Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GD Diaries Part 1: The Diagnosis (Seriously?)

This post is part of a series on Gestational Diabetes. The posts were written in August - October, but are just now being published. While I was too upset and conflicted about this situation when I was first dealing with it, I want to share my experiences with other moms that may go through something similar. Check back for another installment every Tuesday!

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For most of my life, I've been a relatively thin person.

Growing up, I was a string bean with a fast metabolism, and I never really had to worry about what I ate. When I was very young, I often found myself too busy to sit down and eat (though when I was truly hungry, I did), and I was picky about the things I would let my parents serve me. There was even a time when doctors suspected that I was anorexic (I think I was about 8 or 9), and I'll never forget them grilling me about it in the stuffy little room with the neon fish plastered on the wall - feeling like I'd done something wrong and feeling ready to cry, having NO idea what they were talking about. They'd even asked my mom to leave the room, thinking it would help me confide in them. But I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn't know what anorexia was, and I was just a healthy kid that preferred running around outside with my friends to snacking. I wasn't sickly thin, and I was healthy - I really think it was just the early 90's and anorexia becoming a common thing that they were so adamant about it, but...I was such an innocent 8/9 year old, they were barking up the wrong tree.

Through high school, I was around 125 pounds. My full-grown height ended up being about 5'5", so this was pretty perfect for me, I thought. I stayed around this weight (give or take 5 pounds) from about 14-20. When Matt and I moved to Charlotte and I found myself homesick and just generally struggling through the transition to adulthood, I'd often calm myself with a treat, or baking something extravagant to share with Matt, and I started putting on more weight. One of my favorite comfort treats was a cup of coffee with extra sweet french vanilla creamer, and warm biscuits. I ended up reaching 140 pounds by the time I was 23, and that's where I was when I started my first pregnancy. I still wasn't considered overweight - I was within the "healthy" range (but only by a handful of pounds), and I still fit in a size 6, so I figured this was fine. Despite feeling a bit heavier than I'd like to be, I wasn't upset about it. 

My end weight with my first pregnancy was 182. I was actually happy with this - I didn't want to hit 200, and that felt like I was safely below it. Once my son was born and the dust settled, I was about 155 pounds, and felt horrible. So I went on weight watchers and shed 30 pounds, and made it back to my happy weight of 125. Actually, for a while, I didn't know how to transition to eating normally instead of dieting, and I made it down to 122 before I realized I could probably add a few calories back.

This is me at my happy weight, low 120's.
This was taken after I lost the baby weight post-Luke.

And this is me at 182 & 185 on each of my boys' birthdays.

I was about 130 when I started my second pregnancy, and my end weight was 185. It was still within reasonable limits for myself. I settled in around 150 post-baby, went on weight watchers, and made it back down to 125. For whatever reason, it was harder to stay at this point this time. I don't know if it's just that I was slightly older (I was about 27 after all the weight was lost), or that having kids meant I had to reach for quick foods that weren't as good as I would have liked sometimes, or that I was eating vegetarian for the last year, or what the deal was. So I was about 135 when I started my current (third) pregnancy.

I noticed that something was different right away. I've always been a very nauseous pregnant person, and food always helped me keep that in check. But this time, instead of just settling my stomach, it was packing on the pounds. I was making healthy choices like fruit and salad and less sugary cereals and I cut out coffee and pop completely - and yet, I felt like everything was making me gain weight. Of course, I would treat myself with something indulgent now and then, and I wouldn't say no anytime something yummy was offered to me (what better time to say yes than when you're pregnant, right?)...but I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I wasn't finishing off bags of potato chips or tubs of ice cream or bags of candy. I felt like I was being reasonable - and still, the pounds kept coming on. For a while, I thought maybe I was having a girl (because I'd heard this was more typical of a girl pregnancy - putting weight on everywhere), but I'm not. Then I thought it must be my age - I'm not 23 anymore (though I really don't think 28/29 is that different - is it?), but that seemed like a lame excuse. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew that I hated it.

