Monday, January 31, 2011

Twin pregnancy and the things people say that fill our heads

People love to share their experiences with pregnancy – giving advice, tips, and sharing their own traumatic stories. Some of it is highly constructive and positive, and some of it just isn’t.

Like did you hear the one about how someone’s rib was bruised from their child’s kicking in the third trimester? There’s something about pregnancy – and especially a twin pregnancy – that makes people feel very comfortable asking and talking about incredibly private things, and sometimes un-constructive things.

I have been finding that the experience is a true test in how I listen to others. And then what I do with it.

Here’s a popular question: Did you get IVF? Or the gentler version: Do twins run in your family? Either one of those two questions are usually asked when you first let people know that you are pregnant. I’m amazed at how people switch quickly from, “Wow, congratulations!” to basically asking how we made our babies. Uh, none of your business. I’ve come up with some fabulous responses...I have yet to use them though...I was actually prepared for that question, and answer honestly, despite wanting to be a real smart ass about it.

Everyone’s also an expert - not only on child bearing, but also on pregnancy and child rearing. I do appreciate much of the advice, but I decided early on that I can’t possibly listen to everybody. It can make any pregnant lady crazy. I read a lot and listen to those I trust, but both Lior and I will learn for ourselves when the time comes. People have been having babies for centuries, people. We can handle it. (Yes, I know it’s not about us.)

Do you know how many people have randomly informed me about the chances of delivering early with twins? I’m talking about people I barely know, and I can’t tell you what their intentions are in telling me this. But I just know when the comment doesn’t feel right.

Here’s the statistics that my high risk doctor told me: 60% of twin pregnancies deliver at 37 weeks and beyond, 30% deliver between 32 and 36 weeks, 5% between 28 and 32 weeks, and 2% between weeks 24 and 28.

So if the chances of delivering on time are at 60%, why do so many people talk about those that are early? Chances are higher that they will deliver on time and healthy. I want to focus on that.

The delivering early talk can be toxic when spoken with negative intention. I believe that people are trying to be helpful, most of the time. But I do feel strongly that talking about early delivery just fills at least this pregnant lady's head with unnecessary worries and bad energy.

I’m aiming for 38 weeks. I know we’re going to make it. That is the energy that I want to put out there for the pregnancy and these twins. If I were to think about delivering early, then I also believe that I will create the energy for it to happen.

This may sound like nonsense to some of you. But it works for me. Their delivery date is pretty much out of my control. But I can control how I monitor my blood sugars, what I eat and how much I eat, exercise within doctors’ guidelines....and how I think. I’m aiming for thoughts that create a healthy pregnancy. And it’s been working so far.

The next time you see a woman pregnant with a single, twins, triplets, or more, remember that filling her with positive energy will bring more positive energy to this world by helping her pregnancy go more smoothly. She needs, I need, all the positive support we can get!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Surviving the first trimester of pregnancy

I went through a difficult first trimester of pregnancy, and I am so happy that I am in the second.

My pregnancy began with morning sickness, even before I knew I was pregnant. I thought I had just eaten some bad Indian food, which could very well have been the case. But deep down, I guess both my husband and I knew that I could very well be pregnant.

My first trimester was not only about 24/7 morning sickness. I also had insane fatigue at all times at any time of the day or night, food cravings and aversions, and perpetual low blood sugars.

I think I went through three large cases of glucose tablets a week. I started getting sick of the glucose tabs and started mixing it up with orange juice which worked out well since I couldn’t get enough oranges! I craved oranges but couldn’t eat peppers or drink tea. I was hungry and nauseous at the same time, and could only eat crackers and cheese without making matters worse. I could sleep on demand, and I would wake up at 3 am, and then 4, and again at 5 from serious thirst - only to conk out a few hours later.

On top of that, I had some complications in the beginning, and the doctors kept me under close watch. I wasn’t allowed to exercise, and I was told to take it easy. None of the doctors knew what was causing the complications, and so nothing more than rest could be prescribed.

Only a handful of people close to me even knew that I was pregnant, and I was running to doctors’ appointments a few times a week. So needless to say, it was pretty hard to balance life’s – and well people’s – expectations with prioritizing my own health and the health of these babies.

There are some pros to being under close watch by the way. I knew early on that I am pregnant with twins. That’s nice. It has given us lots of time to prepare, which we’re still doing. I also had the ongoing assurance of knowing that the twins are okay, and the comfort of hearing a doctor say that despite the complications, everything is just fine. My parents didn't have that luxury since medicine was not as advanced then as it is now.

But it still wasn’t easy. Running to appointments in the middle of the day does not make for a happy environment when people don’t know what’s going on. Wanting to sleep in the middle of the day is a whole different situation!

I began announcing my pregnancy at week 13. I could have continued to keep it a secret for superstitious reasons, but I was starting to show, and people were talking about me. I noticed that things were getting easier as people learned the news.

