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This is Thirty.

This is thirty years with type 1 diabetes.

I used to think it would stop me from enjoying life.  Now I realize that I’ve lived with this disease for thirty years and have brought it down the aisle, on stage, and around the world with me.  It hasn’t stopped me from doing a damn thing … other than making insulin.  But that’ll work itself out in, what … five to ten years?

Enormous hugs to everyone living with diabetes.  You kick ass every day, even when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

On the Other Side.

The first time I was pregnant, the physical journey was the hardest part for me.  Building a baby, watching blood sugars, dealing with body changes … the list was long but included mostly body changes, and also a boatload of excitement about crossing the threshold into “parenting.”  Back in 2009/2010, it was inconceivable to me that something “bad” would happen during a pregnancy.  Once you are pregnant, you just stay pregnant and everything is cool, and then the baby is born.  Back then, my biggest fear was the actual birthing of my daughter.  Having never had surgery before, I was petrified of the c-section and everything promised to come along with it.  Looking back, I was grateful that I had no idea what it was like to “try” for a baby, and to spend the pregnancy wondering if everything would be okay.

And even though my first pregnancy was a little chaotic, with lots of doctor’s appointments and a four week hospital stay due to preeclampsia, my worries were somewhat limited.  I just didn’t know any better.  From start to finish, my body did what it was supposed to do, and my child was fine.  My headspace during the pregnancy was also reasonably solid, hormones not withstanding.

But this time was very different.  The birth of my son came after a lot of discussion.  Birdy was about three when we decided we wanted to have another baby, and based on our previous experience, we figured we’d become pregnant right away.  Our experience with “unexplained secondary infertility” was startling.  What do you mean, it’s hard to become pregnant?  We got pregnant right away the first time.  Why are we charting things and purchasing ovulation kits and now our cars are wearing a path between our home and the fertility clinic?

After 19 months of trying, I became pregnant as the result of fertility treatments.  I miscarried around the eight week mark, during a conference in the summer.  There was something highly surreal and emotionally numbing about examining discharge in a hotel room at Disney World at 2 in the morning to confirm that I had miscarried to completion.  It was the first time I’d ever experienced contractions.  It was the first time I’d felt hopeless.  It was the first time I’d ever felt limitlessly sad.

When I became pregnant again, 25 months after hoping to expand our family, the fear was instant, consistent, and did not abate until I heard my son cry in the delivery room three weeks ago.  Physically, this pregnancy was healthy and “normal,” with blood sugars that performed almost predictably, no pregnancy-related health concerns over the 38 week gestation period, and my body actually seemed to like being pregnant this time around.

Emotionally, though, I was unwell for the majority of the experience.  I never felt calm.  Every appointment was something I panicked before and got all emotional with relief afterwards, because that certainty of safety was erased the summer prior.  I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant.  I felt oddly detached for the first few months of pregnancy, afraid to emotionally invest in the child I was growing.  I didn’t want to have a baby shower.  I was scared that if I acknowledged this pregnancy, it would leave me.  When the Braxton Hicks contractions started in the third trimester, I freaked out because contractions, in my mind, were tied to miscarriage.  Pregnancy after loss tripped me out entirely.  And even though there are so many people who have felt these same things and dealt with similar issues, I had trouble finding the support I needed for these feelings.  It was hard to admit that I felt entirely unsettled.  It was even harder to try and mask those feelings with the joy that everyone seemed to expect me to feel.

“Did you want to consider a tubal ligation after the c-section is performed?”

My high-risk OB/Gyn asked me this question around the twenty week mark of my pregnancy, after they did the big anatomy scan to check on the baby’s development and organs.  I was still all jumbled up, emotionally, but knew for sure that I was not equipped to go through another pregnancy in efforts to have a third child.  I longed for Birdy.  And my son.  And I knew instinctively that they were the limit of what both my body and mind, and our family, were able to manage.

So while we scheduled my c-section date (originally set for August 31st, but that timeframe ended up truncated), I signed the papers for the tubal ligation.  It felt strange to elect permanent sterilization after battling for years to have this baby; the finality of that decision weighed heavily.  But it also felt right, considering my age, health history, and our desires as a family.  After my son was born and we confirmed his health as excellent, the operation was completed and that chapter of my life was closed in full.

