Growing up, being a mom was always a dream of mine. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always “a mommy.” Maybe a marine biologist… and a mommy. Or maybe a teacher… and a mommy. But I hadn’t planned on having children as young as I did. I was still in my last year of college when I became pregnant with my first son. His dad (now my husband) and I were 21 and 22 years old, respectively (I’m the older woman!). At the time, having children didn’t mesh well with our carefree, late-night rendezvous in his parents’ basement. I had plans to finish my English degree and find a job as a writer or an editor. Then I would get married. Buy a house. Have a baby. Become a mom. Maybe when I was 30.
Life doesn’t always work as planned (especially when you don’t use birth control), but I’m so thankful that in this case, it didn’t. My son may not have been in my plans at the time, but being a mother always had been. And because of that–scared though we were–abortion wasn’t an option. Adoption wasn’t an option. Somehow, we would find a way to care for this unexpected baby boy.
Flash forward through a lot of hardships and struggles to getting married to my son’s father, picking out our first house as a family, and making plans for another child. But this time, it didn’t seem like having another child was going to happen as we had planned. It took nearly two years of on-purpose trying to get pregnant before my second son was finally a reality. And although this child was planned and desperately longed and prayed for, finding out that I was pregnant a second time gave me that same, scared feeling that I had the first time.
My story of becoming a mom, twice, leads me to believe that there is no “right time” when it comes to having children. While I do recommend using birth control until you’re “ready” to have children, I am also writing to say that whether it’s a part of your plans or not, becoming a mom is elating, terrifying, and rewarding in ways I could have never imagined. And in the 6 1/2 years of being a mother, I know that the only thing that you really need to make a decision to become a mom, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, is the ability to love.
Although being a mom was always in my plans, I am blessed by both of my children beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. And I wouldn’t trade either of my unique and drastically different experiences of becoming a mom for any other dream I’ve had.
It has been over a month since I last published a new post to my blog, and I’m ready to write about the reason for such a long, unplanned break from blogging. On Good Friday, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Before that day, I would have considered myself a fairly healthy person. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been somewhat lazy about exercising during this pregnancy, but I also take care of four infants by myself during the day, (although we just recently enrolled a fifth infant, which means I have an assistant again!) so I’m very active while at work, and then I tend to put my feet up and relax once I get to the comfort of my home. My diet has always been decent, and this pregnancy has been no different. In fact, pregnancy causes me to think about what kinds of food I put into my system even more than usual. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, and I love to find new recipes that are both delicious and nutritious. While I do have a sweet tooth, I grew up with a father who was diabetic and a mother who taught me that everything is okay in moderation, so I rarely overindulge on the sugary, fried, or greasy foods. Chocolate and ice cream are my biggest junk food weaknesses, but I satisfy those cravings with an occasional handful of chocolate candy or a small Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I’ve always stayed within the normal weight range for my age and height, and while I don’t count calories or diet often, I keep my weight under control through occasional exercise and portion control. To sum it up best, I took a health questionnaire for our health insurance just a week or two before Good Friday, and after calculating my results, I received an on-screen message to “keep up the good work!”
And then came the phone call from my OB’s nurse, stating that I had failed the three-hour glucose test, which meant that I did in fact have gestational diabetes. I was shocked. I was upset. And as the words sank in, so did all the questions and guilt:
“Why is this happening to me?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“I didn’t do enough to take care of myself and my baby boy.”
When we got home, I cried and cried. I felt like a failure.
And after my one person pity-party was over, the next question came: “What do I need to do now?”
I Googled it, and read about ten different sources worth of information on the subject. I changed my eating habits immediately. This was hard to do, especially over Easter weekend! Filling my five-year-old’s plastic eggs with some of my favorite candy felt like torture! Not being able to talk to the specialist until my appointment the following Thursday meant I was on my own for nearly a week, not knowing exactly what this disease meant for myself and my baby, but I was determined to try my best to fix the problem immediately. So I cut back my carbs. A lot. By the time I got to the doctor’s office for my appointment with the diabetes educator, the dietician, and the specialist doctor, I had lost three pounds, and I was spilling ketones in my urine. Thankfully, I have a great team of medical staff who all set me straight on the best diet, exercise, and blood sugar testing schedule for my situation. Instead of eating three large meals each day like I used to, I now eat six small meals about three hours apart, and I include appropriate amounts of protein and carbohydrates at every meal and snack. I also take my blood sugar by sticking my finger with a nearly painless One Touch, four times per day. I also incorporate a fifteen minute walk every day, usually after supper. And I am very happy to say that the diet change and exercise are working well for me! I may have a high reading here or there (146 has been the highest so far, when it should be 130 or less when I test one hour after eating), but for the most part, my blood sugar is staying very stable, and I do not need to take insulin to control it. Phew! An ultrasound last week showed my baby boy to be developing and growing at a normal rate, which is the main goal of managing gestational diabetes.
According to statistics, both women who have had gestational diabetes and their children are at a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Although diabetes is in my genes and therefore also in my children’s genes, all is not lost. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program post-pregnancy, I can help my family avoid this disease. I don’t plan to take all sugar away, but I will make sure that all of our diets essentially follow a diabetic meal plan similar to the one I am on now. I will continue to occasionally splurge on a sugary treat, but the visits to Dairy Queen will be less frequent, and adding more protein into our diet is a must. We will also maintain a very active lifestyle, because exercise does wonders for maintaining blood sugar levels, in addition to many other benefits for the body!
I grew up watching my father struggle with diabetes. Watching him take insulin shots. Watching him check his blood sugar. Watching him go through low blood sugar reactions, where he sounded insane. Watching his kidneys fail and have to go on dialysis. Watching him go through two kidney transplants (because the first one was rejected by his body) and one pancreas transplant, two hip replacement surgeries, eye surgery, and countless doctor appointments, lengthy periods of hospitalization, and medications. I am so happy to say that today, he is healthy, and because of the successful transplants, he is diabetes-free. But it took a couple of decades for him to get to that point, and it’s something that I never want my children to have to witness their parent go through, let alone to have to go through themselves.
Throughout this whole situation, my husband and son have been unbelievably supportive. My husband and I explained in an appropriate, easy-to-understand way about diabetes to our son, and he knows the types of foods that I can’t have. We go on evening walks after supper as a family. We buy, prepare, and eat foods that “Mommy can eat.” They remind me to take my blood sugar when I get busy and forget. They clap and cheer for me when I have no-high-blood-sugar-reading days. They have been simply wonderful, and going through this with them and their love and support has made me appreciate the family that I have even more than I already did. And for me, that’s the silver lining behind what I originally thought of as such a dark cloud over my head: that we are learning to be healthier as a family, and that instead of alienating myself with a wall of self-pity, my family and I are getting stronger and closer together through this each day.