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Guest Post: Giving Birth to Violet as a Woman with Type 1 Diabetes (Part 2)

Today is part two of Ginger’s guest blog about the birth of her second little bird (part 1 is here). While this post takes a bit of a dangerous turn, things did work out okay!  (And if you’re a woman with type 1 diabetes who has had babies, is curious about having babies, or wants to read about other people and their babies, check out Ginger’s latest book, Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes!)

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[Note from Kerri:  This story picks up where yesterday left off, with Ginger just home from the hospital with her newborn.]

… but then…when Violet was 6 days old, I woke up from an afternoon nap to a huge gush of blood rushing from my body and onto my brand new iKea striped duvet cover. (It was only $30 but I adore this duvet!)

“Roger!” I hollered to my husband, “I’m bleeding, we gotta get this duvet in the wash ASAP so it doesn’t stain!”

While he took the precious duvet to the laundry room, I went to the bathroom to clean up the blood only to find that I was still bleeding. Seriously bleeding.

I couldn’t move off the toilet without blood pour out of me and onto the floor. Meanwhile my husband was on the other side of the house with the assumption that the gush of blood was a one-time thing and very busy trying to save my precious iKea bedding.

I jumped into the shower thinking maybe I just needed to wash off thoroughly and let the blood finish…but the blood didn’t stop. It continued to pour from me.

“ROGER!!!”

It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t going to resolve itself at home. Fortunately, our teenage babysitter Mikayla was home and came over within minutes of calling to stay with Lucy.

After filling my sweatpants with wads of paper-towel to contain the bleeding, Roger, Violet and I rushed to the Emergency room that was just 10 miles away at a smaller nearby hospital than where Violet was born.

Between home and this hospital just minutes away, the blood had fill my pants.

I was able to get a good meal of breastmilk into Violet’s belly before I was given anesthesia and taken to the operating room to see what was causing the bleeding. I didn’t know whether I was going to wake up from this operation having had an emergency hysterectomy or something less severe.

When I did wake up from surgery, already back in my room, I suddenly burst into tears.

“Why are you crying?” the doctor asked me.

“I’m just so glad I didn’t have to be cut open again!” I blubbered.

Instead they performed a simple D&C (dilation and curettage).

Apparently, my uterus had stopped properly contracting postpartum to manage healing and bleeding, and the area where the placenta had once been attached looked like a giant open wound. It wasn’t healing properly either so every blood vessel was just gushing with blood.

My uterus was also apparently filled with grape-sized clots of blood. (Why it started nearly 6 days postpartum instead of during my initial hospital stay, nobody knows.)

I’d lost about 3.5 grams of blood in that short span of time between naptime and the hospital. Another gram and I would’ve likely needed a blood transfusion. (I credit this to our awesome babysitter who came over so quickly when we called!)

Of course, I can’t prove that this was related to my feeling during the last few weeks of pregnancy that something was wrong, but for me, it was enough evidence that my uterus has probably had enough of this baby-making adventure.

Today, as I type this, Violet is about 2 months old. She still sleeps 18 to 20 hours a day (which is actually a very recent reduction from her 20 to 22 hours a day). She’s a very good eater and I’ve managed to avoid many breastfeeding-induced lows by keeping my background insulin dose about 1-unit lower than it probably would be otherwise, and taking my normal doses for meals.

Lucy doesn’t mind Violet’s high-pitched screams during the first few miles of any car-ride, and continues to tell us the baby is cute. The juggling act of two little girls’ needs would make for a good reality show: this morning Lucy pooped on the floor (because she’s potty training)…while Violet was desperately pleading for another meal on the boob…while I was making myself breakfast with the hope of getting us all out the door by 9 a.m. to make a mess at the children’s art studio in town. Don’t worry, I’d already had my cup of coffee!

(It goes without saying that my A1C has definitely popped up from 5.8 to 6.5 percent in these first 8 weeks of Violet’s life!)

Amidst the chaos, we are mostly just grateful, because type 1 diabetes has lost again at its attempt to interfere with real life. This body that can’t even produce a few drips of insulin has now produced two gorgeous little baby girls who are as healthy as any mama could wish for.

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Thank you so much, Ginger, for sharing your daughter’s story here.  Congratulations, from one T1D mama to the other!  <3

Guest Post: Giving Birth to Violet as a Woman with Type 1 Diabetes (Part 1)

Stories about moms with type 1 diabetes having babies warm my heart completely, mostly because they remind me of my kids’ birthdays but also because pregnancy and diabetes is hard work and deserves an extra WHOO HOOOO! at the end.  Today, fellow writer and T1D mama Ginger Vieira is borrowing SixUntilMe to share the story of the birth of her second child. Take it away, Ginger!