When I look at this little man I’ve made (and he sleeps soundly in my arms while I type this), I know in my heart that every decision we’ve made is the right one for our family.  That fourth chair is filled with the result of the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t be happier.

Giant feet, giant appetite, little man. #🍅

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

There was always this promise, this question, this gentle hum of you, my son.  We’ve always wanted you.  It just took a long time to get you here.

We’ll take good care of you, I promise.

 

Releasing the Kraken … Into Our Home.

… he’s definitely not the Kraken.  That nickname will never stick because so far, our littlest friend is mild mannered.  He’s more Clark Kent than Kraken.  (Mixing my superheroes and myths this morning; feel free to blame the sleep debt and my attempt to repay it with caffeine.)

But he’s home, and even though he’s a sweet boy, he’s still an infant and our house is ROCKED by his presence.  My body remains equally as rocked by his escape, and my diabetes management is so confused that my pancreas, were it to have a head, would be scratching it with confusion.

OUR HOUSE:  Remains in the middle of our street, only it’s bursting at the seams with burp cloths and tiny little articles of clothing that require origami skills in order to snap up.  The laundry this little man produces is astounding, as are the number of diapers he rips through … and the number of times he’d like to eat during the course of a day.  For someone so small, the baby came with a lot of stuff.

(But I’m so glad he’s here.  I’ve never been so happy to have my house turned inside out in my life.)

MY BODY:  Is slightly less than a wonderland.  I talked about the c-section and cannot stress enough how different it was from my first surgical birth experience.  When I examined myself after having Birdy, I had a sizable scar and serious gas pain, but didn’t feel as though I’d been put through the wringer.  Ringer?  (W)ringer.  This c-section was very different because it felt busy during (lots of pressure and they actually needed to use the vacuum to assist in removing my son from the womb, poor kid) and the aftermath was not pretty.  I had a lot of bleeding after this one, more than the first time.  I also didn’t get a good look at my scar, etc. while I was in the hospital (they are smart to keep full length mirrors OUT of the postpartum recovery rooms) so I saw the mess for the first time when we came home.

Holy shit, the bruising.  The three or four inches of skin real estate underneath my incision was entirely black and blue and it looked as though I was wearing blue underpants.  I (am embarrassed to say) that I cried when I saw it because it looked so frigging VIOLENT.  Thankfully, 15 days later, the bruising is entirely gone and all that remains is the incredible shrinking uterus and the healing incision, but for the first week or so, I had a hard time checking the incision because it looked so Frankenstein’s monsterish.

And aside from the obvious diabetes stuff, I’m currently taking a blood thinner (thank you, Factor V Leiden) for six weeks, and am also unable to drive for six weeks.  The blood thinner is a little painful but totally manageable (one injection every night – easy enough).  The not driving thing is MAKING ME GO BANANAS because my freedom is entirely MIA.  I’m relying on friends and family for trips to the pediatrician, picking up prescriptions, getting groceries … every little thing requires assistance from a volunteer chauffeur.  And since I don’t want to trouble anyone more than I already have to, I’m placing some screwball orders on Amazon … like for the dry erase board eraser required on my daughter’s back-to-school list.  Or the long sleeve, size 0-3 month onesies for my son.  Or coffee, damn it.  I’m really excited to be able to get back behind the wheel and reclaim some semblance of independence.

DIABETES HEY OOOOH:  I cannot complain about how diabetes did its thing during the 38 weeks of pregnancy.  I didn’t have any tragic lows, there weren’t unmanageable highs, and the lack of pre-eclampsia was an excellent change of pace for this round.  During delivery, even though I was terrified, my blood sugars stayed solid.  And throughout my stay at the hospital, my blood sugars were without issue.  It was kind of awesome, and surely will stay that way forever, right?

HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAA … now that my placenta has been kicked out of my womb and I’m breastfeeding a newborn, all kinds of diabetes hell has broken loose.  My blood sugars – once calm and dare I say predictable? – are now pinging and ponging all over the damn place.  My insulin:carb ratios are 1:20 (versus pre-pregnancy 1:11 and during pregnancy rates as low as 1:5) and my basal rate is 0.3u per hour (versus pre-pregnancy of .5u and during pregnancy rates as high as 1u per hour).  And absent the breastfeeding, these rates would probably hold tight for a few weeks until they started to require increasing, eventually bringing me back up to where I was pre-pregnancy … at least ish.