I noticed that I started feeling better at exactly 14 weeks. It was kind of miraculous actually. The complications completely disappeared on the exact day my husband and I left for Los Cabos. I wouldn’t say that I was feeling totally fabulous, but I was on the mend. It took until week 16 until I was feeling great. Eating what I want and when I want. Exercising again. More energy.

So what made the difference at week 14? I think it’s a number of things:

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I started feeling better once I started to telling people and left for vacation. I have a need to fulfill others’ expectations. I have a classic fear of disapproval. This is one of my life’s lessons. I am aware of it, and as a life’s lesson, it means being aware of it on a daily basis.

But when I was pregnant, I was too tired and nauseous – and worried about the complications – to pay attention to being conscious. At one point, I think it was right around week 11, I realized that I hadn’t meditated in almost three months! I hadn’t journaled. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t going through the daily discipline of the conscious life that I strive to live.

I did meditate that day, and I briefly felt better. But then the issues that hold me back returned when I reverted back to my first trimester self.

I do also know that some of the feeling better at week 14 is just good old biological science. I was entering the second trimester, and symptoms are known to ease up for women between weeks 14 to 17.

Those who read my blog regularly know by now that I am a true believer in the mind-body-spirit connection. I think that some of the first trimester symptoms are purely medical. I am carrying twins after all. But I also believe that the experience was a lesson, an opportunity, in developing my conscious practice. I am a true believer that when we don’t deal with the stress in our lives head on, our bodies hold onto it. The stress then transforms into illness or pain. I actually wrote about this topic almost exactly a year ago in Listen to your body.
I strongly believe that I was holding onto stress, fear, and anxiety in my first trimester – in addition to the task of creating two babies.

Any of life’s challenges, not only the first trimester of pregnancy with twins - is an opportunity for all of us to grow, learn, and become more aware.

If there is something I learned from the experience is that even when I’m feeling like I don’t have an ounce of energy in the world, it’s important to stick to my daily routine of self-awareness. I do this through meditation, journaling, talking to the right people, being creative, and exercising, such as yoga. Any of these methods – and more – help ease the pain by helping us become more aware. Allowing us to let go of past hurts and be more present with each day.

And if nothing else, when life’s woes get you down or cause you pain, just remember: This too shall pass.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Type 1 and pregnant…with twins

I’ve been keeping a secret from you. Waiting for the right time to tell. And oh, there’s been so much to talk about…so much!

Yes, I am 18 weeks and one day pregnant, with twins. But who’s counting? (A full pregnancy term is counted as forty weeks.) Hooray! Yes, we’re thrilled and deep in the throes of babies’ preparation. And all three of us are healthy and doing great. My husband Lior too.

It’s been tough keeping this a secret, for as you can imagine getting pregnant as a Type 1 diabetic is loaded with questions, fears, doctors’ appointments, more fears, lots of thinking, and in my case, lots of journaling, meditating, and yoga. It’s been a long road, and sometimes a torturous one, coming to a decision to put myself at risk to bring life into this world.

This is a high risk pregnancy – times three. Going into this pregnancy, I knew that I would be at high risk times two because of the Type 1 diabetes and being of “advanced maternal age” which happens after you reach the age of 35 (yup, it’s true!). But I didn’t expect twins – at all. It’s a great surprise. We’re thrilled. But yes, there are risks involved.

But here I am. Taking the plunge. And I must say that I’m doing quite well. I have everything I need – great medical care, a supportive husband, family, and friends, and a happy and healthy lifestyle.

I didn’t always see it this way though.

I was around 18 or 19 years old when I first realized that getting pregnant would be a risky thing for me. I went to see the movie Steel Magnolias starring Julia Roberts as Shelby, a Type 1 diabetic, and Sally Fields as her mother M’Lynn.

In the movie, Shelby decides to have children after her dream wedding. Her mother is concerned that Shelby’s body won’t be able to handle pregnancy, and yet she supports her daughter’s decision. The movie then jumps to a year and a half later when they celebrate Shelby’s child’s first birthday. The occasion isn't a 100% happy one. Shelby is suffering from kidney failure as a result of the pregnancy. She passes away after grueling treatment, including hospitalization, surgery, and a transplant.

Her mother M’Lynn is forced to bury Shelby at a young age and helps raise her child.

That movie shook me to my core. As a young girl, I had never realized that having children could be risky for diabetics. I kept it to myself though and just pondered. I wasn’t ready to think about having kids, and I didn’t really know how to digest the whole thing. But one thing is for sure, now I knew that having children wouldn’t be as easy, or as much a given, as I had thought.

Then, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy – which is damage to the eye's retina that occurs with long-term diabetes. I had a 50-50 chance of going blind. Then, when I was around 21, the doctors diagnosed me with kidney ‘challenges’ and placed me on a medication called Diovan. They also advised me to eat a strict vegetarian diet.

