup.  It was basically the same as the 3-hour second round test only it was 2 hours.  I'd have to fast for 12 hours, get my sugar tested, then drink that HORRIBLE TERRIBLE YUCKY GROSS orange drink, then get my blood sugar tested twice (once per hour for two hours) after that. 

I packed up my Jude on a weekday morning and we went in for the one last test.  I really didn’t mind going…I love the hospital in Mason City and I have really enjoyed all the people there.  Not all the procedures, of course.  But man, we are blessed with some really fantastic medical personnel here in town.

I forced down the HORRIBLE TERRIBLE YUCKY GROSS orange drink and found my seat in the lab waiting area.  At first I was fine, just rocking my sleeping boy and working on grad homework, no big deal.  After about 20 minutes I was SICK.   Like find-me-a-bucket-now sick.  I texted Anne and told her how I felt and she said, “well, go get someone and tell them you’re sick.”  I said “I don’t want to, because then I’ll have to come back and drink the stuff again.”  Seriously, it was worth fighting through in order to avoid having to drink it again.  So I took lots of deep breaths and distracted myself with baby Jude and some magazines.  There were a couple times I stood up and paced around the chairs to avoid tossing my cookies.  I made sure I knew where the trash cans were in case I needed one.

Lovely story, isn’t it?

Finally, finally, I got my sugar tested one last time, it was over, and I was allowed to have some water and food.  I think I drank about a gallon on my way home.

So do I still have diabetes?  No.  The tests all came back with low numbers and I am good to go.  I am at risk, and so is I’ll continue to be careful with my carb intake and get my blood sugar monitored at every yearly physical.  With the little man, he'll grow up eating lots of healthy things and have some sugar on special occasions.  Isn't that what all parents say?  LOL!

But do I have to give up concrete mixers forever?  NO!  HALLELUJAH!!!

 Have a happy and HEALTHY day, everyone!  Love, Betsy

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