I inched closer and closer to my end weights with my first two pregnancies, feeling more nervous at each doctor's appointment. At one visit, I had gained TEN POUNDS in four weeks. The nurse said nothing, but the doctor wouldn't stop talking about it. She also kept commenting on how big my stomach was (well, that's nothing new...my kids have always made my stomach look overly-alarming). I walked out of that office feeling terrible, and for a couple days I could not believe that I had put on 10 pounds that quickly. I hadn't done anything differently than in my first two pregnancies - eating mostly healthy but saying yes to indulgences more often than I would not-pregnant - but my weight was getting out of control. My clothes stopped fitting me. Even the maternity things I wore late in my first pregnancies the first times stopped fitting.

I also noticed that I felt horrible. I have been anemic all three times I've been pregnant, and I not only know what it feels like, but I know what hemoglobin levels mean and how to work on them...basically, I'm no stranger. So it was a big surprise to me to hear that my levels were the highest (best) they've ever been in one of my pregnancies (10.9), because I was feeling SO anemic. Ya know, kind of faint, dizzy, short of breath, my heart rate elevated. I increased my iron intake, but it didn't seem to make a difference. I couldn't understand why I was feeling so overly symptomatic when I was actually doing better than I usually do at this point. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it, and when they tested my hemoglobin again, I expected it to be quite a bit lower - but it wasn't (10.8). I was still surprisingly high for this point in my pregnancy, and yet...I was feeling terrible.

And then came the glucose test.

I prepared the best way I knew how - avoiding sugar for 24 hours beforehand and eating a very sugarless, high-protein breakfast before the appointment. Drinking the glucose was torture this time. I'd actually come to tolerate the orange stuff when it's cold, but they gave me fruit punch - and it was WARM. It was horrible. I kept choking on it, and I could feel the sugar coating my throat. I had tears welling in my eyes as I tried my hardest to gulp it down. I had a relatively normal appointment following the drink, and then I had to wait the rest of the hour before walking over to the lab to have my blood drawn. When that was finished, I was starving and I felt horrible. Matt took me to Panera where I got a breakfast sandwich (trying to get some more protein in), but it didn't really help. When we got home, I was so exhausted and queasy I didn't want to move. I just laid on the couch and put a movie on for the boys. I've never felt good after that test, but this time I felt absolutely horrid. 

The test was on Tuesday, and the doctor told me that I would get a call with my results in 1-2 days - so either Wed or Thurs. She said that if I didn't hear anything by Friday, then everything was good and my levels were fine (for both glucose and hemoglobin). I didn't get a call, so I went through the weekend feeling triumphant. Monday passed, too, and still nothing. I had a cold all week (I actually came down with it the night of the test, I have a feeling my immune system couldn't keep up) and that was really my main concentration - getting through that. I hadn't thought about the test much at all. I just figured I'd passed it since I heard nothing, and I was moving on. 

On Tuesday (a week later), I was having a really rough day. I'd been sick for a week, and every Mom knows - when Mom gets sick, the house falls apart. There's no food, everything's a mess, the kids get restless - it's a messy place to have to dig yourself out of. I was feeling overwhelmed by the task and still not feeling better and I was desperate for some help. My MIL offered to take the kids while I caught up a little, and just as I was feeling empowered, I was pulled right back down. I got a phone call from my doctor's office, and the way the nurse was talking to me....it felt like I was being given a death sentence. She sounded sad, and worried, and almost something like...disappointed. I've never had a doctor talk to me that way before, and I heard it all in her voice before she even got down to the reason for it. I was immediately terrified for what she was about to say, despite hoping that it was something simple like a bill I missed, because certainly - they wouldn't be calling me a week after the test with results, would they? That's way more than 1-2 days.