Getting pregnant became riskier and riskier. Pregnancy affects eyesight, as well as kidneys, and blood sugars, and more…

I didn’t want to risk my eyesight. I started contemplating adoption at age 24 or 25. (These were the days before surrogacy was a hot topic.) I dated different guys in my 20s, all the while wondering when I should spill the beans, letting them know that I wouldn’t be able to carry kids.

Life plodded along. I had discussed the topic with my friends more than once, but still hadn’t consulted a doctor. Then, when I was around 26 or 27 years old, I decided to discuss the topic of pregnancy with a former doctor of mine, Dr. P.

Dr. P was an old-school doctor who smoked cigarettes between patient visits, which didn’t faze me back in the mid 90’s by the way. She was the doctor who advised me not to use an insulin pump, which also at the time made complete sense to me. The pump was new on the market and people still didn’t know how effective it was. And she is also the doctor who told me that pregnancy would be a problem for me. Not related to fertility or anything like that, or the fact that I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, but because I am a Type 1 diabetic who had kidney ‘challenges’ and who had diabetic retinopathy.

Period. The doctor said it, and I accepted it. I was not to have children via pregnancy.

Well, then in 2001, life changed for me, big time. I decided to move to Israel. I left the comforts of the life and doctors I had known for 30 years, and moved to a country where having children has a whole different cultural vibe around it. Israelis receive 12 or 13 weeks of paid maternity leave. Dads can take time too. Many people have five kids (or more) per family rather than the 2.2 I had grown accustomed to here in the US. Everyone in Israel has healthcare. A whole new ballgame and a whole different attitude. Having kids, in any way, was encouraged – even by strangers you just meet on the street.

And I had a new doctor. He encouraged me to go on the pump. I resisted. He told me that my kidneys had healed, and that I could start eating meat again after 12 years of vegetarianism. Actually, they encouraged me to eat meat as it would help stabilize my blood sugars. I changed my diet and my insulin regimen, walked a lot, and my A1C’s started dropping. My retinopathy was stable for well over 10 years at this point. The turn-around had begun.

And then I met my husband. He proposed in 2004, and we married in 2005 and decided to settle down in the USA. I had brought up the topic of kids with my husband. He was completely okay with adopting. And yet I still thought of a million reasons why having kids at that time was a bad idea. My range of excuses: We were living in a one bedroom shoebox and needed to get our ‘house’ in order.

As time moved on, the subject of kids would come up from time to time. I would list my excuses and Lior would say, “When is it ever the right time to have kids?” “People all over the world in situations much more dire than ours have kids every day.” “Other people do it, why can’t we?” “Medicine has completely changed. Why don’t we talk to your doctors about pregnancy and then we can decide?”

Medicine has changed. I went on the pump in 2006, stepped up my work-outs, and ate even healthier, more calculated. My A1C’s continued dropping. I was diagnosed with Celiac, and gluten-free eating took my health to a whole new level of great. My kidneys were completely clear, and the doctors took me off of Diovan. My cholesterol levels were fantastic. My blood pressure was phenomenal.

We bought a home, were both working, and we were building up our lives to a point where I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I had been avoiding the kids’ topic. For years. The time was never right. But I was reaching my late 30s, and time kept on ticking.

I had to face it: What was holding me back? I knew very well what was holding me back. Pure, absolute fear of what might happen, the unknown. Losing my eyes. Losing my kidneys. Becoming like Shelby and dying young because I insisted on having kids myself rather than adopting. We looked into adoption, but the costs were beyond our scope. And Lior said, “Why don’t we look into getting pregnant, do some research, talk to doctors, and then we can decide?”

So we went to doctors. Lots of them – two (or three) endocrinologists, an ophthalmologist, and an OB/GYN. And they all gave me the green light! I was shocked. On top of that, I was sent to a high risk doctor for a consultation, and after she listed a whole slew of things that could go wrong, she said, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

Had I created this madness in my head for the last decade or so? Okay, it’s true, my health had improved. I became much more conscious, more on top of things. I checked my sugars constantly. Adjusted my insulin accordingly. But was it really that simple? “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

If I just changed my way of thinking, I could have a healthy, easy pregnancy despite all of the risks involved. I realized that I had the choice to create the reality I want for my life – through the thoughts I choose to have. Of course, I still had to monitor my sugars, exercise, and eat right. But, keeping my perceptions in check, stress low, and a healthy attitude could really make the difference.

So we decided to get pregnant in 2010. Go for it. Take the plunge. We learned that we were pregnant in early October. And I can tell you that when I got pregnant, I was in a complete and absolute place of trust that everything would work out just fine.

What I’ve learned through this whole thing: It's one thing to talk the talk, but it's another to walk the walk. Don’t let fear hold you back from what you want in life. Ever. But just know if you have in the past, it’s never too late to just go for it.