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“This time it will be simple.”

That’s what my husband and I had said to each other several times as the due date of our 2nd child was just a few weeks away. It’s not as if the birth of our 1st child, Lucy, was remarkably complicated–I felt pretty great during the last month of that pregnancy and had no swelling or other complications–but I did spend 4 days in the hospital prior to her actually evacuating the ol’ womb because our attempt at an induction totally failed. (Basically, my body was like, “Whatever. I really don’t feel like going into labor…deal with it.”)

This time was very different.

At 35 weeks, I started gaining 1 to 1.5 pounds of fluid per day. Swelling up like a water balloon just between my knees to the tip of my toes. But my blood pressure continued to stay well within the range of normal and even below 120/80 bpm, so the doctors continued to insist that I’d have a cesarean at 39 weeks and no sooner. My A1C was at 5.8 percent, and everything they could measure in a blood-draw came back fine, too.

And baby girl looked consistently healthy and comfortable. In fact, throughout the entire pregnancy, she and I had both been doing great except for super-crazy vomit-inducing over-production of stomach acid which I’d been treating since 3 months pregnant with as much antacid as my body was allowed. Otherwise, until this last month, the pregnancy had been anything but traditionally tedious and tiring.

By 36 weeks my energy was shifting dramatically between feeling like I could make it through the day and then suddenly feeling as though all I could do was lie on the floor like a pancake, trying not to cry (or sometimes crying) while also needing to chase and entertain my toddler.

By 37 weeks, I had gained nearly 15 pounds of pure fluid all within the prior 2 weeks. Everyone, including the nurses at my appointments, gasped in horror when they saw my feet. My swelling wasn’t a concern because it wasn’t in my face or hands and my blood sugar was still very normal. Personally, I think I would’ve been in severe pre-eclampsia had they made me wait another week. Meanwhile, walking through the grocery store wasn’t just uncomfortable–it was excruciatingly painful and my feet would be twice the size by the time I got back in my car.

Despite my lack of diagnosable symptoms, I felt very strongly that something was wrong. I can’t tell you what it was exactly, but like anyone with one or several chronic illness understands, there are things you can feel and know about your body when you’ve had to micromanage something as complicated as type 1 diabetes and fibromyalgia for several decades.

I felt like my body had met its personal limit of physical stress, and it was breaking down. The idea of trying to make it to 39 weeks had me bursting into tears when my husband came home from work after trying to hold them back throughout the day. You can call me a wimp and say it’s all just 3rd-trimester normal pregnancy exhaustion, but my body was struggling in ways no one could seem to measure.

I finally emailed Dr. Jones (who is now someone I might as well consider my hero!) and asked him if he and the OBGYN team would please consider a c-section at 38 weeks.

Fortunately, Dr. Jones strongly believes in “individualized care.” He was able to convince 3 out of the 6 members of this OBGYN high-risk team to support an early c-section at 38 weeks but only if baby’s lungs proved to be fully developed through an amniocentesis.

The other 3 doctors were firmly against an early c-section because on paper, I was still healthy. One doctor did acknowledge to me that I could’ve very well been in the early stages of pre-eclampsia, but again, my blood pressure was normal so it didn’t matter yet.

At 38 weeks, we arrived for the amniocentesis, nervous but hopeful. The procedure was extremely fast and simple. Dr. Jones inserted a very thin needle into my belly while watching its direction on an ultrasound screen and pulled out a small amount of fluid from my uterus. This fluid is then tested for something (honestly, I can’t remember right now) that indicates the maturity of the baby’s lungs.

Fortunately, baby’s lungs passed the test with flying colors.

My husband and I were both relieved–he saw firsthand the days where I could barely function in those prior 2 weeks.

Within 3 hours we were in the operating room being prepped for a c-section. And this part was a much better experience than my first c-section. By the time they did the c-section with Lucy, I had been on an IV drip of pitocin for nearly 4 days, extremely sleep-deprived, and having only eaten 1 real meal (because they prefer you don’t eat while you’re being induced). During Lucy’s birth I was very pale and weak, my teeth were chattering violently as a side-effect of the epidural, and I was a tired, occasionally incoherent mess during the few hours after she was born. However, not eating for 4 days did make it incredibly easy to keep my blood sugar at 90 mg/dL that week, which meant Lucy’s blood sugar after birth was perfect.