But breastfeeding is its own circus.  The act of breastfeeding does not make me hypoglycemic, but the act of producing milk does, so I’m going low mostly while my milk supply is filling up.  If this was a predictable cycle, I could plan snacks/meals around my son’s appetite and my anticipated refilling, but the cycle isn’t one I can map.  I can’t even guess.  Some times, I go low 15 minutes after feeding him.  Other times it takes up to an hour and a half for the low to hit.  I’m not sure when I should eat, causing my CGM graph to look all Ms and Ws.  If my experience with Birdy helps inform this round, I should have a more predictable blood sugar response around the time that my son is a month old.  Which means that I have two more week of letting my body ebb and flow and get all confused before it aligns to some kind of schedule.

The madness of a newborn added to the mix of an already all-over-the-place family is exactly what we had anticipated.  We’re exhausted.  (While driving home from a pediatrician appointment, Chris turned to me at a stop light and asked, “This is really happening, right?  Like this isn’t a dream?  We’re actually driving right now?”  The lack of sleep is like we’re on the tumble dry setting in the dryer, all jumbled and confusing and warm and is this real life?)  We’re adjusting.  (Birdy is doing her best to make sense of the new little creature in our house.  She loves him.  But I’m on the watch for sibling angst as well.)  We’re grateful.  (Issues like a messy house? Exhaustion? Sore body?  Bring those issues on, because I’m happy as hell to have these as my problems.)  And we’re in love with this little guy, who despite being only 15 days old, feels like he’s been part of the party forever.

 

C-Section Party Time, Hey Hey.

There’s another kid in my house now, and he’s two weeks old as of this afternoon.  But how did he escape, you ask?  Sunroof exit!  Here is some of the how and why my son came a bit earlier than expected.

That Tuesday morning two weeks ago came with the promise of another long drive to Beth Israel hospital in Boston, where another blood pressure/blood sugar/ultrasound examination extravaganza was scheduled to take place.  At 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant, my medical team was keeping a close eye on things but not with a sense of panic, as the baby was full term and my health was good.

But that morning, I had some contractions.  And definitive signs of labor (hello, mucus plug, which is a curious thing that you can go ahead and Google – I will not be adding that to my search return history).  When I left the house to make the drive to Boston, I told Chris to expect a call, because I was pretty sure the baby was coming today.

“Really?!” he asked, placing Birdy’s breakfast on the table (for her to ignore for 40 minutes because she is six years old and food has become The Incredibly Long, Drawn-Out Journey).

“Yeah?” I replied, trying to be all blasé about it but the prospect of major surgery and then – AHHHHHH – a baby! arriving in the next few hours made my head swirl so much that I had to default to a mellow shrug in efforts to keep myself from going off the rails.

At the OB/Gyn in Boston, my labor signs were confirmed, as was a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading.

“Your blood pressure is elevated.  And you’re at 38 weeks, so there’s no reason to delay your c-section when a delay might not be the safest option.  You’re going to have this baby today,” said the nurse.

“Today?”

“Today.”

“Cool, okay so I’ll drive over to Beth Israel and check into labor and delivery?”

“Yes, that’s the plan.  We don’t have you on the books for today, and we need to wait at least six hours before we can perform the surgery, so you’re looking at a 3.30 pm delivery time.  Call your husband.  It’s time!”

“Awesome, okay.”  And, all super chill, I walked out to the waiting room and made my postpartum follow up appointments.  And then walked out to my car in the parking garage.  And dialed Chris.

“The baby is coming today.”

All casual.

“TODAY?!!”

“Yes.  I’m aiming for a surgery time of about 3.30 pm.  Can you get up here by then?”

WHY THE HELL AM I BEING SO CALM?  I AM TERRIFIED OF SURGERY AND HATED MY PREVIOUS C-SECTION EXPERIENCE AND OMG THERE IS A BABY COMING!!!!!!!

“I’m leaving right now.  I’ll be there in time.”

A whirlwind of activity followed, and I remained unusually calm.  Brought my car to the long term garage.  Wheeled (waddled?) myself and my suitcase up to the 10th floor.  Checked into Labor and Delivery at Beth Israel hospital.  Ended up whisked into a room where I was asked to remove my jewelry and clothes, eventually asked to remove my insulin pump (so that I could be hooked up to the IV insulin drip and the dextrose drip) and CGM sensor (because the sensor contains metal, which doesn’t work out well in a surgery situation), with my blood pressure and blood sugar monitored constantly in preparation for surgery.

