Gestational Diabetes: What I learned…

When I found out I was pregnant, I vowed to myself that I was going to keep my weight gain under control so that I would be able to lose it without too much of a fight after my baby was born. I also had high blood pressure, and I knew that excessive weight gain could lead to complications I didn’t need. I indulged once in a while (I’ve always had a ravenous sweet tooth), but all in all my daily eating was the best it had ever been. I crept up a pound or two at a time, and by the time I hit 20 weeks, I had only gained about 13 or 14 pounds. I was so proud of myself, watching my belly grow while the rest of my body stayed relatively the same.

Then, I went for my blood glucose test. I don’t remember when this is done, exactly…maybe around 28 weeks? And even after several months of healthy eating and walking and taking good care of myself, wouldn’t you know it….gestational diabetes. I had it. How was it possible? I felt fat and lazy–like my secret inner fat girl had been let out of the bag.

I guess I thought that only heavy women got gestational diabetes.  I was wrong. It has nothing to do with your diet, or your weight. At least not in my case, according to my doctor. I am a pretty average size with a healthy diet, and it got me. I had a good cry and I let the panic overtake me for a little while—Would my baby be OK? Would he be HUGE? Would I have to ditch my dream of a natural birth? – but I decided that I would do what I had to do to keep my baby safe and healthy, even if it meant no prego-binges in the middle of the night, or summer afternoon ice cream cones :(

I was not at all happy when my doctor gave me a prescription because I really, really wanted to control my diabetes through diet alone, but after a bit of debate he insisted it was for the best, so I relented. Through my job, I have access to a great dietitian who happens to be a diabetes specialist, so I consulted with her and she gave me a detailed eating plan. Imagine my surprise when she told me that I should eat turkey on whole wheat for breakfast! “How about a slice of tomato?” I asked. Nope. No tomato. Too much sugar. This was going to be a lot tougher than just giving up ice cream cones.

Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t impossible. I made the changes I had to make, and while I did feel a little sorry for myself when I saw other pregnant women pigging out and giving into their cravings, the good feeling I got from feeding my baby well grew.

It turns out the hardest part was defending my eating habits to those around me. When I said no to office birthday cake, I was told, “Oh, a little won’t hurt.” When I mentioned to anyone that I couldn’t find anything to drink that didn’t have sugar or caffeine (which I learned not to do just to avoid the conversation) I got the standard, “Why don’t you just do sugar-free?”  Why is it that so many people thought the answer was to load up on nutritionally void foods like cookies, cakes and candy so long as they contained artificial sweeteners and chemicals instead of sugar? I don’t ever drink any kind of soda anyway, so for me, the answer certainly wasn’t to be found in a can of Diet Coke.

Don’t get me wrong—this would have been the easy answer. I found myself wandering aimlessly through the grocery store with nothing but cheese and spinach in my cart, and there were several times when I left my local Sheetz in tears because I was so overwhelmed by all the things I couldn’t have (or should I say “chose not to have.”) When you’re pregnant, hungry and in a hurry, it’s just not that easy to go home and make a balanced, healthy meal or snack. Even the healthier choices in most places are not things I’d want to put into my body, so I felt defeated A LOT. But you know what? I did it. With the help of far too many apples with peanut butter (my big treat), I made it to the end of my pregnancy with a 24-pound weight gain, and a very healthy baby boy. The night I delivered him, my diabetes was gone…but I took with me a wealth of information about diabetes, all kinds, which is valuable since having it with a pregnancy means I am more likely to have it later in life, and in subsequent pregnancies. But I learned about more than just my condition. I learned that people can be really unsupportive when your priorities are different than theirs, but you have to stick to your guns and have the will to defend what is right for you. On the other hand, I learned that I had the strength and determination to take really good care of my body while it housed my son, so why hadn’t I ever done it before just for myself? Wasn’t I worth it on my own? Definitely food for thought. 

The biggest thing I learned was that I have a lot of will power and determination when I need it, and that I like the feeling of putting them to use. I hope to avoid gestational diabetes when (if?) I get pregnant again, but if I can’t, I’m well equipped to handle it. For me, this was truly a “cup-half-full” situation. I can’t say I’ve continued the strictest parts of my eating plan, and my sweet tooth still plagues me, but I have developed some new habits and a more conscious mindset that may keep me from developing full-blown diabetes in the future, and I’d like to think I have my precious boy to thank for that.

