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CWD: Pregnancy and Diabetes.

When Jeff Hitchcock approached me last year and asked if I would feel comfortable leading the Pregnancy and Diabetes session at Friends for Life, I was honored.  But also a little confused.  What on earth was I going to tell the session attendees?  I couldn't spout off medical information.  I am not a licensed medical professional.

"I'm just a person with diabetes who had a baby.  And my pregnancy was a bit of a tangled one, too!"  I remember emailing to Jeff, wondering if they'd be better off with a doctor at the helm of that discussion.

He replied within minutes, telling me that was exactly why they wanted me to lead the session.  And I grinned, but felt nervous.

Before the little bird joined our family, I did a lot of research about pregnancy with diabetes.  Hard facts, statistics, and professional recommendations were available by the fistful.  The problem was finding anecdotal information about managing pregnancy and diabetes at the same time.  Before Chris and I left for Spain that year, knowing we were ready to try for a baby, I felt prepared.  But when we came home and found out I was pregnant, I wanted nothing more than to find a room full of other pregnant women who had diabetes, so I could immerse myself in their support and say, "I have NO CLUE what I'm doing!! HELP!!"

Thing is, most pregnancy discussions don't take that kind of personal turn.  I've attended a few other pregnancy sessions in the past (as a participant, not a discussion leader), and I remember leaving with panic in my stomach and a lack of eyelids because I was so bugged out about the information that was presented.  Pregnancy isn't easy, even if you take diabetes out of the equation, so being pelted with gobs of information on "what to expect" can be completely overwhelming.  For me, it made me scared to try, and unsure if I could actually do it successfully.  One session I attended in the past had the speakers throwing out fact after fact about how arduous and chaotic pregnancy is, and then turned to the side, rolled their eyes, and said, "But it's so worth it."

Really?  Is it?  SHOW ME!  Make this accessible!  Help me feel less afraid! 

Looking forward and feeling happy is a good thing.  See?
An example of looking forward, feeling happy, and rockin' yet another hair bow.

During the pregnancy session at the Friends for Life conference earlier this month, we only had a few people participating in the discussion.  I think there were about twelve of us, all women, and we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves.  There were many of my peers in attendance (women with diabetes of child-bearing age), and there were also some moms of little girls with diabetes who wanted to talk about their daughter's future.  I was determined to make the discussion something that made people feel inspired and hopeful.

We talked about pre-pregnancy planning, and the importance of getting your A1C down to a stable level predetermined by you and your medical team.  "Planning ahead is like the most important thing I could ever recommend.  Not that you can plan ahead, every time, but if you're able to, it's crucial."  We talked about "big babies" (not all babies of women with diabetes are "big", and not all "big babies" are the result of uncontrolled diabetes) and the impact of breastfeeding on diabetes management.  (And I found out that I wasn't the only person who liked the idea of hiding fruit roll ups in the couch cushions.) 

Of course, THAT movie came up:  Ye Olde Steele Magnolia(e)s.  Or, as I called it, "Metal Flowers," because it seems like everyone who mentions that movie feels depressed.  I personally love that movie; I just don't care for the taste it leaves in my mouth about diabetes and pregnancy.  "Love it or hate it, it's one of the few mainstream media representations of what a diabetic pregnancy looks like.  Which is why I'm glad we're all here, sharing our stories, because we have the power to change that perception."    

I hope the discussion went well, included moments where people felt safe to ask what they were really thinking about, and that the answers made them feel empowered.  It wasn't a medical session.  It wasn't about a doctor telling patients how to best manage their pregnancies.  It was just a few women, sharing the common bond of type 1, sharing their real stories and drawing strength from one another.

That, to me, is the power of this community.

Comments

Oh I'd have loved to sit in on that session! (Especially the part about big babies....ha! 7.4 lbs and 5 weeks early? Yep. My baby would've been at least a 10-pounder had we gone full-term!) :)

...wonderful wonderful...and i have seen the feedback...and your name came up several times as one of the sessions they liked the most...

Despite the fact that I'm not knocked up and shan't be for a while longer at least, I found your blog posts on pregnancy and diabetes SO helpful, encouraging, and honest. I'm sure that those hearing your voice instead of (or in addition to) reading your words completely agreed.

Great post! So hard to believe your baby girl is a toddler girl now...I remember the day you announced she was coming!

I heart community :)

Wow that kid is gorgeous!! What an awesome picture!! She's getting more beautiful every day.

I don't have D, but I do have an 8 yr old daughter with D. I read your blog every day and recommend it to other parents b/c it's so important to see your child as a successful grown up managing D and living their lives. it gives me hope that my little girl will grow up healthy and happy with her own little ones. Thanks for sharing the experience of your pregnancy.

I love how you mentioned "not all big babies are the result of uncontrolled diabetes". My son is a prime example!!! He was 9lbs 14oz when born. Every doctor and nurse kept muttering "macrosomnia due to diabetes". I felt like I kept shouting "NO!!! Genetics also plays a role!!!!!" My husband was 11lbs 2 oz when he was born. His mom was not diabetic. My AIC was in the low 5's my entire pregnancy. I kept telling people that, but they STILL managed to make me feel like I was the cause of my son's size...... I actually got into an argument with his pediatrician about it while I was still in the hospital. I ended up switching his doctors :)

I think it's great that you did this! I got PG unexpected with a 8.6 A1C. got it down to 6.0 in about a month and PG / T1 was perfect... till I got pre-eclampsia. Had a preemie at 34 weeks. He was perfect, just small (4.12) and is now 2 and currently watching the wiggles. There is a great online yahoo group "positivediabeticpregnancies" who were super helpful to me when I had no real support team. Hoping to be posting there again by fall, but this time I'm a bit more prepared!

