birth defects"> Up the duff with diabetes: The outrageousness of even thinking about having a baby
January 10, 2003
permalink The outrageousness of even thinking about having a baby

For years I had put having babies out of my mind and just assumed I'd never have any. It was probably much in the same way that I never thought about things like saving for my retirement.

Although my doctor was very reassuring, telling me I had every chance of having a healthy baby, I struggled at times with whether it was an act of negligence on my part to even consider pregnancy.

I don't want to scare anyone off at this point, but...

This was due to my diabetic complications. I was diagnosed with proliferative retinopathy at 21, after only 9 years of type one diabetes (thankfully it's been stable ever since the lengthy and intense laser treatment), I have a delightful skin condition. necrobiosis lipoidicus diabeticorum, diabetes-related breast condition, (diabetic mastopathy), which I wrote about in 2003, a mild and so far very stable form of diabetic kidney disease and intermittent stiffening of the fingers (Dupuytren's Contracture). I suppose there was a deep-seated doubt in my mind that my body was a healthy place for a fetus to live in. **

So yes, into the too hard basket it went, probably when I was in my early 20's. I told myself I'd only take the idea of pregnancy out of the too hard basket and consider it if a man meeting certain criteria ever wandered into my life. The criteria were:

1. He had to want to have children. It would be hard enough as it was and would involve sacrifice on both our parts. There was no way I wanted to be the one pursuading someone else to have children.
2. He had to want to be with me knowing that maybe we could not have children.
3. He had to be able to support children financially on his own, if something were to happen to me.
4. He had to be a good and loving man. A warm, nurturing father.

Hmmm, so pessimist that I am, I resigned myself to not finding such a man and kept the kids in the too hard basket. I made my checklist and forgot about it.

Then along came Michael. Damn it. He had every check-box ticked!

He says the day he knew he was in love with me was the day I had tears in my eyes when I told him I might not be able to have children. He realised he didn't care, he wanted me either way :-)

What a honey!

As my blood sugar levels had never been well controlled and I had so many complications, I was shocked when my new endocrinologist (I'd just moved interstate to be with my partner) told me I could indeed have children. If I got my HbA1C below 7.0 I had no more chance of having a baby with deformities than any other woman. My kidneys were still functioning perfectly even thought I did have early kidney disease (proteinuria - beyond the microalbuminuria stage, but stable for 10 years). I had an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, but it was something that could be handled.

It almost made me angry to get such a positive endorsement from him after so many years of simply ruling it out (and the odd discouraging comment from other doctors). Bugger it. Because the hardest part lay ahead. How the heck to get my HbA1C below 7.0!!!! I absolutely thoroughly thought I could not do it. The thought of the inevitalbe "living life like a machine" horrified me. I couldn't remember ever having a HbA1C below 9.0.

For as long as I could remember I have hated having my blood sugars in the normal range. I always felt like I was in a vaguely hypoglycemic state. Twenty-two years on injections feeling like if my BSL was 8.0mmol/l it would soon drop to 3.0. And while I could live that way in theory, attempting to do so made me very very anxious socially.

Even now, with the added confidence of the insulin pump, if my BSL is 4.3 I will want to drink lucozade to bring my sugar up before talking to someone, going to a meeting, anything that involves "performing" socially. With pregnancy and the "trying for a baby" period, bringing your sugars up from 4.3 is not advisable. 4.3 is exactly the sort of level you are aiming for.

And so the real journey began...

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Note added several years later... It was a true miracle and completely amazing and life affirming for me to realise that my body was indeed quite able to bring new life into the world. And certainly conceiving so very quickly both times was a lovely bonus that at least certain bits of me were in good working order!!

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** If you are feeling freaked out by my mention of diabetic complications, you might find the fact sheet/article 'Complications: What If?' (pdf), published by the Type One Diabetes Network, both reassuring and informative. To quote from the article, "In most cases the complication will remain in the background, sometimes it will need treatment; In very few cases it will impact permanently on your life." The article summarises interviews with five people and gleans their wisdom on how to cope with complications.

Posted by M.A. at January 10, 2003 11:32 AM


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