Pregnancy Gave Me Diabetes … And An Amazing, Caring Son
When my son was five years old, he basically saved my life. How we got to the place where that could happen is a long story that might help fellow moms understand how diabetes works.
When I was 18 weeks pregnant with my only child, I came home from the doctor, sat on the bed, and sobbed to my husband: “I have gestational diabetes.”
Diabetes caused by a pregnancy occurs when the excess insulin a pregnant woman’s body produces isn’t absorbed or used correctly by her blood. It’s usually mild and goes away once the baby is born.
I, however, had a completely different experience. It was one that changed my life.
After my son, Ethan Graham, was born, I continued to monitor my blood sugar for two weeks. Everything was normal, and I returned to pre-pregnancy weight.
However, after a while, I began to drop weight and noticed I was incredibly thirsty all the time, not to mention irritable and tired (more so than I was the first few months with a newborn).
It was several months before I made my way to a clinic. By that point, my weight had dropped from my usual 142 pounds to 111 pounds (I’m 5’7”). The nurse actually had to use a pediatric cuff to check my blood pressure since I was so thin.
The diagnosis? Type 1 diabetes, and with a vengeance.
Type 1 used to be called “juvenile onset diabetes,” but medicine has changed. In my case, I was 29 years old when diagnosed.
While a lot of people would shy away from needles, I felt so miserable, I almost sang a song of praise when they put me on insulin.
My case was unusual. The pregnancy was so hard on my body that after I had Ethan, my pancreas just gave out.
Even though Ethan was my first child, my doctor strongly advised against ever having another baby.
“You could end up dead of multiple organ failure,” he said, “and that’s if you survive the pregnancy.”
He suggested I consider a form of permanent birth control. Because of my particular health concerns, we agreed on the Essure procedure, during which the doctor implants tiny metal coils into the Fallopian tubes. Then, over a period of three months, enough scar tissue builds up to block the tubes, preventing conception. It was a difficult decision, but a necessary one.
Although it’s incredibly difficult to balance a child and your blood sugar constantly, I’m lucky that Ethan has not been diagnosed with diabetes and is incredibly intelligent. He always asks when eating something new, “How much sugar does it have?” At least several times a day, he also asks how my blood sugar is.
He has good reason to ask. Just a few days before his sixth birthday, I fell unconscious due to low blood sugar while asleep, and Ethan couldn’t wake me up. He got himself dressed, ran down the stairs of my Clarksdale apartment and got the neighbors, yelling for help.
When the paramedics got there, he told them what was going on, gave them not only my name (and spelled it) but also my husband’s phone number. At five years of age, this was no small feat. The paramedics saved my life, but they never would have had the chance had Ethan not moved so quickly.
Believe me when I say: I cried all over that child all day.
Although my case is unique, I’m certainly not the only person whose pregnancy led to diabetes. But the disease, though incurable, can be treated, and with loved ones around who care and help keep an eye on you, you have less to worry about.
I don’t hide the seriousness of my diabetes from my son. I don’t downplay it. Because of our openness and honesty, he knows it’s important to watch his sugar intake … and to watch Mama.
Truthfully, I count on him more than I would have thought. And if I ever felt bad that I couldn’t have another child, I’m grateful, every day, he’s the child I was able to have.
Rebekah Yearout, a former Clarksdale resident, now lives in Memphis and is the loving mama of Ethan, age 6, and Milton, a very vocal Siamese cat. She is a career journalist who loves photography, star-gazing and traveling to interesting places.