But apparently not. She went on to say that at their office, they want glucose to test at 135 and mine came back at 190. She said that it was so high, that they aren't even going to have me take the three hour test, they just wanted me referred to a specialist immediately. Which ended up being kind of comical to me, because it took them a week to tell me, and then the specialist wasn't answering their phone that day, and after finding out the next day that they don't take my insurance and I had to go somewhere else, they couldn't get me in for 2 weeks. And my office didn't give me any tips on what to do in the mean time. Uh, okay. So this urgency can apparently wait for 3 weeks? While I was on the phone with her, I asked her if I had the option to take the three hour test (because I'd failed the 1 hour with my first son and the 3 hour showed that I didn't have GD at all), and she said that my level was so high I was officially considered diabetic and they weren't willing to put my body through that stress. Not that I wanted to take the three hour, but if it meant I didn't have to stab myself for the next 11 weeks, I would have done it. 

I immediately turned to Google for help, because I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't comfortable sharing this with people, so I was hoping to find reliable sources online. I searched many sites - medical sites, baby/pregnancy sites, forums, and more...and they ALL said you aren't considered to have GD unless your glucose levels are 200+ and that standard practice is to have you take the three hour if it comes back at 140-200. I realize that my levels were quite high, and that I was really only 11 points from a "yes, you have it"...but I started feeling a little bitter that they kept calling me "a diabetic" on the phone. No, I'm not, actually. I get that they are being cautious, and it's better to be safe than sorry - I'm happy to swap out my simple carbs for complex ones (I do that often, anyway!), and say no to sweets more often. But it felt really crappy to me to be filed into this category of unhealthy people that I didn't feel I belonged in.

Before I go on, I realize that GD can strike anyone. It's the pregnancy hormones that cause the problem more than anything else, and if there's anyone that's got a high level of hormones - it's this girl. I have 21 weeks of nausea under my belt to prove it. But the "typical" profile for GD is someone that is typically overweight, unhealthy, and makes poor nutritional choices. I don't feel like that's me! The only place where I admittedly could be better is exercise. I don't like to exercise when I'm 125, so when I'm carrying a child and my body is stretched to unrealistic proportions and everything aches and I'm anemic and short of breath - even a walk seems like too much to handle. I could be better with exercise. But aside from that, how did I go from the normally healthy, thin girl...to "a diabetic"?  Temporarily or not. It just wasn't sitting well with me. 

The more I Googled around, and the more diet recommendations I saw, the more offended I got. There would be lists of certain fruits and veggies to eat, and most of them said things like, "If you're not already eating these, start now and think of it as a lesson on how to teach your child how to eat right!" But I already DID eat all of those things - often - and in place of many other less healthy things. I am not nutritionally clueless! It's one thing if my body simply can't handle the load in competition with the overabundance of pregnancy hormones coursing through it - that's just nature, and uncontrollable, and I can wrap my head around that. But to be spoken to like a helpless case by my doctors and articles on the web and that look of pity you get from people that don't know better - the one that says, oh man, you must really be unhealthy - I just. can't. handle it. 

Which is why I haven't said anything. My husband knows, and my Mom knows. I don't want questions and silent judgments and pity. I get that enough when people find out that this is my third boy, or when they find out that I'm not due until October despite my belly looking as huge as it does. This has been the hardest pregnancy for me to get through - physically and emotionally. I have struggled the entire time. Nothing has gone the way I hoped it would. And that is so exhausting. I just don't want to talk about it! (Writing about it is different.)

Holding it all in, though, drives me a little crazy. And I know that there are others that have felt this way before - ones that just may want to read about someone else's thoughts and experiences without having to bear the emotional hardship of speaking about it. I GET YOU! And I hope that sharing my thoughts through this will help us both. Join me every Tuesday while I re-cap my experiences, tips, thoughts, struggles, triumphs and more.

1 comment:

  1. You put into words all the same emotions, feelings, and thoughts I had when I was diagnosed with GD for the first time. While I might be over-weight, I am a very healthy person who makes great nutritional choices. I was sad, angry, embarrassed and didn't tell anyone. With my second pregnancy, I failed the 1 hour but passed the 3 hour but my OB still made me follow a special "diet" because of the first pregnancy. I handled it better. With the third pregnancy I actually passed the 1 hour glucose test but the PA made me test my blood sugars and I was supposed to follow the diet. I tested but never followed any diet and they were fine. What I find frustrating is how the guidelines and rules are different for different doctors for the same condition. Thankfully it all ends with the baby being born.