This time, during this c-section, my face was full of its normally rosey color, and I didn’t experience any uncomfortable side-effects from the epidural. I was lucid and bright-eyed and very ready. My blood sugars had been extremely steady in “non-diabetic range” all week with an extra dose of obsession that comes with the final weeks of pregnancy. The only blip was that about an hour before we went into for the c-section, I was worried my blood sugar was dropping so I drank about 2 oz of apple juice which unfortunately had my blood sugar up around 140 mg/dL during the actual c-section.

Everyone on our team was great: the nurses, the doctors, the extremely friendly anesthesiologist named Gabe (Dr. Gabe) who chatted with me throughout the entire operation, answered my random questions and laughed at my jokes while my husband held my hand and watched them carefully cut me open to bring this little creature out into the world.

And then she was born.

Violet Isabella.

We had been telling Lucy about this baby–Baby Violet– for weeks prior to her arrival but, like Lucy, we actually didn’t know anything about her besides her name.

And here she is.

“Well, hi,” I said quietly.

Meeting your 2nd child is different than meeting the first, at least it was for me. I felt so much calmer and certain. I knew how overwhelming the moment would be having met a life I’d been growing inside my own body before that it almost felt like a normal daily experience: Here, this is the baby you’ve been loving for the past 9 months that you’ve never seen before and that you actually know nothing about.

Baby Violet. You look like a tiny little peanut at 8 lbs. 5 oz. (Not “tiny” at all but yet….so damn tiny!)

Due to that unfortunate 140 mg/dL right before the c-section, her blood sugar was actually very low, around 27 mg/dL within the hour after her birth. Fortunately it came up quickly after one nursing session because my body might be lousy at producing insulin but it rocks at producing colostrum and breastmilk. So she was fine. Everything about her, in fact, was fine.

We spent the next 5 days snuggling and cooing and nursing. She slept about 23.5 hours a day. Her big sister thought she was adorable (and surprisingly still does, more than 2 months later). My long-acting insulin dose was down to 4 or 5 units a day (my non-pregnant dose is 11 units), and my blood sugars were mostly very manageable because I was taking so little insulin.

Speaking of insulin, I’m very grateful that Dr. Jones put a note in my chart that instructed the nurses and doctors to let me decide all of my own insulin doses postpartum. This special note was the result of telling him that during my postpartum experience with Lucy, I had to sneak insulin injections in the bathroom because the doctors wouldn’t give me enough insulin! Everyone followed Dr. Jones’ note effortlessly and this made our hospital stay particularly less stressful and far more enjoyable than our stay after Lucy was born.

(I should also add that the nurse, Barbara, who was with us almost every day, was amazing and so supportive.)

There was one day where I really over-did it with physical activity walking around the hospital trying to “pass gas” so I could given permission to go home and entertaining Lucy when she came to visit us, that by that evening I could barely move I was in so much pain. (I’d also had a severe allergic reaction to the chemicals in the hospital bedsheets and scratched myself so severely in my sleep that it looked like I’d been mauled by a very cute kitten.) So we stayed 5 days instead of 3 or 4, and finally went home feeling mostly great …

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Tomorrow, come back for Part 2 of Ginger’s birth story, where things take a wild turn (but end up ok … don’t worry!).  Thanks for sharing the story of Ms. Violet with us, Ginger!  See you tomorrow!

Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes & Dealing with Diabetes Burnout & Emotional Eating with Diabetes & Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger is a freelance writer and Editor Emeritus at DiabetesDaily, with a B.S. in Professional Writing and certifications in cognitive coaching, video blogging, record-setting competitive powerlifting, personal training, Ashtanga yoga, and motivational speaking.

Magic Kingdom, Magic Bathrooms.

“Is that an insulin pump?”

I was standing outside of the stall in a bathroom in Tomorrowland, waiting for my daughter to wash her hands.

“Yes, on my arm here?  Yes, it is.”  I pointed to the infusion set on my right arm, the tubing snaking back up my sleeve into my dress.

“Oh!”  The lady smiled really big, relieved.  “Do you mind if I show my son when he comes out of the stall?  He’s five – was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was three.”

“Of course!”

The bathroom continued being a bathroom for a minute more, then her son came out.

