When I was about 26 weeks pregnant with my second child, I was diagnosed with GD. As my numbers were so very slightly higher than there were supposed to, at first I went through a denial phase: it’s a lab error, I don’t have Gestational Diabetes! I thought I was going to be checked again and they’d figure out it was a mistake. A week later, I had a meeting with the dietitian at the hospital – along with other 5 or 6 mamas who were on the same boat. That was when reality struck me full force: I was not allowed ANY sugar whatsoever, no white flours, I had to follow a crazy diet to the T balancing complex carbs, carbs, fats and proteins * 6 * times a day (eating every 3 hours), keep a detailed log of everything I ate with exact amounts, and then prick my finger to test my blood sugar 4 times a day!! Prick my finger??? I’m a writer! I can’t be damaging my lovely digits! It was a nightmare, and all I wanted to do was to wake up. What were the risks of not following all these recommendations (don’t you love that they are “recommendations”?): infant macrosomia (in English, Giant Baby), elevated risk for C-section, fetal death, hypoglycemia for the baby, elevated risk of diabetes for you and the baby later on in life, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.
So, I started the diet – and using the glucose meter I realized that not only did I have Gestational Diabetes, but there were several foods that they recommended in my diet which were spiking my blood sugar: ALL wheat bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, tomatoes… you name it. And as I usually to cook a lot of Italian food at home, you can get the picture. The selection of the foods I could eat started getting narrower and narrower. And the suggested meal-plan given by the dietitian was nothing like any of my regular meals before GD. Three things happened at once: I got severely constipated, I lost weight and I got very depressed. The first thing I tried to do to get out of the hole was to tailor my own meal plan, using the food table provided by the hospital. That worked a bit, but I was still pretty frustrated with the narrowness of the possibilities. Also, trying to get a hang of how to combine food groups to make meals that were healthy, balanced, good for the whole family, and delicious, was NOT an easy task. Every time I went to the dietitian, she’d say: “You already found things that work for you, stick to them!” What? No experimenting and finding variety?? Was I supposed to eat and have my family eat the same thing for over 10 weeks? -I was flabbergasted and also desperate to no end.
I read all I could about GD… and found that the information provided by the California government website (Sweet Success), the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Kaiser Permanente differed quite a bit. I also talked to a couple of doctors I knew (a child endocrynologist and a geriatric doctor, cousin of mine), and got as much information about the condition as I could get. The truth is that no one can agree on the guidelines for GD. I was angry. I was not sure who or what I was angry with, but I was angry. Why was this happening to me? Why was my body doing this? But more than anything, I was scared. My husband and daughter tried to be as supportive and as understanding as they possibly could, but I was certainly not making it easy. I’m just not used to not being in control.
At a certain point I was about to blow a fuse. The constipation was not getting better, and I couldn’t eat any of the fiber I usually ate… and I was eating cheese like there was no tomorrow – try fitting protein in every single one of your meals, 6 times a day; unless you stay at home all day, your choices are limited (pregnant means no cold cuts, so that pretty much leaves cheese). I finally switched dietitians and met a woman called Angela – and she was an angel sent straight for me. Together we came up with several suggestions of meals with more of an international flair, as well as ideas for snacks and such. We ended up figuring out ways to make my meal plan work in my terms. Towards the end of the pregnancy the social worker that attended our weekly meetings was suggesting we should put together a Gestational Diabetes cookbook. I was game, but nothing happened.
Then, my gorgeous baby was born. A healthy, wonderful, mellow, smiley boy of average weight and height. It was an all-natural birth two days before a scheduled induction, as the doctors didn’t want me to go to term (because of the Gestational Diabetes). The GD went away as soon as the placenta was delivered. But I ended up learning a lot about nutrition and also about how creativity can help you find your way out of any dark place. Now that I have my little one, every time I see his smile I look back on those days of anguish and realize it was all worth it.