I look forward to sharing more about Type 1 and pregnancy...Thanks for listening!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jealousy as a road map to living the life you want

What are you jealous of? I can answer that question easily.

I am jealous of people who travel to exotic, interesting destinations. I just came back from Los Cabos and am already jealous of two or three people I know who are traveling to amazing places in the coming months. I am jealous of people who had the guts to become artists for a living and have studios where they paint all day. I am jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert for writing her true story - and people feel connected to it - and inspired from it – and I couldn’t put it down. Plus, she travels around the world now with her husband buying art to sell in her cute little store in Frenchtown, New Jersey, and she still writes!!!!

And onto the diabetic, celiac side of me, I am jealous of people who can eat pastry and not get high blood sugar or the millions of other symptoms I get when I eat gluten.

I don’t have scientific evidence of this, but I think that some form of jealousy is common for a type 1 diabetic. It may not rear its head as jealousy. It may look like anger or frustration.

Jealousy is looking at someone else’s situation and wishing it was yours. Wanting something that you don’t have.

The Type 1 lifestyle can feel limiting at times – being told by doctors what you have to do, can’t do, or should do – and then tracking it all with machines and spreadsheets. It’s a lot to deal with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Diabetes never goes away and requires a lot of attention.

And because of all that stress and pressure, I think that diabetics can feel jealous of non-diabetics. Or, we might get angry, annoyed or frustrated at the non-diabetic world.

Like when I get annoyed watching non-diabetics eat a meal, especially dessert – a nice cake slathered in whipped cream and sugary sauces. Or when I see non-celiacs eating a regular slice of pizza, and I sit there talking myself into enjoying a pizza made out of rice or chick pea flour.

And that’s when it hits me – a chance to turn this jealousy, anger, annoyance, frustration – into something that will help me.

I read a book some years ago called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, playwright and former wife of Martin Scorsese, where she spends a good chapter on jealousy as a topic of exploration for the blocked artist. In it, she states: “Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it. At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion. It doesn’t allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe. Jealousy tells us there is room for only one – one poet, one painter, one whatever you dream of being.

The truth, revealed by action in the direction of our dreams, is that there is room for all of us. But jealousy produces tunnel vision. It narrows our ability to see other options. The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous. Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action holds the key to our freedom.” (p. 123-124.)

Jealousy is a map to what you really want. Getting to the root of why you are jealous provides you with a road map to living the life you want to live. And the only way out of it, to improve your life, is to take action.

Cameron suggests that we create a Jealousy Map. Here’s how: Create three columns. In the first, write the name of those whom you are jealous of. In the second, write why you are jealous of them. Be as specific as you can. In the third, list one action you can take to move toward creative risk and out of jealousy.

I am completely aware that being jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert is very different than being jealous of non-diabetics and non-celiacs for not having to deal with these diseases. I’m sure you would say that I should just write a book when I talk about being jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert. Just get to it already. Or go on a trip, go to an art exhibit. I can’t just stop taking insulin or start eating pastries and cakes to counter the jealousy of a non-diabetic or non-celiac.

So I will add another step to Cameron’s Jealousy Map. I delved into the inquiry of Byron Katie’s “The Work", specifically the "Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet" and "Four Questions”. This book, whose resources can be found on-line, provides a series of questions that you can ask yourself to get to the root of issues. Deeper into the "Why" part of Column #2.

Here’s what I came up with by mixing the two:

Column 1: I am jealous of non-diabetics who eat lustrous desserts in front of me.

Column 2: Why? Non-diabetics don’t have to deal with the 24/7 of living with diabetes. They are free to eat, exercise, and do what they want, when they want.

Here’s where I added the inquiry part using Byron Katie’s question #1 and 2. I asked myself: Is this true? Well, not really. We all have something in our lives that we face, some lesson, challenge or obstacle. The person sitting across from me eating a lustrous dessert may be going through a rough time and turning to the dessert for comfort. They may have suffered a heart break, just found out they have cancer, or lost their job.

And even if they aren’t, we all have lessons to learn. We are all on our own unique journey.

Byron Katie’s Question #3: How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Well, it makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me feel like I’m missing out on life. Like I’m not living life to the fullest.

Byron Katie’s Question #4, “Who would you be without that thought?” and Column #3 of Julia Cameron’s Jealousy Map really complement each other well. That’s when I came up with…

Column 3: Accept my diabetes and learn how to live life as fully as I can within the parameters of good health. Allow myself to cheat occasionally without feeling guilty – or else it’s not worth it. And most importantly, allow myself to be me.

All jealousy requires soul searching, in other words self-inquiry, and a lot of self-acceptance. It requires getting to the bottom of who you are what’s right for you. And then accepting that you have your own unique journey.