Despite a last minute call and a long commute, Chris made it to the hospital about twenty minutes before we were schedule to go into surgery, and that’s when I became nervous.  This was really happening.  In less than an hour, this medical team (of course not the team I’ve been seeing throughout the course of my pregnancy, because they were not on that day, so I had a whole new team of people I’d not yet met) would be performing major surgery on me and delivering my son into the world.

Holy shit.  I wanted to throw up.  I didn’t Google anything about the specifics of a c-section before having my daughter, but after she was born, I had convinced myself I was a “one and done” sort of mom.  So I researched c-sections, and confirmed they are not the most lovely videos to watch.  But HA HA I wasn’t ever going to do it again, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Little did I know how hard I’d work to have another baby.  And upon being wheeled into the operating room, I remembered every finite detail of the c-section videos I’d watched years earlier.  My panic was real.

My first c-section was strange in that I felt the pressure of Birdy’s escape and my recovery was uncomfortable (and long), but the surgery itself was uneventful.

My second (and last) c-section was not as routine.  First of all, the spinal block was an issue and it took several tries to get that lined up correctly.  (The bruising on my lower back serves as proof of the five – yes, five – attempts to get that block right.  The surgical write-up described this portion of the surgery as “complicated.”  I describe it as “what the holy fuck painful.”)  Secondly, my son was measuring an estimated 8.5 pounds and 20 inches long, which was significantly bigger than my daughter.  And thirdly, I had decided to have a tubal ligation, which added an extra 10 – 15 minutes to the surgery.

Prior to the surgery, my team monitored my blood sugar to ensure that it was running in the 80 – 120 range, which thankfully was not an issue.  Diabetes was on its best behavior.  Once I was brought into the operating room, I sat on the table and tried to “relax” while they attempted the spinal block.  (“Just relax your shoulders and curl around your belly,” they kept saying.  After the third attempt to administer the block, I was cursing under my breath with some of the basic swear words.  By the fifth time, I’m pretty sure I was making up curse words and may have ended up quoting some ancient incantation.  It took half an hour to get the stupid spinal block in place, during which time Chris was down the hall, all suited up in his biohazard space suit, wondering what the hell was taking so long.

But the block finally took.  My blood sugars were perfect throughout.  My son was delivered after a significant amount of effort (turns out I had cooked up a healthy-sized umbilical cord and placenta, which helped explain why my belly button threatened to pop off in those last few weeks – holy cramped real estate in that womb).  I was pretty spaceshot for the majority of the surgery, reacting slightly unfavorably to the anesthesia and pain killers they were piping through my body, and Chris told me I kept asking, “Is he out yet?  Is he okay?  Am I okay?” on repeat while they worked to get our boy out.

And then I heard him cry.  The medical team said, “Oh, he’s here!  He’s healthy!”  And he was brought over to me, all 8.6 lbs of him, all 20.5 inches of him, all cute and pursed lips and looking so much like his sister but at the same time, entirely like himself.

“I love you so much.”  The words spilled out of me, grateful to finally land in the ears of the baby I waited three years to tell.

The tubal ligation was performed (more on that later this week).  They sealed up all my business (no staples this time around – they used some kind of “glue”) and called it a day.

#week38 #diabeticpregnancy #birthdayboy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And we were all brought back to the recovery room, where I was forced to remain on the insulin drip until I was able to keep food down (which was its own challenge, as the surgery meds and I are not friends, and I made use of the little throw up tray several times).  Thanks to a catheter, staying in bed wasn’t a problem, and thanks to what was left of the morphine drip, I was pretty comfortable, pain-wise.  It wasn’t until later that evening that the pain began, only it wasn’t as severe as with my first c-section.  The gas pain was intense but seemed focused on my abdomen instead of all over my lower body.  (I will admit to being a total cry baby every time they came in to press on my abdomen to check on my uterus.  Having my stomach touched was insanely painful and despite a pretty high tolerance for pain, I screamed involuntarily when they pressed on my body.  It took the four full days of the hospital stay to start feeling remotely okay in the abdominal region.  It also didn’t help that I refused the oxycodone because I didn’t like the way it spaced me out after having Birdy, so I was medicating with Tylenol and ibuprofen only, but on that med, I didn’t feel like I could safely hold Birdy, so I didn’t want a repeat performance of that feeling with my son.  This is the long way of saying that recovery fucking HURT and I am glad I won’t be doing it again. More on how I reacted once I saw my body in the full length mirror at home later this week, too. Holy bruising.)

