My perinatologist runs a diabetes clinic every Monday at his office. For me, this means a lot of time spent reading old New Yorker articles while waiting for his overbooked office to get to me.
When they do, they will take my insulin pump off of my body, make charts and graphs of my bloodsugars from the past two weeks, and quiz me on my carb grams to insulin ratio. Has it changed? What about my basal rate? Any ketones in your urine?
In the meantime, I wait and I observe my fellow diabetic pregnants in the waiting room. Overall, there are so many overweight, unhealthy women here. And I have nothing to say to them. Not a one has a tattoo. No one chats to anyone about yoga or hiking. I can virtually guarantee that none is working with a doula. They have become passive passengers in their pregnancies, and they scare me.
I’ve gone through online parenting forums, magazines like Mothering, and word-of-mouth looking for like-minded diabetic pregnant women, and I’ve come up pretty empty-handed. I need comrades, but I don’t know where to turn.
I am not a shy, vulnerable, brittle diabetic. I am fierce, and I am looking for my fellow fierce, pancreatic-challenged tribe.
Here’s the deal: I backpack. I take yoga and pilates classes. I have a lot of sex with my husband. I am already planning my post-birth (sixth) tattoo. And yes, I’m a diabetic.
I have been for 20 years now. I kind of hate it, but I hate a lot of things more, like the stigma related to my disease. And the amount of fear I’ve gone through thus far in the conception and gestation of my baby (and I’m only at four and a half months!).
I have no choice about a homebirth or not: I must be in a hospital. I have very little choice about whether or not I am getting an induction (though I am going to fight hard on this count if I’m still doing well come the month before my due date).
But I do have other choices. I can choose to exercise every day. I can choose to find the most capable, hospital-friendly, kick-ass doula in Berkeley. I can decide to not let my life be limited by expectations of what a high-risk pregnancy looks like.
For me, that means challenging myself to backpacking trips, road trips, camping excursions, concerts out on a week night, raising a puppy while I’m knocked up, and working on a book.
I had an amnio last week, and it was pretty stressful — as everyone will tell you, not the procedure itself, but the anticipation thereof, and the anxiety of waiting for results afterwards. The best part of the procedure was seeing my baby.
His heart beat strongly and perfectly. His little brain was wonderfully developed. He kicked and floated happily, scratching his nose, coyly keeping his legs crossed for nearly the entire ultrasound. I can’t wait to meet him.
When I do, we will be thankful for whatever way he came into this world. I have a birth plan, I have my desires (natural, unmedicated, and vaginal being the operative words here), but most of all, I have trust in myself, my medical team, and my doula, who are going to get us healthfully and safely from first push to birth.
We plan on taking baby backpacking soon after I’ve recovered. After all, my husband and I bonded on a trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and honeymooned along the Kalalau Trail. We can’t wait to bring our little boy into the world of nature, too.
So when my doctor asks me if I have any questions, he’s no longer surprised when I ask, “Can I do a hut-to-hut snowshoeing trip at 7 ½ months? Can I backpack in the third trimester? Can I take a yoga class the day after the amnio?”
I may be high risk. I may be a 20-year survivor of a chronic pandemic, but I am an adventurer, too. And this is perhaps my greatest adventure yet.