“Henry, this lady is wearing an insulin pump.  Remember I told you about those?  Look, it goes right into her arm here!”

His little face was so little, just a few years older than my own son, a few years younger than my daughter.

“Hi, Henry.  I’m Kerri.  I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was seven.  This insulin pump is what I use instead of shots to take my insulin.  Want to see?”

He nodded.

“This is the little spot where the insulin goes in, and this tube connects here,” I pulled my pump out so he could see it.  “And the insulin is stored in here.”

Henry’s mom smiled.  “I was telling you about this!”  She turned to me.  “I was telling him about this.”

“If you touch this screen, it lights up.  Want to try it?”

His face broke into a grin.  I showed him how to tap the 1 … 2 … 3 buttons on my t:slim X2 to wake it up.  “If I wanted to take some insulin to have a snack, I’d press this button, tell it what to give me, and then I’d be all set!”

I turned to his mom.  “Are you guys here for the conference?”

She looked confused.  “What conference?”

Showing her the green bracelet on my arm, I explained that we had just spent the week at Friends for Life, hanging out with friends and making diabetes feel commonplace for a few days.  “So many families go.  Some parents bring their kids who have diabetes.  And in my case, I’m the one with diabetes, so I bring my kid to meet other kids of parents with diabetes.”

(This whole conversation is taking place while our kids are washing their hands and playing with the hand dryers.)

Before the next stall could flush, we’d figured out that we lived close-ish to one another, and that we had some common stomping grounds.  At my urging, Henry’s mom opened my phone and started an email to herself.

“I’ll send you an email after we leave the park with some details on the conference.  And if you have any questions about insulin pumps or connecting Henry with other kids who have diabetes, or anything at all about anything, I’d be so happy to connect,” I said.

All hands washed, we shook them, laughing about the awkwardness of meeting in a bathroom.  And then I sent my now-new favorite email intro ever, opening with, “We just met in the bathroom at Magic Kingdom (great way to start an email, right?) and I wanted to email you right away.

A few days ago, I heard from Maggie.  Our bathroom connection has come full circle.  Advocacy can happen anywhere: in a conference hall, on an airplane, in the grocery store.  Even in a bathroom at Disney World, our community is flush with connection and possibility.

Recipe for FFL.

Want to make Friends for Life?  Here’s how:

Ingredients:

1 large Coronado Spring
Millions of humidity molecules
3,000 family members who live with diabetes
1,000 (estimated) Mickey Mouse waffles
22 bowls of glucose tabs
Dozens of supportive siblings
Hundreds of orange bracelets
Hundreds of green bracelets
Several buffet tables of carb-counted food
Add sports central, support sessions, and learning workshops to your taste

Directions:

Take your humidity molecules and mix with the Coronado Spring.  They will combine to become as hot as possible.  Move into your hotel room and be thankful for the conditioned air.

Assess your pancreas. Salute your pancreas if it functions properly and don your orange bracelet with pride. If your pancreas is a thumbs down as far as insulin production goes, put on your green bracelet with pride as you are not alone with diabetes.

Attend focus groups and meet with companies who aim to make a difference in the lives of people with diabetes.  Between meetings, visit the pool and go down the waterslide, mingle with CWD staff and friends at Pepper Market, and give a happy wave to strangers-who-are-not-strangers.

Have fun.  Enjoy healthy meal options that are carb counted (and gluten-free if that’s your jam).  Dance with the DJ at the banquet.  Meet the Disney characters at breakfast.  Get a retinal screening.  Learn about things like diabetes and exercise, and going to college with type 1 diabetes, and new technology options, and parenting and pregnancy.  Collect at the social spots in the evenings and talk about LIFE and some diabetes but not entirely diabetes.

Be thankful that companies and sponsors and donors have come together to make an event like Friends for Life possible.  Thank them for their financial contributions and support.  Thank the fellows.  Thank the scholarship programs.  Thank the staff for their tireless efforts.  Thank your friends and families for being part of this experience with you.

Rinse and repeat for several days, until your heart is full and your voice is gone and the corners of your mouth feel stretched to the brink from smiling.

Disclosure:  I could not be prouder to be a member of this organization as a board member, part of the adults with type 1 diabetes faculty, and a grateful PWD attendee.  My travel and lodging are covered by the organization, but my opinions and dedication to the cause are my own.  Huge thanks to the staff, supporters, and sponsors who make Friends for Life possible.  

If you’d like to make a donation to support CWD, please click here.

 

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