Looking for a group of women with diabetes to chat with? Pregnant ones, ones who have had children and ones who have lived through it all and are still living the good life? When We discussed getting pregnant I NEEDED this! So I looked, I came across Diabetes Sisters (www.diabetessisters.org) its just that. Women and pregnant moms and women planning to get pregnant who are all realing with the same crazy that diabetes brings into our lives!! (Sorry I sound like an advertisement, but this group, along with blogs like Kerris, have changed my life and brought support where it was so lacking!!

Hey Kerri,

Did you ever use Diabetic Mommy forum? It's a mix of type 2, type 1 and gestational but I was on it through my whole pregnancy (as a type 1). It's where I discovered other women who had a healthy pregnancy with type 1 and were lucky enough to have a non-medicated labor. I was happy to add my story once I had my daughter last year. Just curious if you ever used it! Far more accessible to people who can travel all over to conferences.

Thanks for a great post! I initially found your website when googling "diabetes and pregnancy" prior to conceiving. I'm currently 29 weeks, and yes, it's a lot of work but I see your success and know it can be done. Thanks for being such a great role model and inspiration.

I wish I would have known about all these websites when I was PG with my first girl. I didn't know any other T1 mothers and was in a bind. I was also in my late 30s so I was double trouble. The hardest thing for me was finding a doctor who would treat me. My OB before I was PG was fine up until 32 weeks and then said she couldn't treat me due to liability reasons (on her part). I reluctantly found another doctors group who took me and delivered. Then 2 years later, I was PG a second time and at 15 weeks, was denied coverage by them for insurance purposes. I wish I would have had other T1s to discuss with during this tough time. Everything is great now (no more kiddos for me!!!), but thank goodness for the DOC and the wealth of knowlege for PWD and their families.

aw man, i didn't know moms of girls with T1 could sit in too or i would have been there!

i agree that this community has the power to change perceptions. rock!

Hi there! I found your blog recently and love it! Thanks for all the awesome posts!

I also struggled with finding enough information about pregnancy and diabetes and felt like I was alone and in the dark. I did a great job of managing my diabetes and had my lowest A1C ever while I was pregnant (5.6 - woot!!!), but it got super hard towards the end and I did end up with a 'big' baby.(9.9)

I did everything I could, but in the end, I was just dumping so much insulin in my body and it was just resisting it like crazy. I had a c-section at 37 weeks (yes, with a 9.9 pound baby). All I know is, nothing really prepared me for all of it and it was kind of a 'fly by the seat of your pants' type thing.

I hope if I ever have another child I will feel like I know more and will have more peace of mind about knowing it can be done, but I was terrified also from the very beginning and with my lack of information. I also appreciate blogs like yours for information and support. Keep it up!

Kerri, I just want to thank you for giving me the courage to have a baby. Your stories of a pregnancy with diabetes made me feel like I could do it. You were (and still are) a huge resource for me. :) You were one of the only people I knew that had Type I and was pregnant. I have a beautiful, healthy 5 month old baby boy! Thanks so much for all you do!

Even though I don't have a baby and I am not planning on any time soon, I found this post so helpful. Thank you!! I tend to stress about a lot.

I manage the Type 1 Diabetes Program at Diabetes Australia in Victoria, and one of our program areas is pregnancy and pre-existing diabetes. As part of the program, we run 'Having a Healthy Baby" information sessions. Presenters include obstetritians and endocrinologists from leading pregnancy and diabetes clinics in Melbourne. These speakers are always well-received and the feedback is great. But the most valuable thing attendees walk away with is the presentation from the 'here's-one-we-prepared-ealrier' speaker - that is a woman with diabetes who has recently had a baby. The personal stories strike such a chord and leave the attendees feeling that having a healthy baby is, indeed, something they are able to achieve.

Because not everyone can get to one of these events, we made two short films which are available on DVD. Again, we have health professionals providing clinical info as well as several women telling their stories.

The value of peer support can and should never be underestimated. Your presentation sounds awesome Kerri - I wish that it had been filmed for all to see!

Cheers

Oh, I wish I had been there, too! When I was pregnant (and scared out of my mind!), I didn't have any of this support that's out there now. And that was only 2.5 years ago! Now I have a very busy, very healthy 28 month old dear son who is proof that we can do it! :)

PS -- sweet pix of BSparl!! She's such a happy little one!

Thanks for this post and for the commenters! I'm still new to diabetes (6mos) and 20w pregnant with twins. Resources like this are wonderful!

I hate sitting in groups run by medical "stiffs". They always tell you all about the textbook because they usually have no personal experience. They scare the crap out of you and try to make you run for the hills.

I would prefer to sit in a class with you and trust what I am hearing. I am sure every mom amd mom to be left that discussion in a better place with high hopes for the future :)

Love this post! Wish I had known about the DOC when I was pregnant! Also love that about big babies! My A1c was 5.6 both times but my first was 10.8 at 38 weeks & my second was 11.1 at 37 weeks.

At the risk of sounding completely redundant, I, too, was super grateful to have found your blog when I was pregnant. I had performed search after search for "diabetes and pregnancy" and the lack of information out there - from REAL women with diabetes especially - was disturbing. I wish I had found your blog from the beginning of our trying to become pregnant, but better late than never. I have been working to spread the word about you ever since, because I don't want anyone to feel as scared and alone as I did, and to know that, while it takes work and commitment, you CAN have a perfectly healthy baby to stare at in wonder! Bravo to you - and thanks again for being so accessible and "normal" - sometimes your blog, while giving insight and information, can also give me just the laugh I need some days.

As the Bird grows older, it's becoming more and more obvious that she's going to be just as pretty as her mother. I'm an old lady and not going to have any more kids, or grandkids (so my son says), and I'm just really enjoying watching that little one grow up! :-)

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