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Gestational Diabetes Part I – It’s Not Your Fault

That first-round, gestational diabetes test that most pregnant women take is bad enough –chugging an 8-ounce drink with as much sugar as 3 full flavored cans of Coke – you’re more likely to barf after this than after a tequila shot.

If you are borderline, the second-round test is even more grueling – several rounds of sugar drinks and blood drawings. By the end of this I was dragging around the OB’s office and lying down on a loveseat down the hallway in a hidden nook.

But what’s worse than THAT is getting the phone call from the nurse who says,

“I have your test results. YOU have gestational diabetes.” 

With hardly any time to react she follows that up with, “and now you need to go to the pharmacy to pick up your blood sugar monitor and supplies, call this number and sign up to attend the gestational diabetes course, track your sugar for a week and call this number to see a perinatologist.”

“Whoa there! I have diabetes? Me? I’ve always eaten healthy, exercised and watched my weight.  How could this be happening?  And what is a perinatologist?”

The nurse assured me that this wasn’t lifestyle related and that hormones produced during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters counteract the effectiveness of insulin in your body and that the levels of these hormones are even higher for women who are expecting twins. That’s it – it’s just science.  And the perinatologist – just a fancy name for a doctor who specializes in keeping mom and babies healthy during higher risk pregnancy.

That explanation wasn’t the end of that for me though. I felt like a failure.  I have always taking pride in my health.  Sure, I enjoy desserts and I take days off from the gym, but overall I had a healthy lifestyle.  Cutting back on exercise after a spotting scare early on in my pregnancy was driving me crazy, but I still walked a lot and was eating well…well most of the time.

There were those nighttime snacks that my husband affectionately referred to as “bed snacks”. I would wake up in the night starving so frequently that I resorted to bringing snacks up at night and leaving them on the nightstand to relieve those 2AM hunger pangs.  Since these “bed snacks” weren’t refrigerated most of them were carb-based – cereal, peanut butter crackers, more cereal.

I started thinking maybe I was right to think this diabetes thing was my fault. All of this cereal in the middle of every night can’t be healthy.  Was it the extra carbs I was consuming?

I was personalizing my gestational diabetes diagnosis when it really was like the nurse said, “It’s just science.”

I probably would have been a lot happier during the first month following this diagnosis if I had reframed how I thought about having gestational diabetes. If I had repeated, “It’s just science.  It’s just science,” or thought about how amazing it was that even with two little ones growing inside of me, I was still a well functioning human being.  Slightly elevated blood sugar levels aren’t the worst medical complication and I should have spent more time being grateful for that.

Instead, it took me longer to get there. I spent hours unpacking previous diet and exercise decisions and thinking about what I could have done differently.  There really wasn’t anything significant but I kept obsessing.

Focusing on what’s most important

FINALLY, I decided this wasn’t much fun and was getting in the way, so I decided to ignore those guilty thoughts for a while and to focus on three important things (see Part III of the gestational diabetes post series on finally facing my thoughts):

  1. Learning about healthy meals and getting creative about the best ways to get the much-needed calories and nutrients without spiking my blood sugar
  2. Eating healthy for me and my babies
  3. Being grateful for two healthy babies

It DID feel good when I was able to modify my diet to keep my blood sugar from skyrocketing – while still getting plenty of calories and nutrients.

And for someone who loves learning new things, I was able to learn a lot about nutrition and how protein and sugar work and not only what to eat, but what to pair it with and what times of day work better than others. I also learned to take a walk after lunch to help my blood sugar go down quicker.

When I was working from home (which was my parents’ home – a story for another day) – you could find me walking laps next to the fence in their backyard while I took a conference call after lunch. I had to tell my coworkers about this practice so they we’re alarmed when I was a little short of breath 😉

Some things you can control and many things you cannot. Focusing on what I could control, keeping up with prenatal care and focusing on the good things in my life helped.

Shift your mindset – It’s NOT your fault – It’s JUST science.

 

This is Part I of a three-part gestational diabetes series. Check out Part II & Part III.

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