By Wednesday morning, around 2 am, I was able to put my t:slim insulin pump back on (with new, postpartum insulin regimen that was about a third of my pre-pregnancy ratios).  And by Wednesday morning proper, they removed the catheter.  Thursday morning allowed the multiple IV lines to be removed.  And by Friday morning, I was able to walk to the bathroom without bleeding through my clothes.  (That was a lovely upgrade, albeit a graphic one.)  Saturday morning we were released into the wild, with a car that now hosted TWO car seats and TWO children and TWO paranoid/sleepless/euphoric parents.

People talk about falling in love at first sight or upon hearing the baby cry for the first time, but I already had space cleared out in my heart for this little one, even before I saw his face. We were ready for this little guy.  His safe arrival was the period at the end of a four word sentence:  This is my family.

 

Complete.

Dear Baby Boy,

Hey, you.  You came into the world at just the right time.

There’s a lot to say about your arrival – the path paved by infertility and issues, the details of a diabetic pregnancy, the specific chaos of the c-section surgery that brought you into the world – but those moments are so ten days ago.  There’s plenty of time next week to write about that.  Today, we are celebrating YOU.

It’s funny how much it feels like you’ve always been here.  I think it’s because the promise of you has been orbiting our brains for years.  Actual years.  I remember sitting with your dad at a restaurant three Christmases ago, clinking glasses to the agreement that our family wanted one more friend.  (Yes, we officially cheers’d to the idea of you.  It was a contract, sealed with a grin and some Riesling.)  We had no idea what was to come for the next few years.  There are elements we’ll never discuss again comfortably, as it picks the edges of a wound that may never fully heal.  But we move forward, grateful for you.

You’ve made me a mother for the second time, your dad a daddy for the second time, and your birth gave Birdy a new name entirely:  big sister.  The tectonic plates of our family heaved and shifted to make room for a little boy who would make us complete, despite any tremors of adjustment.  (Like when you peed on Birdy while she was holding you.  “He’s so cute and he’s holding my finger, Mom!  Look, he’s … AHHHH HE PEED ON ME THERE’S PEE ON ME FROM HIIIIIIIM!”)

Love. No filter required. #siblings #diabeticpregnancy

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

And now I’m raising a little boy instead of a little girl.  But there’s no real difference, despite the slight fear I had upon learning your sex.  “What do we do with a boy?”, but hearing your cry after they pulled you from my body answered the query definitively.  What do we do with you?  We love you.  Intrinsically.  Without fear.  (Okay, with some fear. Babies are a little scary.)  We love you unconditionally, just like we do with your sister.  We’ve loved you for years, only we didn’t quite know who you were yet.

Now, you’re this tiny, wiggly little brown haired biscuit who lives in our home.  My abdomen remains tender from your exit, but that fresh pain is the only reminder that you haven’t been here forever.  What do you mean, it’s only been ten days?  You’ve only been here for ten days?  It’s only ten days of holding you?  I feel like you’ve been pressed against my heart for years.  Strange to think that I first held you in my arms just a few days ago.

I love you.  And for a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to hold you.  I feared you were going to be a lingering promise, a hope, a “maybe” for the rest of my life.  Your cry pierced the air of the operating room at the same time it did my heart, and I’m realigned, rearranged, revised, refined, fully realized forever.

I was waiting for you.  You, you, you.  Kid, telling you “I love you” doesn’t even begin to touch how much I feel for you.  You fill the fourth chair.  You filled that place in my heart that opened up three years ago.  My family feels complete, as does my life.  Tough times are behind us, and I’m sure there are equally-as-tough moments ahead, but we’re in this for the long haul, and our family is stronger, better, solidified by you.

Even when you’re angry at me for not letting you have the car keys (or the self-driving car codes?  I have no idea what we’ll fight over in The Future …), you’ll always be my chubby little tomato, snuggled close at 3 in the morning, burping directly into my face and then smiling.

Welcome to the family, little one.  You were missed.

Love,
Mom

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