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 Do you have experience with gestational diabetes? I’d love to hear your story.

The bigger picture: Compare how well you take care of yourself to how well you take care of your children. Are they even close to equal? 

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Comments

  1. I’m sorry to hear you had to go through that :[ That sounds unbelievably tough, and frustrating. But it sounds like in the end, you were rewarded for all your discipline and self-control! Most people couldn’t handle that diagnosis as well as you did.

    • Thank you for the positive words…it was a tough time, but it could have been much worse. I feel so lucky that everything turned out OK and I learned some new habits to keep me healthier in the future!

      The hardest part was that I was super pregnant in the beginning of fall, when all the cinnamon and pumpkin flavors started popping up everywhere. They’re my favorites! I’m reminded of that time now as the seasons are changing again…

  2. This could have been my blog! I was diagnosed at 28 weeks with my first. I started that pregnancy at 32yrs old and was in the healthy weight range and quite active. There was no history of diabetes in my family. In the second trimester my weight ballooned and I put on nearly 28lbs just in the second trimester. I experienced chronic fatigue around eating any carbohydrates prior to the diagnosis it hit me for six. And even with meticulous dietary management the numbers crept as the pregnancy progressed. I had to go on insulin and fortunately I managed it well with a low dose of insulin. Not having control over it was emotionally difficult. My baby induced at 40 weeks. He was perfectly healthy 7lbs with good blood glucose. GD was gone at delivery. Though the excess weight never came off and I stayed 11-18 lbs heavier between that pregnancy and the present.

    The hardest thing for me was peoples perceptions of why I had it. Everyone assumes you have abused your body and that’s why you have it. Friends laughed at my weight gain and told me to slow down on the treats! At parties they gorged themselves on cake and sweets while I ate celery and hummus. But it really had nothing to do with what I ate. Even today, friends assume we eat poorly and are less active but the reality is that we eat much better than many of our friends and I have been more active in my life than many girlfriends.

    I am now 30 weeks pregnant with my second and will be 36 yrs old at delivery. I have gained 10 lbs so far. This is not through any dietary and lifestyle changes which has been almost a replica of my first pregnancy. But for some reason this pregnancy is just different. And I don’t have gestational diabetes this time even though I am older and a little heavier. This has surprised my doctor who thought since I had to have insulin it would be a given. But thankfully the lessons I learnt with low GI and portion sizes will continue. I feel much better when I eat this way. I look at high carbohydrate food as poison and I now appreciate protein and fibre much more.

    I’ve looked for reasons for why it happened but can’t really find any. For a while I felt that the GD was caused by being under some long term stress throughout the first pregnancy caring for my terminally ill Dad. I’m not sure if stress hormones like cortisol can contribute to it. But life is rosy this time round and I am metabolizing blood glucose fine. I am looking forward to a natural labour and might even get to 42 weeks this time!

    So you never know, you might not get hit with the GD stick next time.

  3. Thank you SO much for your post. I was diagnosed today at 14 weeks. I was in the healthy weight range prior to pregnancy and have actually dropped 2 lbs due to nausea and the inability to eat anything but crackers. Within the past week my nausea subsided and now that food tastes good, I have this new thing to deal with. Your post is inspiring and reassuring and I’m so glad to have stumbled upon it. You expressed much of what I’m feeling. I’m now feeling excited to meet with a dietitian and learn about ways to make me and baby the healthiest we can be. I feel empowered.

    • Hi Chelsey – thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad my post helped, even if just a little bit. This post was written quite a while ago, and I’ve since had another pregnancy, also with GD. I was diagnosed at 12 weeks the second time, and used a meter to monitor my sugars (I didn’t use one the first time.) Happily, we made it through again with no complications and our baby girl arrived at 37 weeks weighing in at 7lb 7oz. I won’t lie – the eating plan can be frustrating, but it’s totally doable. Lots of eggs and Greek yogurt helped me maintain really good levels throughout the day, and then some cheese or turkey before bed helped, too. Please don’t worry – you CAN do it! I’m so glad to read that you ended your comment with “I feel empowered.” What a great attitude!! Best wishes to you and congratulations!

  4. Uh,I can imagine how you felt although you were on diet and eating healthy.How it is possible that tomato were forbiden on your diet,
    I didn’t know that tomato have that much sugar!Such great inspiration story Wendy,I enjoyed reading it.
    Anifeja recently posted..Top foods for diabeticsMy Profile

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