In celebration of the publication of our latest book, Staying Healthy with Diabetes — Planning and Managing Your Pregnancy, we are pleased to welcome our first guest post from Joslin patient and diabetes blogger, Kerri Sparling.
Right now, sleeping in the next room and bundled up all snuggly in her crib, rests my daughter. She’s seven months old today, and she’s the most wonderful little person I’ve ever known. I didn’t realize how much I missed her in my life until I met her for the first time.
Growing up, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids. It’s hard to think about becoming a mom when you’re still a child yourself. I knew I wanted to go to college, I knew I wanted to have adventures with someone I loved, but kids? It took me a while to get there, mentally. Once I had decided that I wanted to have a family, I planned way in advance. Before I even met my husband, I was already working to become a mother, changing my diabetes management plan from multiple injections to a pump. We both knew, and were told by my medical team at Joslin, that a healthy pregnancy with diabetes didn’t just start with conception – it began months beforehand.
After my wedding, I worked for over a year to really tighten up my diabetes control, tracking everything from my blood sugars to my food intake to my determined attempts at regular exercise. A few months before trying for a baby, my endocrinologist at the Joslin Clinic in Boston recommended I switch over to the diabetes and pregnancy clinic offered at Beth Israel Deaconess, so I could tighten my control even further in preparation for my future child.
My medical team, knowing my history of struggling for an A1C under 7% without excessive hypoglycemic episodes, advised me to shoot for 7% flat before trying to conceive. After two months, I finally hit my goal, and my husband and I took that leap of faith. And we were blessed with a positive pregnancy test that very first month.
During the course of the next eight months, diabetes management was the focus of the majority of my life. I have never stalked my blood sugars with more rapt attention than I did when I was carrying my daughter. Every fasting blood sugar was logged and analyzed, and I wore my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor ever day to help me keep tabs on my numbers. There were dozens of ultrasounds, two fetal echocardiograms, bi-monthly lab work sessions, and countless appointments with CDEs and my endocrinology team from Joslin, and the high-risk OB/GYN team at the pregnancy clinic. Nothing mattered more than keeping myself healthy so that my baby would be healthy.
There were many scary moments. Like when I was seven and a half weeks along, and there was an afternoon of bright red spotting. I spent the day in the emergency room, praying for the safety of my baby while they scanned me with the ultrasound machine. Every high or low blood sugar gave me pause as I nervously worked to correct the numbers and protect my growing child. And when my medical team advised me that a c-section delivery was best, due to my diabetic retinopathy, I felt defeated. Like any parents-to-be, my husband and I worried incessantly, prayed consistently, and loved our child-to-be intrinsically.
The last few weeks of my pregnancy were very stressful. In addition to managing pre-existing type 1 diabetes, I ended up with pre-eclampsia, and spent the last month of my pregnancy on bed rest in the antepartum suites of Beth Israel in Boston. But despite the constant doctor’s appointments in the months leading up to and including my pregnancy, and despite the hospitalization at the end of my pregnancy, my eye was still on the prize. I wanted that healthy baby. I wanted to meet my daughter and feel that maternal mix of pride and love, knowing that I did it.
And on a very sunny Thursday morning this past April, after the epidural was administered and the surgeon began the c-section, my daughter was born into this world. Her heart was strong, her cry was loud, and her healthy birth was worth every moment panic and stress. And it was strange – all that worry? All that work? It all melted away when I saw her face and held her close that first time.
About Kerri Morrone Sparling:
Kerri has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986 and has been writing the diabetes blog Six Until Me since early 2005. A passionate diabetes advocate, Kerri speaks regularly at digital media conferences about the impact of blogging on patient health. She currently lives in New England with her husband, their daughter, and a small army of cats.