Monday, January 17, 2011
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!